Since starting my business, I’ve been through a few different website platforms. True to my character, I’ve never been fully satisfied with any of them. I am a “tweaker” and always push myself to make something better, and I love having full control over my work and my business.
My new homepage, custom-made on Showit! (Edit: Yes, I’ve since change my design!)
When I first made a website for my photography business, I was using SmugMug. The price was good for unlimited cloud storage of my photos AND the ability to make a website. I found it a bit difficult to design and it lacked the options for personalization that I desired. While I still subscribe to SmugMug for my cloud storage (it is quite great for that feature) I ditched it for a WordPress website. But I was met with the same frustrations- WordPress by itself does not have a visual designer so the actual designing/layout aspect was difficult, time-consuming, and never looked quite how I wanted. The theme completely dictated the look and feel. I even purchased a premium theme but still didn’t feel my website had a polished or personalized look. I didn’t understand plugins or coding, so I wasn’t able to really control it how I wanted. I decided to do more research and look at other photographers’ websites. I soon found Squarespace. Squarespace sites are based on a template, but has a drag-and-drop interface and offers quite a bit of freedom for personalization. Squarespace is easy to learn and use, looks very clean and professional no matter what template you select, and I could easily switch to a new template if I got bored with what I was using. I was quite happy with Squarespace for two years and received many compliments on the look and functionality of my website. But as I learned more and saw more websites, I began to get “website envy” of others with a more thoughtful and personal design than what I was able to achieve on Squarespace without adding custom code. I even signed up for free versions of both Wix and Weebly just to check them out for my own curiosity’s sake, and while they had some nice features, neither seemed better than Squarespace or offered the amount of control I desired.
My homepage on Squarespace, right before switching to Showit
The mobile version of my Squarespace site
I began hearing of this platform called Showit in some of the online photography groups and networks. As I looked at the websites of those who were promoting it, I began drooling over how pretty their sites looked. My Squarespace subscription was about to renew, so I decided to sign up for the free trial of Showit. I knew that it would probably be “all over” after that, and I wouldn’t be able to say no to buying the subscription after putting the work into my new site design! I’ve always been a designer and artist at heart, and I could tell right away that Showit offered the capability that I wanted.
And as expected, I was instantly in love with Showit. I selected one of the free template designs to start, but did a complete overhaul once I picked up on how it all worked, and made it totally my own. I finally have a website that I feel truly speaks to my brand and personality.
Here are the reasons I chose Showit, and why I think you should too:
- Easily Customizable: Showit is totally customizable and it uses a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) interface. The back-end of Showit it browser-based, so there was no need to install software onto my computer. The interface looks similar to Adobe Lightroom, but the design functionality is similar to Adobe InDesign. I can drag and drop text, images, and boxes anywhere on the page, without being stuck on a rigid template or theme. I can add hover animations making it more interactive. I don’t need to know HTML or CSS coding at all, as it’s all done automatically (or magically). There is no need to install plugins for functionality, though there is the ability to integrate outside services into the site (such as an Instagram widget, or Shopify Lite for e-commerce). I’m one of those people who would be a terrible client for a website developer, because I would invest a lot of money on a fully custom site only to get tired of it a month later. With Showit I can easily change and update my website whenever and however I want. I have the freedom to update my website from any computer that has internet access.
- HTML5 Technology: No, I don’t really know much about the actual technology behind it, but I do know that HTML5 is the most modern and greatest internet markup language, and it’s the most widely compatible across browsers and devices. There is no annoying Flash-based technology or need for my visitors to download plugins just to view my website. HTML5 is also best for search engine rankings.
- Mobile Compatibility: Showit is completely compatible with mobile devices. It utilizes a separate mobile design option so I can make my mobile site look and function as much or as little like my desktop version. An increasing number of viewers are using mobile devices when browsing the internet, so appearance and functionality needs to be different between the two for an optimum user experience. The website platforms I had used previously automatically adjusted for mobile devices, but could not be customized independently, so my mobile site didn’t always look or work as nicely as the desktop version.
- Customer Support: The people behind the scenes at Showit are really understanding and helpful, and genuinely friendly. They would usually answer my emails right away or within 24 hours. I never felt like I received “canned” responses at all like most online customer support seems to be (and it also seemed like the support staff was actually located on my continent). There are an endless amount of help documents available to read and they are all written in a way that anyone can understand, even without web design knowledge. A few of the times where I was stumped with an issue, one of the customer support guys logged into the back end of my Showit site and fixed it for me and then explained what he did. There’s also a great community of Showit users on Facebook that I can turn to for answers when need be.
- Blog on WordPress: Though I am not a fan of WordPress for site building, the blog for Showit lives on WordPress, just without the downsides to designing on WordPress. The actual design of the main blog page and each blog post page is done right in Showit! It pulls the blog post information to my website, so it looks completely seamless. The Showit people complete this step when you initially set up your site, but then it’s automatic after that.
- SEO Friendly: SEO is a breeze on Showit. I can easily put in my keywords and tags for every image and page. My website was always pretty high up in search rankings when I was on Squarespace, and was able to maintain my rankings shortly after switching to Showit without too much time elapsed for Google to re-index my content.
- Media Library: The media library is very intuitive. One of the annoyances with Squarespace was that there was no media library, so changing out photos was a pain. And WordPress has a very disorganized media library unless you install an organizer plugin. With Showit, images can be organized in folders within the media library, and custom fonts can even be added. This is a huge factor for any photo-heavy website.
- Web Design Without Coding: I can now be a web designer, without knowing HTML or CSS code! Yay! I admit I wish I knew the web languages but I never took that class in college. I have a natural ability for design and a background in art, so I can put that together to make pretty templates that I can sell for others without actually needing to learn code. I have some templates for sale on Etsy (you can see my shop HERE), as well as a few of my designs available on the official Showit Design Market!
The Showit interface
Editing a page on Showit
The Showit media library
Showit is a bit more of a cost investment than some of the other website platforms, but the tradeoffs make me not even think about the relatively small difference in price. Having a website that is totally ME is important as a professional photographer, and I believe many creative industry professionals would also feel the same. Showit may not be the right platform for certain types of websites, but for a photography website I have to say it’s one of the best, if not THE best.