My portfolio is built with a website program SHOWIT. I've been using the program for the last year and half. And in that time, I've had many questions about the program and if it is worth the investment. I thought that dedicating an Ask Anything post for this very topic of custom sites and Showit would help to answer questions you might have about this program. If you're looking to make the switch, I hope that this post can give you some helpful advice on how to move forward!
I'm going to stop right there and say that this is going to be a looooong post. Because I have so much to say about this program and the community of photographers that it has created. Dare I say, I'm in love with a website program? Yep, just did. I'm drinking the kool-aid and loving it. I believe in this program and what it can do to help photographers propel their businesses forward. BUT, and there is always a but, this is what works for me. Everyone is different and so are their businesses. Experiment, take risks and find what works for you.
When I first thought about starting my own wedding photography business I knew exactly what program I wanted to use to create my website: Showit. But I couldn't afford it. So I decided to use a company BluDomain to host my website and chose one of their templates, Ruby for my site. $100 for the year and $50 for the design wasn't a bad way to start a web presence. It worked for me and I was able to book my first few jobs in my new business with that site. They gave me exactly what I needed at the time, an online presence. That template site built the starting blocks for my business and lead me forward.
But I always knew that website was temporary. I wanted more control and more say over the look and feel of my site. I saved up, booked more weddings and eventually had enough of a revenue stream to finally afford Showit ($39 a month for a yearly fee of $429). I downloaded the program (you can download the program and build your site for free. So if your curious, download the program and see if it is the right fit for you) and immediately felt OVERWHELMED! Showit is a powerful program with lots and lots and LOTS of options to customize and create your site. They do offer you pre-made templates to help get you started and understand the program. But since I jump head first into things and I'm not good at reading directions, hiring a designer was the way to go for me.
Enter, Tara of Stupendous Design. I immediately enlisted her help to create a custom site. She helped me understand the program and got me started. I've asked her to help explain the site from a designers perspective and she has shared her thoughts below:):
As a designer what do you like most about Showit? It is so incredibly easy. I remember when I first heard of it through you, and was slightly nervous because I didn't know what I was getting myself into. But after I downloaded the program I was really amazed with it. I think what I like about it, besides the interaction-ness, is the fact if you have a question on how to do something, you can ask or search on the Showit forum.
How would you describe Showit as a program? Easy clean and quick. I love that the Showit team is always working on something to make it better. Or I'll go onto it a few months later and there are so many new features that make just the more awesome.
Are there any downsides to using Showit to build your site? I wish there were more choices in font. I'm a typography freak. I know how to upload my own, but it would be so much better if there were more selections. And the system sometimes seems a bit slow when you upload images and registering those images. I sometimes I have to shut the program down and start it up again to make sure they uploaded. But I know the Showit team is always working on improving...and it's been getting better!
Would you recommend Showit over a template site? I suppose that depends on what kind of site you want. If you want the freedom to create you're own site, and you're not really sure on coding and all of that jazz, than yes, I would recommend Showit. But again, this all depends on weather or not you want a full flash site, or HTML/CSS. I think it depends on what the person is looking for.
How do you start to build a site on Showit? I start like I do on all design projects. I do my research. Draw mock up sketches, create the layout in photoshop and illustrator, and then I begin implementing and uploading images and elements into Showit. (From what I understand I design very old school for not being old but that is what I was taught in school and it works for me. I cringe when people go right to the computer to design - but if it works for them, it works for them).
Having built several sites using Showit, how long would you give to make a custom site? Any suggestions you can give to someone building their own site? From start to finish I would say, and this is from mock-up design to the finished product in Showit, and depending on pages etc....a month maybe? And that's going between clients and designer. I think it just depends on how elaborate you want to make your site. :)
Anything more you'd to share about Showit? It's a GREAT design program for people who don't really much about building websites but it also has challenges for those who do know how to design - meaning web designers can find tricks and ways to work around something. It's kinda a win-win for non-designers and designers.
Thank you so much for sharing Tara! I have loved working with a designer to create my Showit site. Having Tara go in and make the initial designs has helped me tremendously. I was able to learn more about the program by taking a part what she designed and putting it back together. How to create slideshows, how to insert text, how to create page transitions and more. Working with a designer has been truly freeing for me. Instead of staring at my screen for hours wondering where to start, I've been able to collaborate with Tara to create something that is truly representative of me. All with the ability to make tweaks and changes throughout the year as my business grows.
As clarification, Showit works similarly to Photoshop or Illustrator in that you do everything in layers. As you can see on the image above, I have all of elements that I'll be working with at the bottom of the screen. I can simply click and drag those onto the page I am working on. Whatever I add to that page becomes a layer that I can move around, make visible or not, enlarge, shrink, tilt, etc. From there I can add things like a fade, a gallery, text, etc. Those I can adjust on the right hand of the screen with customization tools. You can see exactly what I am talking about in the test drive section of Showit here.
While I recommend working with a designer when using Showit you definitely don't have to. Within Showit there are pre-made templates to help get you going. Templates that you can tweak to your hearts content. Several designers have also created fully customizable pre-made templates that can be great tools. Promise Tangeman, Julie Story, MYNTD, all offer great options that can get even the most internet unsavvy photographer up and running. For those of you who are just starting out and want the custom look of a website but can't afford working with a designer, these are great options to get you on you feet!
One of my favorite features of Showit, is the ability to create plus sites. Plus sites are separate sites connected to your website. I use plus sites as custom wedding websites for my clients. For these sites I use a pre-made template from Promise Tangeman (available directly in the Showit program) and customize it to match my branding and my client's information. It's just another level of customization on my site as well as something special I can give to my clients. You can view Nick & Stephanie's plus site here. The best part about plus sites is that they connected directly to my site, so viewers are never more than a click away from coming back full circle to my website. It's a great marketing tool for me as well as an added bonus to my clients!
The last thing I'll say about Showit is that it's more than just a website program. David Jay, the creator of Showit, along with the entire Showit team, have worked hard to cultivate a community around the program. Tara mentioned her love the forum feature, which is great for answering questions and getting site problems fixed. But beyond that there is a Facebook group, WPPI meet ups, live videos, and now Showit Share groups. Whole local, national and international communities of photographers are gathering together and it's all thanks to a website program! LOVE IT!
To give you a better sense of how you can tweak your site easily, here is a screen shot of my first Showit site, designed by Tara.
And here is my current site, with several new changes.
Has this helped? Do you have a better sense of what Showit is? (a website development program and community of amazing people:)) Do you have more questions? Like I mentioned at the top of this post, Showit is what works for me and clearly I am passionate about this program! But that doesn't mean it's the only solution. Find what works for you and rock that out! For me that has been Showit, and everything it allows me to do. I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to work with a company that truly cares about me and my business and wants to help me achieve my goals and grow! If you have any questions about Showit, leave a comment below, I'm always happy to answer and point you in the right direction! Now go out there and build your website! (and email me with a link when your done;))