how to launch a website fast
A few months ago I launched my newborn lifestyle photography website and I did it in 3 days flat. In fact, I use a time-tracking app to help me understand how I use my time each day, and it took me 11 hours start to finish. And this was all-inclusive of learning the software I used. Crazy, right!?

If you're a new photographer OR you're looking to launch a new site, this blog post is for you! I'm going to save you a TON OF TIME and hook you up with a gorgeous site to boot!

When I first started out in photography, I customized my own website from the ground up using Flash. Some of you don't even know what that program is because you're so young. This was back in internet dinosaur days when template websites weren't born yet. haha!

But it would be ridiculous to go this route today with how far software and templates have come. There are so many talented designers packaging up beautiful website templates that are way better than anything I could ever design myself. So that's where I would recommend you start if you're on a limited budget and want to get a website cranked out QUICK.

There are two things you need to do immediately before you pass GO and collect $200:

1 -- Sign up with ShowIt
ShowIt is drag-and-drop software for website building. It is SO crazy-easy to use. Especially if you are starting with a template like I did. When I decided to launch a new site, I was familiar with ShowIt, but I had never used ShowIt 5 -- their newest iteration of the software. So I was essentially learning everything afresh. ShowIt 5 allows you to build an optimized mobile version of your site right alongside the desktop site. It is subscription-based and ranges from $19-$39/month depending on whether you want to include a Wordpress blog in your site. This price is inclusive of hosting fees, so it's really affordable. And their Support Pros are SO incredibly helpful. They have chat functionality right in the software so you can ask questions as you build your site and their response time is super-quick!
showit 5 software interface
2 -- Pick a ShowIt website template from a professional designer
Photographers -- let's face it. We are NOT professional designers. Even though you could build your own custom site in ShowIt from the ground up, I wouldn't recommend it. My two favorite design companies for ShowIt templates are:

Foil & Ink

Both of them have stellar, modern designs right around $300 that are perfect for pro photographers. (Make sure you look for a "ShowIt 5" design template, because these come with a mobile version of the design as well.)
GoLive website designs for Showit 5
above designs by GoLive

When you start browsing for a template design, it is helpful to have a few criteria for what you are looking for in mind. There are so many options out there that it can be overwhelming. These are the three criteria I used when looking for a template design for my newborn site:

1 -- A site that felt cohesive with my current brand
Since my newborn photography is still under my Melissa Jill brand, I wanted viewers to feel at home there and for it to convey a certain level of familiarity. The template I ended up with from Foil & Ink has some of the clean grid lines in the navigation that reminded me of my wedding site. And it felt like a really minimal, neutral design. So even though it wasn't going to be an exact replica of my wedding site, it would get along well with it, if that makes sense.

2 -- A home page and gallery layout that would highlight vertical images
One thing I know about myself as a photographer is that I primarily tend to shoot vertically. So if I picked a site that had horizontal images on the home page (like my current wedding site does) I knew from experience that I would be in for a world of hurt when it came to picking which images to highlight on that page. So I quickly ruled out template designs that heavily utilize horizontal images.

3 -- A site layout that required minimal customization
Because I was trying to crank this site out quick, I knew I would save time if I found something that would get me as close as possible to where I wanted to be with a final site. With ShowIt you can do unlimited customizations to templates, so you can change EVERYTHING if you want. Which is great, because you aren't locked in by a template in a frustrating way. But if you find a template that has the right pages and layout for what you are trying to accomplish to begin with, the customization can be fairly minimal.

Now obviously your criteria will be different than mine, but having some criteria in place before you begin browsing will save you a significant amount of time during this initial step in the process.

Once you sign up for ShowIt and pick your design, half the battle is done. Now you just need to load your content, customize your template, and push "publish". Here are three things that helped me to be super-efficient during this part of the process:

1 -- I watched ShowIt's introductory training videos in full before I did anything else
These short videos will help you learn the ins-and-outs of the software before you begin. They are guaranteed to save you time and headaches. Don't be the guy who doesn't stop for directions and gets lost. We all hate that guy. Put in the time up front and you won't find yourself needlessly frustrated.

2 -- I made a game-plan and prepped my content before beginning to customize within the software
Based on the template and what I wanted to do with it, I knew I needed to pick 6 sessions for my galleries and that I needed a certain number of horizontal and vertical images per session. So I made all these decisions and prepped all my images up front. I also wrote out a list of the different text blocks for which I needed to write content and did all that work as well. When you have all your content prepped in advance, it makes your time spent in the software so much more efficient.

3 -- I focused on finalizing the desktop version first, then moved on to tweaking the mobile version
There are two views of your site within ShowIt so you can see how your website will render on a desktop and on a mobile device. Once I got my desktop version finalized, I switched over to the mobile view and it was a matter of adjusting some spacing and double checking that links worked before it too was ready to go.

I hope you've found this post helpful! Don't be intimidated by how huge the task of launching a website looms. ELEVEN HOURS PEOPLE! In eleven hours you too could have a site that you love and are proud of!

----------> Just starting your photography business? Click here to download a FREE list of 50 Goals for Your First Year in Business that is sure to give you some ideas to get you started on the right foot!
50 goals for your first year in business as a photographer
How to launch a website QUICK
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