Technically, I didn’t open Hearten Creative for business until 2015, and I didn’t even start selling website templates until a year later (before that, I was designing logos and branding packages). But it may surprise some of you to know that I started my career as a wedding photographer, way back when I was a 19-year-old freshman in college.
Even then, I always designed my own websites, and in 2009, there was plenty of room for creativity in the world of website design. Most photography sites back then were these slow, flash-animated things — lots of plain white boxes on baby blue backgrounds. If you had a ProPhoto blog with a little pop-out sidebar for your Facebook page, you were on the cutting edge! Look out world!
And then there was Showit.
They were always innovative for the times. Their platform was totally drag-and-drop, which meant that regular, non-techy people could change their own websites on a whim just by clicking and dragging. While other “user-friendly” website builders required you to arrange blocks of content on the back end and preview the changes in a separate window, you could see what your Showit site looked like in real time as you were creating it.
When I first discovered Showit, their most amazing feature was the ability to create full-screen photo galleries (gasp! No more little white boxes!). People like Promise Tangeman (actually, just her. There was no one else on her level) were creating these incredible, dramatic, dynamic websites that felt more like being led on an adventure through wonderland than loading a flash-powered brochure. Ad-lib style contact forms and page layouts that looked like mixed-media art collages and looping video backgrounds and handwritten, magazine-quiz style “about me” pages… I was mesmerized at what was possible with this little platform. And they’ve only continued to innovate since then.
Technically, you don’t need Showit. You could buy a year of hosting for cheap, install a simple WordPress theme, and be on your way — and if having the perfect website is a hurdle blocking you from getting out there and actually running your business, then that’s exactly what you should do!
But I use Showit because I like how limitless it feels. I love the idea of creating an experience — not just checking “website” off your to-do list, but designing something personal, memorable, vivid, and unique. Designing it with intention, based on the narrative of your brand, the adventure you want to lead people on, and the limits of your imagination rather than the limits of your design program.
Does that sound a little over the top? Yes. Yes it does. But what I love most about Showit is that even the newest photographer (or blogger, or interior designer, or florist…) can buy a template that inspires and excites them, something they’ve never seen done quite that way before, and launch their own surprising, delightful, over-the-top website in a matter of days, for a tiny fraction of what the same site would cost as a custom design.
I’m inspired by many of the alternative options out there. I recommend Squarespace a lot because it’s simple and you don’t need much money to get something that looks modern and pretty and reasonably professional. But Showit kind of takes “reasonably professional” and blows it out of the water.
A couple caveats: I don’t recommend Showit for large retail-based businesses. Shopify is better for managing big e-commerce stores like that. I also wouldn’t recommend Showit to anyone who plans to DIY their entire website design completely from scratch (unless you’re a designer) because honestly, it never looks professional — and you’d be better off with a simple website than a custom but unprofessional-looking one.
But for all the other photographers and service-based businesses out there wondering if Showit is worth the switch, I say yes! If you can find a template you love, go for it. I’ve been a happy customer for almost 10 years.