3 LESSONS: WHAT I LEARNED FROM LAUNCHING A WEBSITE
It has been nineteen days since the launch of my new website, which was beautifully designed by the most talented, supremely patient, and ridiculously chill Christina Laing of The Buffalo Collective! Don't think I'm being careless with my superlatives-- I mean what I say, and I say what I mean. I wholeheartedly believe that no one else was better suited for the job of designing a new website for me.
After going through the initial branding process with Creme in 2014, I knew there was one giant TO DO on my list: get a new website. At first, I thought I could do this myself. I bought more than one ProPhoto blog template and played around with them. I realized very quickly that I am not cut out for a career (or even hobby) in web development/design. I found myself frustrated and growing more and more distracted. (I also developed a deep respect for all that those who do love this stuff!) I finally admitted that to achieve what I really wanted, I would need help.
I started where most photographers go-- ShowIt and ProPhoto. Whenever I was browsing through these platforms for templates to use/customize, I noticed that I was drawn to sites that all had a similar aesthetic. Upon further review, I realized that almost all of the templates were designed by one company: The Buffalo Collective. I knew then what I had to do.
I reached out to Christina to discuss what I was looking for. For me, it was really important not to have a website where you "sit down with a cup of coffee and take a look around". I understand that this goes against the grain, but if there's one thing I know about myself and the people I serve, it's that our lives begin where the internet ends. I don't want anyone to find themselves falling down the rabbit hole on account of my website--it goes against everything I stand for!
As I said in my initial blog post, I want those who come to my site to view my work, find a little bit about me, and read what interests them. Then I want them to continue to GO and BE and DO, because that's who they are. They aren't content to sit behind a screen, clicking page after page to find out that I love sparkles, stripes, or the color periwinkle. What matters most to them, and to me, is that they love the work I can provide for passionate couples/families/individuals excited about not only their life, but their romance, their adventures; they see themselves in my images. Therefore, I adopted a "Simple, not Boring" mantra, brought it to Christina, and set out to get down to business.
Over the months Christina and I worked together, (and even before) I learned some valuable lessons. One of the most important is that there is really no use in trying to be anyone other than yourself--even with your web presence. I so appreciated that Christina allowed me to be myself, and worked with my quirks to create a web space I am very proud of. (She is also!) Christina never once pushed her own agenda onto mine, respecting who I am as a creative, to which I am most grateful.
Each and every aspect of owning a business, each experience, can be looked at-- examined -- to find knowledge, improvement, and preparation for what's to come. My three biggest take-aways from this year's website launch are:
1. GO YOUR OWN WAY. . .
A good branding specialist will not tell you who you are, or answer why you're doing what you do. That can only come from you. Know who you are and who your target audience is before you embark on creating a brand and a shiny new website. Understand where your heart is, and don't compromise for trends, or what everyone else in your area is doing. Be confident in your aesthetic. Even if what you love isn't what is popular, go with it. Not only will you be happier with what is authentically you, but you'll end up attracting the right clients for you and your business.
2. . . . BUT KNOW YOUR LIMITS
This is a lesson I learned the hard way. I thought that I could DO. IT. ALL. I look back on this arrogant and misguided attitude of mine and can only be thankful that I've outgrown it. I reflect on all of those precious hours I spent with tears of frustration pouring down my cheeks, and want go back in time to knock some sense into myself! Why did I put myself through so much stress, and waste so much time, just to save a few bucks? (I'll give you a hint: it's a three-letter word that begins with an 'E' and ends with an 'O') In the end, I spent more money than I needed by trying to cut corners, and was still unhappy with how things turned out. Find out what you want your website to look and feel like, and, if you're like me and this kind of thing ain't well, your thing, then be a big girl and admit when you need to tag out. Invest in someone who you believe in, release control, and trust that it will all work out. (This can be applied to just about any aspect of owning your own business!)
3. GO BEYOND 'PRETTY'
I have to credit my dear friends/mentors Grant & Deb Perry of Grant & Deb Photographers with this advice. If you have a stunning website but it's functionality is subpar, it won't matter how lovely it is--no one will see it! A graphic designer and a web developer are different. Whereas one is concerned with how things look , the other is focused on function. Phrases such as SEO Optimization are equally, if not more, important as color palette. Understanding the difference between these two is imperative to finding the right person/team for your job, and getting the most from your site. Do not underestimate the tech side of your website!
I hope to continue to capture these nuggets of wisdom over time. So often we're focused on "The Finish Line", which, honestly, is pretty blurred, instead of what's unveiling in front of us. There is no "pause" button to life, but there is time to carve out for personal growth, internal critique, and appreciation of your own journey.