The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Guide to Building a Strategic Website

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How to get a strategic website for your ceative small business

Episode 2 of 4 in the series on Strategic Websites for creative entrepreneurs and small businesses is all about how to get a strategic website. I talk about:

  • My journey with building websites and the different platforms I’ve used
  • Why Showit is my most recommended platform for creatives and service based businesses
  • The parts that go into a strategic website and what roles you might want to hire out
  • The 3 main ways to go about website design including Full Custom Websites, Template Customization, and DIY
  • Plus a bonus 4th option and overview of The Website Launch Accelerator

Next week, we’ll talk about the pages you need on your website, how they fit into your marketing strategy, and what goes on each page.

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About Kate Hejde

Kate Hejde is the host and creator of How You Pictured It Podcast and Dear Kate Brand Strategy. She helps creative entrepreneurs and service providers create a profitable business that fits into their lives. With over 10 years of experience running her own photography business, while raising three kids, Kate believes that business is not one size fits all and that you define your own success.  Kate teaches through her podcast as well as through courses, done-for-you website designs, and 1:1 coaching.

Check out Kate Online: Website | Instagram | Tiktok | Pinterest


Welcome back to our series on Websites. Last week we talked about the three S’s of a website that works strategy, site design, and showing up. We learned how a great website leads to not only more clients, but better clients and how that helps you grow your business if you missed it, head back and listen to episode 39, Why Your Website Matters. Today we’re getting into your options for getting a strategic website. We’re going to talk about which platform most recommend for creatives and why. From here, it’s a lot of choose your own adventure. We’ll cover all of the pieces that go into building a great website and who you might want on your team as you dig into it. We’ll also talk about the cost and time commitment of different options to get you from embarrassed to share your link to a website that sells your services for you so you can be outliving life just how you pictured it.

Kate Hejde [00:00:48]:

Just to give you a little bit of background, I started my photography business back in 2011. Before that, though, I was a new mom looking for something to do while my baby napped. And well before that, I was the kid with the lemonade stand, the one making homemade perfume from my mom’s garden. The kind of kid who made their own business cards for their imaginary future business. It was inevitable that I’d be an entrepreneur if given the chance. So as my baby settled into a routine and I had some time on my hands, I started dreaming up what to do with it. I started with a blog. It was kind of the thing to do at the time.

Kate Hejde [00:01:23]:

Pinterest was fresh in the world, scrapbooking was big. I was just documenting kind of our days and playing around with exploring how to share what I was doing with my time. The first blog I wrote was on Blogger, and then I quickly moved over to WordPress. It was mostly just sharing about my days. I was sharing about the scrapbooking that I was doing and design ideas. There was a big world of blogger scrapbookers at the time, and I kind of wanted in on that just because it was something that I felt I could do without too much time commitment outside of being a mom. It was just documenting what I was already doing. But with that, with scrapbooking and blogging, of course I focused back in on photography because I wanted better pictures for my scrapbooks and for my blogs.

Kate Hejde [00:02:16]:

And I had always had a passion for photography. I was taking pictures of my Cabbage Patch Kids when I was little. I would pose my dog in my Cabbage Patch Kid clothes. So it was really a natural progression from blogging to getting more into photography. And then when my daughter turned one, I started my photography business. So that little WordPress blog that I had quickly turned into an actual website for a photography business. And I had to learn a lot more about how to do all of those things, how to set up a website. And it was tricky at first.

Kate Hejde [00:02:58]:

I didn’t have a ton of information behind me. The Internet was there. I did a lot of research and tried to figure out what other people were doing, what pages did I need. And I built on WordPress for that first website. And then I think a couple of years in, I moved over to Profoto, to a more professional site, which was kind of a big thing at that time. Profoto still exists, but I think that they have kind of phased out and they no longer have any support for it. So I know there are some people still on Profoto. A few years later.

Kate Hejde [00:03:38]:

I tried squarespace. I went from Squarespace back to WordPress, and all of the time I’m building these websites, trying to figure out how to make the information that I want out there easy to understand and make it seen by people. I want to make sure that it’s connecting with the right people and I just don’t really know what I’m doing right. And then also I’m having to learn these platforms, and then also it’s requiring a lot of information that’s above my head. Figuring out code and things like that was beyond me. So I was trying to find ways to use the tools that were there. With WordPress Divi, I used so many, seriously, so many different platforms, and I could never get my site to look how I wanted it, how I pictured it in my head, until in 2019, a graphic designer I follow hosted a free webinar talking about her switch to Show It and the new templates she had designed. It was honestly just what I needed to make the leap.

Kate Hejde [00:04:41]:

I had heard of Show It before, and Show It, when it first came out, was a flash based website. I knew that was something I didn’t want. But watching this webinar of her showing me how I could easily just move whatever I wanted anywhere on the page was just like mind blowing to me. After all of these years of struggling, like, seriously, I’ve been through eight years of websites at this point and struggled to get anything where I wanted it. And then now she was showing me how I could easily put anything where I wanted it anywhere on the screen. So I used to have to build parts and pieces of my site in Photoshop or Canva, though Canva wasn’t really that big back then, it was always in Photoshop, which was very time consuming, and then loading them into the platform and trying to figure it out. And now with Show It, every little piece of my design could be native to the platform. So anytime I wanted my text to be twisted or I wanted a special font previously, I would have to create it in Photoshop and then load it up to the website and then I’d be like losing SEO because the words were not being read when they were part of an image.

Kate Hejde [00:05:59]:

If you load just an image with words on it to a website, google’s not reading those words. It can’t. So you’re losing out on SEO when those words are not showing up actually natively to your website. So now I was able to actually have those words be part of my search engine strategy. The mobile design also looks great. I love that I can design my mobile site independently of my desktop version. More than 50% of traffic to most websites comes from mobile, so making sure that everything flows and is easy to access is huge, especially from a cell phone. SEO of course, is important too.

Kate Hejde [00:06:38]:

I love that Show It uses the WordPress engine for blogging. WordPress is used by nearly 40% of the top million websites. That shows you the power WordPress has in helping sites rank and search results. With WordPress, you also get access to nearly 60,000 plugins things like WooCommerce for creating a shop, or Yoast for making sure each of your blog posts are optimized. And then beyond that, it’s so easy to customize fonts and colors and create a cohesive brand within Showit. And that’s really why I recommend show it. For any creative entrepreneur, you might be thinking, but I’m just going to hire somebody to do it to build my site, so why does it matter what platform I use? And well, honestly, I recommend Show It still because truthfully, your website is always going to need updates. You should be doing a check of your messaging and functionality for your site at bare minimum twice a year.

Kate Hejde [00:07:34]:

It’s important to make sure that you can make those updates yourself whenever possible. A lot of the times it’s just like a few words here or there that need to be changed or a few pictures need to be switched out. And as a designer, I don’t want you to have to hire me every time you need something just like quick and simple. I want you to be able to have access and understanding of your website and your platform so you can take ownership of it. Really, your website is kind of like a living, breathing thing and your business is too. So constantly you’re going to be making pricing updates or maybe your phone number is on the site and you no longer want to take phone calls. I want you to be able to take that off. There’s just going to be little things like that that it’s important for you as a business owner to be able to make changes to your site without having to hire a designer every single time.

Kate Hejde [00:08:22]:

And that is why I always recommend show it. Of course, there are some businesses that Show It is not the best fit for and those are going to be ones that are heavily like Ecommerce, where you have lots of products to sell, like physical products especially. You might want to look into something like Shopify. You can of course, use Shopify and WooCommerce within Show It, but if you’re going to have hundreds of different products, it’s not going to be the easiest choice out there for you. As I mentioned before, I have tried a lot of other user friendly platforms like Squarespace, some of the different types of WordPress, and honestly, none of them were as customizable or as easy to understand as Show It. I feel like Show It has a really good interface for anyone that has kind of a visual learning style. And especially if you have experience with Adobe software and you understand kind of like Layers and any of those tools that are within Photoshop, Illustrator, those types of software, show It’s going to be a lot easier for you to understand. So now that we’ve covered the platform that I most recommend, let’s kind of get into what goes into building a website.

Kate Hejde [00:09:39]:

There are so many little pieces to the job and you can choose to hire out all of them or none of them, but you do have to get them done one way or the other if you really want to maximize your presence on the Internet. So let’s kind of break down the main pieces. Of course, you could probably break it down even further and find more niche specialists in all different kinds of areas, but let’s simplify it a little. So the first thing that you’re going to need to tackle is your overall brand strategy. What is the message that your business is trying to get across? What products do you offer? Who do you serve? It’s getting into the psychology of all of that, figuring out how to reach the right people and who the right people are, and making sure that your offers, what you sell, match up with those people as well. So brand strategy is the first step. Then you’re going to go into visual branding. Visual branding is more like the colors and the logo, the kind of visual aspects that you’re going to use to connect with those people and connect that message to people that you found from your brand strategy.

Kate Hejde [00:10:43]:

Sometimes a visual branding person will help you with the strategy part. Sometimes the next person, your copywriter, will help you with the messaging part. There are just so many different people that have so many different skill sets that you could hire to help with your website. It’s really figuring out what your strengths are and where you want to spend your time versus your money. Next is copywriting. Copywriting is the words on your website. That messaging. When you’ve got really clear copywriting and clear messaging, it helps the next step, which is actually like the web design and the development come together more clearly.

Kate Hejde [00:11:24]:

It’s a lot easier to design a site when you have the content and the strategy first than if you say start with a design and try to plug words into it, it’s just not going to be as cohesive or clear. I’ve tried that before. I’ve tried to fit words into a template or tried to write words to fit into different spaces in a website and it’s always a disaster. Honestly. It always comes out to be not exactly what it needed to be. I’m not able to get everything that I needed to say in there or I have too much space for the words that I have and it just doesn’t look right. So having the content and the strategy ready before you go into the actual design and development is a great step. You of course can hire a web designer who actually does the visual design of the layout, or a developer who puts all of the strategy, the content, all of it, into a layout that you’ve kind of designed for them.

Kate Hejde [00:12:33]:

That’s a developer. Then there is the SEO or search engine optimization part of it which is going in and tweaking things and making sure that Google is seeing the right hierarchy of information on your site by using headings tags and meta descriptions and things like that. So there are a lot of different pieces that you can hire out for a website. It’s typically more than one person that takes on the full job of building a website. If you want something like really like start to finish where you don’t have a hand in it at all, obviously you’re still going to have to have some participation because you have to help the person who’s doing your strategy and your visuals. You have to help them understand who you’re trying to reach. So it’s more of a collaborative effort on that upfront end. The brand strategy person is really there to draw this invisible line for you, connecting all of the parts and pieces of what you know to be true about your offer in your business and how you’re going to say that and connect with the people that you want to connect with.

Kate Hejde [00:13:37]:

So again, you can hire out each aspect of this or you can do it yourself. You can pick which parts and pieces are easier for you to do, which ones you want to learn more about. And then there’s also like templates and things that you can use. There’s lots of different ways to save money or to save time depending on your skill set and what you have to invest. So for example, with the colors and the brand logo and things like that, you can go to Etsy or Fiver and get a low cost one or you can pull something together yourself in Canva. Highly don’t recommend Canva because you don’t actually have copyrights of that design but just to throw it out there, it’s something that people do use, not recommended, but people do use it. So you can do something yourself. You can pay a lower price for something that’s not perfectly customized from Etsy, or you can hire a designer and have them design something specifically for you with your strategy in mind.

Kate Hejde [00:14:38]:

And all of those are going to have varying price levels and varying time commitments. The same is true when it comes to your actual website design. There are really about three Ish options when it comes to how you’re actually going to build this website and we’re going to kind of COVID all three of those and pros and cons costs and time commitments. The first is going to be a full custom website. Again, I’m specifically talking about the website design in these three options, like the actual build of a website. So when I’m talking full custom website, it’s something where you’re going to hand over the strategy, the visuals, the copy and content for your site to a designer and they’re going to build it from the ground up. Again, there are some designers that will help you with those things or have team members that they can hire, but without that aspect of it, even like you handing over all of the content, you’re looking at around $5,000 or more for a full custom website. Cons to a full custom website are the price and then also the time that it takes.

Kate Hejde [00:15:51]:

It’s not taking you time, but it’s taking time from hiring someone, getting on their calendar, and then the time it’s going to take them to build it. It’s a long process, so you might be looking at a couple of months or more to get your full custom website completed. Pros to this is that it’s going to be something that’s completely unique that this designer has created just for you. No website is going to look exactly like it or similar to it. This might be the way to go. If you have really specific needs for your website, have a store, or need more customized options on your site that can’t be achieved in other ways. This is going to be for a business that’s already making money, improved itself and needs that higher touch experience through the website process. I don’t typically recommend a full custom site for most creative entrepreneurs or small businesses.

Kate Hejde [00:16:53]:

Most websites have the same general functionality. Like we know you’re going to need a menu up top, you’re going to need certain sections and a lot of that can be templatized. I don’t know if that’s a word, but we’re using it. And by having a base template, you’re going to save a lot of money and a lot of time building your website, which gets us into the next option, which is template customization. So template customization is where you again will provide all of your content, your colors, your logo, your copy, all of that upfront to your designer. But you’ll also choose a template. Showit has hundreds and hundreds of template options from all kinds of different designers and they range in price really from like $300 up to probably close to $2,000 for a template just depending how in depth the website is, how big of a site it is and how much information is having to fit in there. A lot of template customizers like myself have a library of templates that they offer as an inclusion with this service.

Kate Hejde [00:18:05]:

But basically what happens is you choose the template that you want and then the designer is going to go in and put all of your colors, your content, your logo into that template and customize it to fit your business. This is a lot less expensive option in a way to still get a done for you website without you having to learn the platform and do it yourself. Typically this is going to be around like $1800 to $3,500 again just depending on how in depth the website is plus the cost of your template unless your designer is including that template cost for you. So it just really is going to vary there again, but template customization is a great way to save some money. Pros is that it is going to be faster. I offer like a website in a week offer with this where I can get your website done in one week so a lot faster and then again a lot less expensive than a full custom website. It’s also a great way to get a done for you site without having to do it yourself. More budget friendly cons to this is going to depend on the designer that you choose and how much that they’re going to include in their customization of that template.

Kate Hejde [00:19:21]:

And again finding the right template that has all of the things that you need in it to really make your website sing. This also is still going to require you to have all of that content figured out. The strategy and the visuals and the copy, same really though with a full custom site. Again, you can hire parts and pieces of that out but if you’re trying to save money, you might end up doing those yourself. The last option is a full DIY site. Again you can either start with a template which I recommend or from scratch a blank page in Show It. Show It does have several templates that are free within the platform but you can also I recommend looking at the paid templates because they do have a lot more to offer, especially if you’re newer to designing a website. A paid template is going to give you a lot more variability and just like building blocks to start from to get the look that you want with Show It again you can really just build it however you want.

Kate Hejde [00:20:27]:

You can drag a photo here or twist it or add shadows to things. You can put text wherever you want it to be. But having that base to jump off of with a template is going to make it go a lot faster and be a lot easier. So DIY is an option within Show It. It does take some time to learn the platform and it can be hard to know which step to tick first, what content goes where, what pages you need for your site. All of those things, they sound like small decisions, but as you start building, there’s so many small decisions you have to make in a website that it can get overwhelming. So for a DIY site, you’re going to have more of a time commitment because you’re going to have to learn the platform, you’re going to have to learn how all of those things fit together. You’re going to have to spend the time to really research and get in there and understand all of these parts and pieces.

Kate Hejde [00:21:22]:

And sometimes that can be overwhelming. Cost wise, you’re looking at whatever the cost of your template is. Plus your show, it subscription. Your show at Subscription is going to be something that you have with any of these options for building your site, but just throwing that in there as well. I do offer a kind of fourth ish option here, which is where I help you DIY your site through my Website Launch Accelerator. I have a course training like Vault for you that walks you through all of the things that you need to know about Show It and breaks it down in a way that is made for the small business owner. And then it’s backed up with weekly office hours where you can come and get an audit, you can ask questions. It also has all of the other pieces of building a website built in.

Kate Hejde [00:22:13]:

So it’s got copy templates to help you write your copy. It helps you understand the strategy and the layout. It helps you figure out colors and design aspects. So that is kind of the fourth option. We’ll get into that more in a later episode of the series, but I wanted to throw that out there if you want to look more into it. It’s at WLA and again, that’s called the Website Launch Accelerator. So that is a way to DIY your site. But with help pros of that is really learning more about your business, more about the strategy that goes into it, teaching you how to use the platform so you can make all of those changes that you want, whenever you want throughout your site.

Kate Hejde [00:22:59]:

It gives you more control over the creative aspects of it and the visuals, the wording, all of it. You have the control. It’s also a less expensive option than hiring someone to do it for you. And it’s going to be faster than trying to totally do it all by yourself because it gives you a four week breakdown of how to do everything and a timeline to follow. You do get nine weeks of support, so if you have other things going on and you can’t fully commit to the website, I’m still there for you and you can kind of space it out. Having the option of accountability also is super helpful in getting you motivated and getting you to complete the project that you want to complete. We are here to reach your goals based on what you want in your business, and the Website Launch Accelerator is created to help you find those goals and then reach them. It’s also nice to have a sounding board and feedback as you work on these things.

Kate Hejde [00:23:59]:

A lot of the time when you do a DIY project for your business, you end up feeling like you’re just in your own little cave, working on things. You’re not sure if what you’re doing is the right thing. You’re kind of like trying to learn and then guess, and there’s no feedback. Whereas with the Website Launch Accelerator, you can have as much feedback as you’d like. I’m there constantly for support and helping you kind of work through it, and also giving you the outsider perspective of what you’re working on to see. A lot of the times when you have someone else looking at things, they see holes that you didn’t see yourself or you didn’t see them until you showed your work to somebody else. So that’s another benefit of the website launch accelerator. The cons to that are that it does take some time and you really do have to be ready and willing to invest in yourself time wise and financially to get down to the heart of your brand messaging and your business and really get to know yourself and get to know how to use these tools to really show up online in a way that you can be proud of.

Kate Hejde [00:25:05]:

Okay, so let’s do a quick recap of today’s episode. We talked about how Showit is a wonderful platform for creative entrepreneurs and small businesses to build on because it is so customizable, easy to use, has great SEO, drag and drop features, it’s easy to understand and very customizable. Then we talked about the different aspects of a website that you need, like brand strategy, visual branding, copywriting, the actual web design, and then SEO search engine optimization. And then we talked about four different options for building your website. One is a full custom design, two is template customization. Three is full DIY, and four is using the Website Launch Accelerator to get help with your DIY site. Next week, we’re going to be talking about each of the pages on your website and the role that they play in the overall strategy, and we’ll get into a little bit of what goes on each of those pages. I cannot wait to talk to you.

Kate Hejde [00:26:06]:

If you found this episode to be helpful, please let me know by either leaving a review on whatever podcast player you’re listening in, or DM me on Instagram. I love to hear from you. You can find me at dear Kate Brand strategy. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out and I’ll talk to you next week. Have a great one.

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