FAQ : How to Create a Website Reflective of YOU

A
few months ago, I gave a presentation entitled the Power of Your Web Sight, and discussed the ability to see one's website and measure it's stickability, poignancy, and impactability. Yes, I made up that last word. Last week I blogged about Blogging Tips+Tricks, but this week I want to focus on the main piece of my online business representation, my website. Part of why websites are so impactful is because they capture the essence of a business, and--more specifically for small business owners--personality.

This post will, hopefully, cover the Why and the How of creating a unique website, so let's chat a little more about it...

I recently relaunched my website, but my first website was launched in 2008. It was a huge year for my business and I attribute so much to creating a distinct online storefront for my business. Before May 2008, my blog was the main source of contact for future brides, but I felt like I had plateaued because my old website (a stoic HTML site) was completely disconnected from my brand. It was a poor representation to who I was professionally and impeded my growth. After launching the new website in 2008, I raised my prices and began to receive referrals from wedding coordinators. Sure, it could be coincidence, but I firmly believe that once I had a site that looked and felt a certain way, coordinators were confident sending clients to visit my site, since their recommendation was a reflection of their business, and taste. These types of referrals led to shooting weddings with a heavy focus on details and styling, which later helped move my work toward publication. When editors saw the website, I believe they developed a sense of who I was and the type of client I attracted. After the launch of my website, I knew, specifically, what brides I attracted and this helped me better cater to their needs and desires.


Why Is My Website So Important To Me?
Basically, I created a website to help me achieve the following results:
*Helps Me Attract a Specific Type of Client. I want to shoot fun, emotional, detail-oriented brides, so I needed a way to showcase this sentiment online...and I found it impossible to do with a template website. I created something to help me be different online.
*Solicits Validity on the Web. As a reflection of my business, my website had to showcase my work as well as fuller presentations of my portfolio. Afterall, it's likely a bride will be showing her mama my site, so I want to make sure it reflects the utmost level of professionalism.
*Helps Buttress My Online Brand. My website should be the foundation of who I am as an entrepreneur and give an aesthetic description of my style, as well as a continuation of my brand.
*It's the Best Version of Me on the Web. I once heard "Your website is your handshake, and your blog is your voice." Well, friends, I want a very firm handshake, and a really soft voice.

How Can I Make a Website Work for Me?
The answer depends on what you want. No, really, what do YOU want? The answer will help drive the direction of your website. I wanted a site that:
*Allowed Me to Connect with Clients. I want to connect as much as possible with prospective clients, so using a video opener, video transitions, a detailed bio section, a Life in the In Between section, allows people to, literally, see and hear me. Just a few minutes on my website and people will definitely know if they like (or don't like) me. That's precisely what I want.
*Positioned Me for Destination Weddings. If I can't meet, physically, with clients, then I want to make sure my website allows people to get a good sense of who I am on the web and book my services for out of state clients. Having a detailed and unique website accomplishes just this.
*Creates Conversations. Yes, I want people to like my website, but I also want my website to be a division of my clients as well.
How to Create a Website Reflective of YOU.
*Work with a Designer or Customize a Style Group. Because I had so many ideas, I needed to work with someone to help hone my inspiration into a focused direction. I worked with Promise Tangeman for my website and she created a rough idea of what I wanted. From there, I took an active role in changing things (even the smallest details were fine-tuned) to ensure it reflected only me.
*Know What You Want. It's difficult to get a great site without a very clear idea of who you are and what you like. Make sure you're not depending on a graphic designer to fill in the gaps. Ideally, you want to see the big picture, as well as each component.
*Have a Critical Eye. View your website as a person who's randomly found your site...is there a disconnect between your work, your style, and your personality. If there is, change it. Ensure you're showing images that will move your brand forward, and aren't simply 'pretty pictures'...while nice, they don't speak to your soul of your photography and your brand.
*Feel It. Lastly, when you view your website, can you feel yourself pulsing through each page? If not, make active strides to ensure this changes. If you can't feel yourself on the web, how can you expect anyone else to?

Again, this was a lonnnng post, but I--clearly--feel passionately about this subject. With the growth of photographers in the industry, I think its important to share ideas to ensure we're collectively moving forward. Together. If you have ideas, feedback, or something to add, feel free to add it in the comment box!

Happy Wendesday!
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Kali Norton - GREAT post Jasmine! This has really helped me sort out all of the creative ideas I have for my website that I haven't been able to collectively organize the way I want it. My website through ShowIt is finally starting to come together to the cohesion I have envisioned and feel for it.  02.11.11 - 10:01am
Sabrina Nicole - Fantastic Post!!! I have been trying to figure out how to makeover my website and this post really helped. Thank you so much!  01.20.11 - 1:46pm
Shannon - This post couldn't have came at a better time...one thing though. What if you are at the beginning of your business, like you were for your first blog, and don't know exactly who you are yet. Do you just try to get it as close as you can and redesign later? How can I be sure that I'm not just doing the 'trendy' thing?  01.19.11 - 6:41pm
Amy Jo - I love it! FEEL IT. I want to feel it on every page of my site. Thank you so much for always sharing your knowledge!  01.18.11 - 7:55pm
Neil Patel - Like ths blog cus im in process of upgrading my Brand n Web site...thank you! for inputs n ideas...Neil Patel  01.17.11 - 3:29pm
Karisa - Okay so this comment is a little late, but better late then never right? First I really appreciate all your insight. (I also love you website.) I am having a problem right now of knowing WHO I am and what that would look like online. Do you have great questions I should be asking myself or any other advice to help me hone in on what I want? Thanks Jasmine.  01.16.11 - 8:23am
feuza - some awesome tips, it can be a long and frustrating process for some but getting it done is key  01.15.11 - 11:34am
Chastidyi Parrott - Thank you so much for this post! I absolutely love the design and layout of your website. It's very unique.   01.14.11 - 8:03pm
amanda thiessen - loved this! thank you so much for posting!!  01.13.11 - 6:34pm
Kelsey {Las Vegas Wedding Photographer} - Great tips! I love Show It and so glad I broke away from a template site :)  01.13.11 - 4:43pm
LEOLAK - Thanks for the awesome post! I downloaded the Showit software recently and can't wait to get started on my site. These tips certainly will help! Keep on Rocking!  01.13.11 - 10:57am
Chris Trafford - Great article! I for one am guilty of a website that is what I think others would like and becomes well.....you said it.  01.13.11 - 10:01am
Jillian Zamora - I appreciate you, Jasmine. Thank you for all you do for your fellow photographers!  01.13.11 - 9:32am
Kathleen Frank - This was so useful!!! I am currently working on my first website, and I hope to launch in a week or two. Figuring out all of the little details can be so difficult. Thanks for your tips!  01.13.11 - 8:59am
Emily Dobson - Thank you thank you thank you for you FAQ posts! Way to simplify things for those of us who just don't think along these lines. VERY helpful!  01.13.11 - 8:22am
Alex Frame - I build my website by myself,  01.13.11 - 12:45am
kelli taylor - As always, thank you Jasmine for breakin' it down! :)  01.12.11 - 8:34pm
Christy - This is perfect timing! I actually just hired Promise a few weeks back to work on re-branding my business... website/blog/logo... so this is great inspiration as I start the process! Thanks Jas! :)  01.12.11 - 8:04pm
Juli L. - Thanks you for this post! I'm in the process of getting organized and creating a website, so perfect timing!  01.12.11 - 4:33pm
Julie O'Dell - Very helpful, thanks for sharing this!   01.12.11 - 4:23pm
Tanya Petraglia - Oh thank you so much for this. I believe I tried a trial on Showit, but I am so technically challenged..I will try again. definitely.   01.12.11 - 3:31pm
Amy Arrington - I always benefit from your FAQs. thanks so much jasmine :)  01.12.11 - 2:57pm
Annie - I made a list exactly like that yesterday! Perfect timing for this post! :)  01.12.11 - 2:56pm
PriscillaJoy - love this! the designer in me wanted a face and a voice from day one, and the photographer in me wanted to connect with my client. the (new) small business owner needed a quick and easy way to try and meld all those together...we all start somewhere, but this gives great insight as to the importance!  01.12.11 - 2:40pm
Lisa ~ Krush Design - Fantastic post Jasmine! Just wanted to add that a graphic designer should be able to ask you all the right questions to help define the personality & voice of your website, or in fact any marketing piece you are putting together. That's the difference between a good 'artist' and a great designer :)  01.12.11 - 2:34pm
JP - Thanks for this post. I just created my website last month. Though it's created from a template, I can still incorporate your ideas to personalize it- to reflect me. I know you're busy, but when you get a chance, check it out and I would appreciate your critique. Thanks again for the inspiration!   01.12.11 - 12:38pm
natalie - Thanks for all your insight into the importance of our websites! It is invaluable!  01.12.11 - 12:28pm
melodie - You seriously. thank you. you...*sigh* Jasmine. You make things so much more clear and hopeful.   01.12.11 - 11:13am
Jaimie Dee - Atlanta Wedding Photographer - I've always loved your website! It's just designed so nicely! Keep up the great work! :)  01.12.11 - 11:13am
Jason Mark Harris - great post, cant wait to get my showit site live in feb  01.12.11 - 11:02am
Liz Maryann - Jasmine, this is why I love you. Seriously. I took every word of advice from you and followed it. You've inspired me to re-brand myself and design a website that is totally reflective of who I am not only professionally, but personally as well. I can't thank you enough. Funny that you posted this because I just unveiled my new website last week! Please check it out and let me know what you think :) www.lizmaryann.com  01.12.11 - 10:54am
Catalina - Jasmine, I cannot tell you how much I admire your work, your enthusiasm, and your fun and vibrant creativity! But above all, I love how you're so willing to share your gift with others. I am in the process of redoing my site, and I'm taking all your advices. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Best of luck to you always!  01.12.11 - 10:25am
emma - This was something i was really struggling with, I still need to work on mine but you've definitely helped me.  01.12.11 - 10:08am
Tytia Habing - I'm moving back to the States in three months from the Caribbean and I'm revamping my website. I've been struggling, big time! This post couldn't have come at a better time. I especially like the critical eye part. I find it difficult to decide on portfolio images and what I want to project to the client. This should help. Thanks for this and all your awesome posts!!!!!!  01.12.11 - 9:41am
Libby K - Thanks Jasmine! This is incredibly helpful since I'm in the process of building my site from scratch. I always appreciate your insight and willingness to help all of us other photographers. God bless!  01.12.11 - 9:34am
Romonia Isaac - Great post! You got me motivated just by reading! I am in the process of changing both my blog and my website to reflect where I am now and this was the perfect post for me to read. I needed affirmation and your words gave me just that. Love your handwriting by the way! I want to use Showit so badly because I have heard nothing but great things about it--but it is not easy building your own site! Have a great Wednesday!  01.12.11 - 9:33am
angel - If this blog came in book form, I'd buy it...but it would have to include the OLD blog, also! ;-)  01.12.11 - 9:32am
Monica - But what if you don't really know what your "style" is?!?!? I don't know that I really do have one style! This is what is so hard for me.  01.12.11 - 9:27am
Shannon Wimberly - Jasmine.... you have done it again... I have stayed home today just to get my website completed and ready to go before I go to a bridal show this sunday.... I am convinced you are sensitive to divine leading in your life.... Thank you!  01.12.11 - 9:25am
Emma Godfrey - "when you view your website, can you feel yourself pulsing through each page" I love this! Reading your blog and watching too many Creative Live videos has really given me the confidence to put myself into my website and blog. I always expected people to think 'who does she think she is' but actually, even my friends and colleagues seem a little closer - it's as if they feel they know me a little bit better because I wrote a post on what book I'm going to read next. Really great advice - thank you!  01.12.11 - 9:25am
Tina Rothe - I am with Elizabeth all the way. This is a great post and very informative, but I am not even sure what branding is or how to find or develop it. I don't even know what defines or makes me distinctive and how to portray that. Big struggle for me.  01.12.11 - 9:21am
Jennifer Folz - Thanks Jasmine! Great post and exactly what I am working on right now. Just decided to go with Showit this week and hope to have great success with their product.  01.12.11 - 9:16am
april russell - Its like you read my mind! I have been trying to focus on this for awhile now. Thanks for the info to help me get started!  01.12.11 - 9:15am
Jodi Walden - WOW! Thanks Jasmine! I seriously JUST got done creating my website and this really helps!   01.12.11 - 9:09am
Courtney - Jasmine, thank you for all of your insight! I remember when you Skyped with the Kansas City PUG group last year about this, and I definitely tried to implement all of these things with my own. You've been extremely helpful! :)  01.12.11 - 9:09am
Kira Lauren - All true and important points, Jasmine! I just finished my blog re-design and amtrak-camping my showit site right now to match. It's a long, soul-searching process(!!) but will be so worth it in the end! Thanks for first hooking me up with Showit when you came to Sacramento! :)   01.12.11 - 9:08am
Chelsea McGowan - Not that you're going to have time to check it out or anything, but I wanted to let you know that on your recommendation, we used ShowIt for our new website, which just launched YESTERDAY! We spent a year on the design for our new brand, making sure that every bit of our new online presence would accurately represent who we are as a couple, and as photographers. While we're a blog-driven business, I also knew we wanted the website to be strong, and unique, and professional. I'm so proud to finally have this! Thank you so much for always being honest about what you do, and why you do it. :)  01.12.11 - 9:08am
Derrick Lafayette Hicks - FIRST!  01.12.11 - 8:39am
Huntington Beach Hotels - Website is very important for all business but you have to make good marketing plan.  01.12.11 - 8:00am
kristen - this is great. this is a subject that I've been struggling with and my website shows it. It's been the top of my "to do" list for...uhhh...well...a while now (so much for priorities).  01.12.11 - 7:40am
Elizabeth Dahl - Jasmine, you have such a well defined sense of self. What I mean is - you KNOW WHO YOU ARE, and you know how to present that to the world in an honest way (you don't seem to be too afraid of it). What are some of the things that you have done, or have impacted your life, to help you define yourself in this way? I would love to know myself and be able to present my self in the fearless way that you do, but the idea itself is honestly far more terrifying (and puzzling) than anything I've struggled with before!  01.12.11 - 7:38am
kristin brown - jasmine, i love this post! this is such great information. thank you so much.  01.12.11 - 7:32am
Peter - Great post. I know I do get frustrated with merely figuring some of the technical things out (and not many of us can spend oodles of cash on all aspects of our business - particularly when that 135 f2 lens is literally calling to me). Either way, it is another day/month/year, so I need to keep looking at the website to 'tune' my message.  01.12.11 - 7:29am
Gabriel G - I love your website! It is so fantastic and Promise is such an inspiration!! Both of you are amazing :)   01.12.11 - 7:21am
corey - Great way to start the day J, Im trying to apply these same techiques to a new blogsite as well  01.12.11 - 7:10am
Naomi Figueroa - LOVE this! Thank you so much....it is immensely helpful!  01.12.11 - 6:42am
Kelly Green - As usual J* you are right on the money! I was literally updating my website & galleries to be more ME, when I thought I would take a break & read your blog. Couldn't have come at a better time, thank you x  01.12.11 - 6:23am
Sarah Danaher - This is great advice, Jasmine. I justjustjust launched my first website (Showit!! — www.ampersandphoto.com) and I have a few more things to add in the about me section and a couple of other tweaks here and there, but overall, I'm very VERY pleased with it and feel it is a very firm, distinct "handshake" that accurately reflects who I am.   01.12.11 - 6:19am
Allison Suter - I love and appreciate that you are so open and honest about everything. This is a really excellent post and it helps me start to frame my own plan... I just took down my website because it was too disjointed from my brand. Perhaps I need a redesign...  01.12.11 - 6:19am
Bethany Cox - I LOVED THIS= "Your website is your handshake, and your blog is your voice." Well, friends, I want a very firm handshake, and a really soft voice. right on   01.12.11 - 6:17am
Carrie K - If it's 8am where I am right now and you guys are in Hawaii-you are up WAY to early my dear! Thanks for all the tips:)  01.12.11 - 5:54am
Regina Marie - Thank you. I've been starting to really work this out myself, and figure out how I want to present myself on the web. It's really inspiring to see the process you went through to get your great site/blog.  01.12.11 - 5:53am
Ria Mishaal Cooke - Brilliant post Jasmine - and come just at the right time for me as I am starting work to rebrand to something which truely reflects me - so grateful! I would say detailed rather than long, and detail is vital :)  01.12.11 - 5:52am
Claudia - thanks for this post.... :)  01.12.11 - 5:45am
Allyson Garrison - I still have a long way to go getting my website to really "reflect me"... I'm still very much a work in progress! But your success is so enouraging! Thanks for being so real!   01.12.11 - 5:28am
Amy - Hello awesome handwriting!!  01.12.11 - 4:56am
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