Is WIX the Best Website Builder and Host for Photographers? Unbiased Review

Finding the perfect hosting company for your website for photographers is a pain point. If you are an art based photographer, like I am, choices are slim. I could pigeon hole my needs into one of the many turnkey portfolio/client based solutions like Smug Mug or Zenfolio, or go the route other fine art photographers have gone, by building my website from scratch. Building a website from scratch  gives me greater flexibility to build the website and ecommerce solution that best meets my needs as a Fine Art Nature Photographer. So that is the direction I chose to go in when I decided to use Wix to host my website. 

Contrary to popular belief you can change the template if you host your website with Wix. Lemme explain: I have several websites; some are on main domains and others, like this blog are on a sub-domain. 

Yellow day lily with Tanya Owens Photography

Background

November 2021, I decided not to renew my subscription with the company that hosted my main website since 2009, a 12 year relationship. My needs weren't being met by the photography portfolio platform Zenfolio, who has integrated website hosting and building features and caters to wedding and event photographers. As a Fine Art photographer what I needed from the Shop, connection to labs, and campaigns I could run weren't being met. And that's fine. Zenfolio does a great job in its niche, but it was time for me to move on.

I thought that I would be able to switch to another host that caters to photographers and was in for a rude awakening. Most of the hosts that I considered all have tunnel vision. They cater to wedding, event and commercial photographers. None of them catered to the Art photographer.

My business model is B2B, their hosting plans are B2C. My customer base just didn't fit the model of the sites and plans they were offering. Which meant that I had to venture beyond my safety net and start looking more broadly at website hosts, which allow more flexibility with building your website. So I parked my website on a blogger account with it being connected to my main domain tanyaowens.com - big mistake, because I did not set up redirects to pages and essentially lost 12 years of rankings. But I didn't know that at the time. 

And I found a template from a 3rd party - yikes. It was a mess. The guy had put rouge code in the template, which hurt my site's standing. And I could not customize it the way I wanted to. Blogger was no longer the solution for me, I had to move to a new host immediately.

So I fleshed out my spreadsheet with several different features I needed so I could compare. I plopped in a variety of website hosts. And I did extensive research: from forums, reviews, to directly reaching out to photographers whose websites I admired. Overwhelmingly the results were go with WordPress, there is so much flexibility and Woo Commerce is better than Shopify. I started with WordPress, and I found it incredulous that photographers were recommending a blogging site for their website. 

I do recall many news reports in the past how major corporations were using WordPress to host their website. And since WordPress is open source and free, one can host it on their own server. I did see the appeal to major enterprises who have their own IT departments and onsite web developers who can develop their websites and also keep them secure and safe. 

History

I didn't want to go that route. That is how I started out in the early 2000s with a website I called The Owens Group (towensgroup.com - domain now defunct) and it had my resume. 

Screen grab of The Owens Group website from 2011. Website is now defunct.
The Owens Group 2009-2011

It basically was an online portfolio for future clients or employers. I had actually fancied myself to start a boutique consulting firm. I quickly put the kibosh on that, but I had the domain, so I used it.

I had learned to code and self taught myself JavaScript, so I could build a basic rudimentary website. And that's where the nightmare began. Not from the website, it was on par with most of the websites on the internet at the time, so it was cutting edge, though not has fancy as the websites who had IT people with deep coding and Graphic Designers who could design spectacular layouts. No, the nightmare was with the host, who provided basically no support, their support staff laughed at me when I had issues. Because back then if you built a website, you were an IT guy. So this girl with rudimentarily html and JavaScript skills was an easy target to sell to but a joke to support.

So, in 2008 when I shifted my web presence I decided to split my photography business from my corporate consulting business and in 2009 I secured the domain TanyaOwens.com to be my photography website. It was a good time because I had landed a pretty good job at a major pharmaceutical company in 2008 and was planning my exit strategy in the next 15 - 20 years. I also planned to build my photography business as a side hustle that would grow into my main hustle. I decided that I wanted to go with a host that offered more support, catered to photographers and provided templates so I could focus more on my art and less on designing a website.

Templates

I love a good template. Templates make doing the work easier. As a writer, give me a good template and I will give you great content. So, in 2021 when I started researching hosts for my website the quality of the templates, having access to the head of my website, and the ability to freely design my website and not be constrained by the template were critical concerns as well as how well designed the shop was, whether it was modern, clean, non fussy and customers felt they could trust it. I was looking for a host that I could grow my business on. So that when my business became too much for me to manage solo, that I could bring in others (either employees, contractors or a 3rd party company) to manage the website while I focused on the art and content.

So I shifted my focus to WordPress as many photographers recommended the platform. I knew that I would not be hosting it on my own server, so I focused on WordPress.com as well as other companies who hosted and managed WordPress sites. And it was all over the map - at the end of the day WordPress works best if you have technical skill and will. To get out of it what I needed, there would need to be tons of plug-ins that would need to work well with each other. Not my cup of tea.

So, I shifted my focus to three other hosts: Weebly, Wix and SquareSpace. I had read various things about each of these hosts. The first Weebly is now a Square company. Square is really doing a good job of helping on ground businesses establish a web presence so they can become hybrid stores. The pandemic demonstrated that stores with a web presence & selling capability performed well. Weebly/Square would work in my favor if I ever did a pop-up shop. However, I don't intend to have any on ground business presence so I ruled out Weebly.

The next two Wix and SquareSpace looked promising. I ruled out Wix because all of the reviews said that when you build your site with a Wix template you can't change the template and that seemed restrictive. I have always admired SquareSpace so I began to look at them. 

Meanwhile my website was still on Blogger, so I searched for a low cost option to park my site until I determined which host I would go with. I quickly discovered Google Sites and quickly built my site there and published it January 1, 2022.

tanyaowens.com 1/2022

With my website out of limbo, I shifted my focus back to a more permanent solution and started working on building a site on SquareSpace during the two week trial. I was quite happy about this because I yearned to build a website on their platform for years. They just looked so polished and professional. However, I did have my reservations. No right-click protection. Building the kind of galleries I was accustomed to with Zenfolio and connecting the images as products in the store, something that though clunky was seamless and didn't require plugins.

SquareSpace demo site 2/2022

Getting accustomed to the web development tools took some time at SquareSpace. I had recently finished my site on Goggle Sites and that was a bit different from Zenfolio, so SquareSpace wasn't too different. But it proved a bit frustrating when it came to customizing the Blog. Blogging is an important part of my website. It is what drove traffic to my website when I first started it. The pictures and video kept traffic there. So I was excited that you could build multiple blogs, something Wix said it doesn't allow, but I'll get to that later. 

I ultimately decided not to go with SquareSpace and felt like I was in limbo. I decided that I didn't want to spend time personally running a store on my website after reading lots of horror stories. Some stories were of people hacking into websites and stealing the money by redirecting the direct deposit. Other stories were of ecommerce hosts not paying out after sales. And then there was the management of credit cards and combatting fraud and all of a sudden it felt like a big headache. I'm an artist and a writer not an accountant and general manager.

This lead me to rethink my business strategy and eventually my website strategy. 2022 I researched marketplaces for artists and placed my art on a few of them. I ultimately decided not to continue with some due to the commissions. And I went with others because I could have a store front with my own domain and the Print on Demand (POD) company would handle fulfillment. Everything from processing orders, fulfilling orders, to customer service and returns. This frees me up to focus on my art, develop a successful marketing strategy and engage with people who love/admire my art.

Wix

So, at the end of 2023 (I had to deal with some medical problems that started the middle of 2022 into 2023, which had me postpone working on my website and business) I decided to give Wix another look. I looked at reviews again,... 
Reviews of Wix stating you can't change the template
...got sticker shock when I saw the prices went up, but was also happy that they added more storage space. Mind you, Tanya Talks is a viable business as well, so at the same time I am working on my business strategy for Tanya Owens Photography I am working on Tanya Talks podcast and blog strategy.  

At the end of the day many companies raised prices, and reconfigured their pricing strategies. Frankly, there is no perfect web building company. The biggest cons I read online for Wix were:  
  1. You can't change the template once you finish your site. That's not an issue for me. I started with a blank template. I am building the elements I want. The awesome thing about Wix that I have not encountered with other hosts (Zenfolio, Google Sites, WordPress, Blogger) is that with Wix I can create multiple sites. So I can test a variety of templates. I can save sections from those templates and use them in my site. Wix also has a CMS so you can build various CMS' and dynamic pages on your site to keep it fresh. So I don't see that template thing as a limitation. And once my business gets to a point where revenue is up, it is growing larger, I will have moved over to the enterprise space where there is more flexibility and I will have either outsourced or have a team managing my website. So that is a non-issue for me.

  2. Wix changed their pricing plans and moved my site to a new and more expensive plan with less features. I can't speak to that because I just started with Wix, but I have experienced that with Zenfolio. However, they didn't move me to a new plan, they just put all of the new features in new plans, all of which came with less storage. So if I wanted the new bells and whistles I had to move over to these higher priced plans. At the end of the day I ended up leaving.

  3. You can't move your blog from Wix. I haven't tested that, but I know with Zenfolio I could not export my blog. I only learned that when I was ready to leave, and I was livid and sad. I had some pretty popular blog posts that drove traffic to my site and I would have to either rewrite them or let them disappear to the dust heaps of the internet. So, yeah, exporting a blog is pretty important, if your blog is well read.

  4. Wix will sometimes withhold payments. I read about some people having issues with Wix withholding large payments. I am not sure why that was the case, and should I run a store on Wix, I will look into that process. But the help files says you can change to a new payment provider, so if you have a merchant account or another provider, go with them to ease your mind.
Wix does have a learning curve, and I have spent more hours than I planned on to figure out how to do something that was natively built into Zenfolio & Google Sites. But once I did figure it out and discovered how much more I am able to customize that feature to make it really reflect my brand, it made me excited. So, if you aren't using an expert to build your website and aren't an expert in coding, be patient. Wix has more flexibility than you think. At least that is what I am finding. And they do have a pretty robust help system.

I'm just getting started, so I don't have a verdict on whether it is better than what I've used in the past, including using Dreamweaver, or better than some other platform. I, however, do have an appreciation for why small and large businesses choose Wix and why it is the #1 website builder in the market. WordPress is a different category as it is a CMS primarily; as is Shopify as it is primarily an eCommerce platform.

New Website

I'm still in the process of building my website on Wix with a planned launch early 2024. But I'm happy that I ultimately switched gears on how I plan to build my website and engage with consumers & buyers. 

Here's my website as it is on Google Sites. 

Screenshot of www.tanyaowens.com home page on December 21, 2023
tanyaowens.com 12/2023

I did a lil refresh with colors. Had to drop Art of Where as a marketplace because they changed their business model and I added Spreadshirt as a marketplace because I can have my own shop, which I started to add products to. My business strategy changed and for now I have: 

I am not locked in to just these POD companies. I believe art should be accessible, and I want my art where people shop, go to work, school and various institutions. #Goals

So stay tuned for the relaunch of my website Tanya Owens Photography 1Q 2024. And I am planning for a 3Q 2024 to 1Q2025 release of the Tanya Talks podcast -- I have to get those legalities in place, and oh content is king.

Have a blessed and Merry Christmas and healthy Happy New Year!!!

Most Popular Posts

Love Myself by Tracee Ellis Ross

COVID-19 Pandemic

Minneapolis Protests - My Life Matters

Welcome to The Voice Blog