Welcome to Website Wednesday
"I’d like to see more of your work. What’s your website?"
What goes through your head when you hear those words? Pride and excitement? Fear and shame?
I want you to have a website you are proud of. One you like and you can maintain. Starting today, this series will help you get there.
I want you to stop saying, “I have a website, but it hasn’t been updated in a long time.” If you have great work – work worth sharing with the world – there are few ways to do that as cheaply and deeply as the internet.
But getting your work online, well, can be daunting. It can take a totally different skillset from making the work in the first place. It can be part of that ‘yucky’ part of making art. I know this as well as anyone.
I’ve built a lot of websites over the years. I built this one right here. Building a great website used to be tough and involve a lot of learning and bashing your head against the wall in frustration. It used to be expensive. If you were lucky enough to get a site you liked, it just sat there, frozen in time, gathering dust until you could afford to pay your web guy for updates. Or until you could bug your generous nerd friend enough to get her to make the changes for you in her free time. All of that nonsense is over now.
It’s a new day. It has become cheap and easy to build a website you can shout about with pride and enthusiasm.
I didn’t say free. I believe you should invest in your website. Not a lot, but something. You value what you pay for. You care for your investments. You let free websites rot on the vine.
So here’s what we’re going to do.
Starting today, every wednesday for the next while I’m going to share what I know about building a great website to share your art with the world.
I’m going to take your questions in the comments and if I don’t know the answer (it’s been known to happen) I’ll do my best to find it for you.
We’re going to do this with a real live case study. KarlaAdolphe.ca.
Karla Adolphe, the singer-songwriter I’ve talked to on the Storm the Perfict podcast, is frustrated with her website.
What started as a basecamp for all things Karla Adolphe has become a wild web linking out to piecemeal solutions. Her website lives at karlaadolphe.ca, but her blog lives on Tumblr. Her tour dates live somewhere else. Online sales are handled by yet anotehr provider. To get the most frequent updates you’ll need to follow Karla Adolphe on social media.
Karla has to work very hard to keep this all running. She has to remember what has been updated where. She has to keep track of multiple passwords and bills and audiences and remember what URL (website address) to share when.
I say all this with love of course – and with the intention of making things better for Karla. Karla’s site looks pretty good – it is much better than much of what I see online. But I knew there were problems because Karla approached me for help.
Karla has asked me to partner with her to help rebuild her website. She wants to reel in all these disparate pieces and regain control of the Karla Adolphe who lives online. I said yes, on the condition that Karla Adolphe become our guinea pig.
Karla said yes.
In the weeks to come, we’ll be rebuilding KarlaAdolphe.ca. I invite you to come along for the ride. Read these posts, but follow along, too. Take this opportunity to give your own website an overhaul. We’ll be working with specific tools, but also with general principles that will apply regardless of the tools you choose.
Maybe when we’re done, KarlaAdolphe.ca won’t be the only new artist site online.
Let’s push past the frustration. Let’s enable you to show your latest work and make it look great on any device. Let's tear down the walls between you and your fans!
Let’s build your work a website.
Start With Why
I begin with Karla by asking some questions. Often, we think about a website from a design-first perspective. We see something on another site and think ‘that looks cool - I want to do that’. Don’t start there. Don’t start with form. Start with function.
Start with why.
Why do you need a website in the first place? Do you? What is this thing going to do? Think of your website as an always-on employee of You, Inc. and ask ‘what am I paying you for?"
“Why” can be a pretty broad quetsion, so let’s narrow it down. I have a process for you.
Here are the three steps–three questions–I asked Karla to start with.
If you’re coming along for the journey, I want you to think these over, too. Have your answers ready for next Website Wednesday. Karla will.
1. WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE?
Who are the 2 or 3 groups of people who will be using your website (eg. fans, booking agents, galleries, peers, educators, mom and dad, etc.)?
2. WHAT ARE THEIR ACTIONS?
What are the 2 or 3 actions that each of these groups will want to take when they arrive at your site? What do they want to do there?
Using that list of actions, make a list of 5 to 7 of the most important.
Is there anything missing that is very important to you? Content that people may not be looking for initially, but is life-giving for you to create? Something you hope to share easily on your site that isn’t already covered? If so, add that to your list.
If the list contains more than 7 items, edit it again to get it down to 7 items. No more.
We will take those 5 to 7 items and make sure these items are all accessible from the homepage of your website within one click. We will build the site’s homepage and navigation around these 5 to 7 actions.
If there are items that didn’t make the cut, keep those in a separate list. We will come back to them after we’ve designed the homepage.
3. WHAT IS YOUR FOCUS?
From that list of 5 to 7 items, what is the one most important action a user on your website could take?
We’ll design the homepage around that action first, making sure it is clear you want users to take that action and simple for them to do so.
I work at a non-profit that wants to get donations through their website. We designed the site to make it as easy as possible for users to donate. That’s the primary action.
What is the primary action your visitors will take?
Maybe it’s viewing a gallery of your work? Maybe it’s seeing where your latest exhibit can be found? Maybe it’s signing up for your newsletter (hint … that’s a good one.)
Next week we’ll get to the tools we’re going to use to build Karla's site (here’s a hint) and why.
But before we choose a tool–before we choose a design or anything at all–we need to start with why.
I’ll share Karla’s responses next week.