This is week three of Website Wednesday, a series to help you get your art a great, affordable, maintainable website.
Back in week one I gave musician Karla Adolphe – and you – some questions to get started. We started with 'Why?'. If you’ve been following along, you will now know who will be using your website and what they want to do when they get there. Last week we determined the Most Important Thing they’ll want to do.
For Karla Adolphe, the Most Important Thing is her visitors discovering the breadth of what she is up to, on and offline. That means that her homepage is going to be a sort of digital hub, pulling in social networking feeds from various places and intentionally overwhelming visitors a bit with just how much is going on. That’s her goal. Yours will be different.
Your Site is Your Site
You may want people to sign up for a weekly newsletter where you email out sketches. Art sales may be your goal, and so your homepage will feature the latest painting for sale with a big ‘buy now’ button.
But that’s just the home page. Your website doesn’t have to have more than one page, but it likely will. There will likely be more than one thing you’ll want to offer. Contact information. Your CV. A gallery. All things that may be important to your visitors, but not so important that they fill up that sacred front page.
Today we’ll map out the rest of your site.
Remember question two?
Define Your Audience's Actions
What are the 2 or 3 actions that each of [your user] groups will want to take when they arrive at your site? What do they want to do there?
You’ve got your answers. Here are Karla Adolphe’s.
"I would like the fan to easily explore all the elements that are me (blogs, upcoming shows, interacting with the material I am posting both from social media to the site and site to social media)"
"I would like the fan to buy things (music, merch and show tickets)"
"I would like the industry professional to easily get a sense of my live show (audio/video) and
easily be able to book me"
"Easily get info about the workshops and
book a workshop"
The next step is simple.
Using that list of actions, make a list of 5 to 7 of the most important.
Karla whittled her list down to seven items. She has even taken the extra step of giving those actions a one-word heading. You go girl.
So now it’s your turn. Get your list ready. Give each action a single word. A descriptive title. There is the structure of your new website. Now we’re almost ready to build it. Can you feel it? That excitement?!
First let’s slow down a minute and look at that list. Today, before we build anything, we’re going to dig into that list and complete two tasks.
Identity Your Needs
Each of these list items–each page to build–represents a need.
Remember back in week one when I referred to your new website as an employee? Well these are the jobs that employee needs to do for you. Whatever choice you make for how you’ll actually build this site, you want to make sure it can do these things well.
Let’s walk through Karla Adolphe’s list.
Karla wants to provide listenable samples of her music - maybe even full songs. There are many ways to do this.
If you don’t care about people downloading your stuff, you can just throw the MP3 file on the site for people to download. Any website can do that.
If you want people to hear your music, but not download it, things get a bit trickier. But never fear. Squarespace is a site building tool that handles music really well. You can organize uploaded music into playlists, or albums, and let people listen, but not download the music. That’s good.
You could also decide to upload your music to a service like SoundCloud and simply ‘embed’ code from that site into your own site. This is called using a ‘third party’ site to do work that your site won’t be doing. Sometimes this makes sense. Just remember that the more ‘third party’ sites you use to do things, the more complex your online life becomes, and it’s often difficult to make all of those little bits and pieces play nice and look great together back on your website, 'You HQ'.
I believe Karla is also looking to sell her music on her website. This is a big deal. Oftentimes, ecommerce, or selling online, is the great divide where website builders part ways. Wordpress, the most popular site building tool today has many plugins to handle sales. But I’ll warn you now, these can be complicated to set up and you want to be sure your site is totally secure before you handle any of this yourself. I won’t geek out on the specifics of online sales here (partly because I don’t know enough), but my opinion is that you should use a third party for ecommerce so that they are responsible for credit card data, not you. That’s a headache you do not want.
Lucky for you, there are dozens of providers out there. Tools like Shopify or eJunkie or Big Cartel can work great. Karla has been using eJunkie to sell her music on her current site, and while the integration isn’t nearly as smooth as could be, I think it functions well for her.
There is an easier way though. I keep coming back to Squarespace, and here is why. Because it includes an online store. Right inside the program. Built it. Dead-simple to configure and maintain. For any artist who wants to sell work online, this is a big selling feature. One less place you need to go to keep track of things.
So, handling music. Check.
Karla Adolphe writes. She wants a good platform for blogging. You may not need this, but Karla does. And I do recommend keeping a regular blog-even just a post a week. Even if you just upload a sketch and tell us something about it. Even if you just share something you found elsewhere online. A decent blog can be easy to maintain and it keeps your website fresh enough for people to visit regularly.
You’re here right now because of this post, right?
So we’ll need a good blogging platform. Most of us don’t want to write actualy website code (which is almost a language unto itself) to write our posts. I can do it, but I choose not to because I find code can get in the way of my writing ‘flow’.
There are many ways to blog without having to write code. Most website building options will offer you WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editing. This is basically a simple word processor, where you just push B for bold, etc. You want that.
You can use a third party, like Blogger or Tumblr for your blog. That can work. But again, it’s one more login to remember and one more place to go. For the user, it feels fragmented. Plus, you get no benefit for your own site when people read your blog. They may come for the blog, find your gallery while on your site, and buy a painting. Or book you to speak. Or download your album.
You want people at your website. 'You HQ' is the main attraction.
I recommend a tool that has blogging built right in. This means you can add dated posts to a collection, and they will show up sequentially on a page of your website. Wordpress is a great way to build a site with a blog. Perhaps the best way. And you can build a free Wordpress site at wordpress.com.
But Squarespace does blogging too. And it does it well.
Karla Adolphe wants you to know she offers songwriting and vocal workshops. To let you know when those are, I think a calendar would be helpful. Wordpress has many calendar plugins. Squarespace has an events calendar built in. We use it on this very site.
There are many third party sites that offer events, too. Eventbrite is one of hte most popular, and allows you to sell ’tickets’ to your event and embed your event on your own website. Not a bad option at all if you need to sell your events – like a paid workshop.
But I think with a bit of creativity we can combine Squarespace’s calendar with it’s ecommerce and sell these workshops right on Karla’s own site.
We’ll sure give it a try.
Here we will have some videos of Karla Adolphe’s live performances. We will also have some photos for the press to download and perhaps some of those music samples from the Music page.
Photo and music can be handled well by your own website, but video is an area where I actually recommend a third-party website. Here’s why.
Video files are huge. Really, really big. Every time someone downloads them, they use a lot of internet resources. If you try and watch Netflix on your cellphone data plan, you’ll know what I mean.
By hosting your videos on YouTube, or Vimeo (my preference for artistic content), you let them take care of the ‘bandwidth’ that those videos require. This is good, because most website building or hosting platforms have some sort of bandwidth restriction. It’s also good because video hosting sites generally play video quickly and smoothly.
And they embed into your website very well. Much better than most other third party sites.
If you use a tool like Wordpress or Squarespace, you simply use a button, copy and past the ‘link’ to your video and viola! There it is, all purdy like, in your own website. Without costing you an extra nickel.
One more note here, about photos.
Karla Adolphe is not a visual artist, so we’re not talking in depth about photo galleries here. But many of you are visual artists and you will need a great photo gallery.
Here’s what makes a great photo gallery.
Photos are easy to browse for your users and they adapt to whatever screen (Smartphone? iPad? Laptop?) your visitors are using. Also-and this is key in the long run-photos are easy for you to upload and maintain.
Ideally, your site will manage these photos, and not a third party tool like Flickr, Instagram, etc. Squarespace does this well. Wordpress actually does it even better. Unless you want to sell those images. Then it’s Squarespace for the win.
Ah, there’s that sales need again.
Karla Adolphe is a musician and these days merch sales are critical for musicians who want to turn a profit. So Karla is going to need an online store that can handle not only digital sales, but physical products, too. That means shipping. Maybe sales tax and other calculations. That means some sort of fancy store tool to handle that heavy lifting. And we’ll want nice images for the store tool, because merch is going to sell to the eyeballs first.
Karla Adolphe also makes money from live shows. It’s important that her fans know when she’ll be in town. It’s important that industry professionals know she is playing shows. Karla could simply list tour dates manually and keep that page up to date. This can work, but for a few reasons having a strong tool to handle tour dates is a plus.
First, there are tools that allow you to sell tickets to your shows right in the listing.
Second, when Karla is listed through a third-party tour site, people can search for concerts in their city that night and find Karla that way. This allows for discovery. And who doesn’t want to be discovered?
Third, a fancy-schmancy tool will automatically remove tour dates that are in the past, so Karla doesn’t have to do that while she’s on the bus between Regina and Winnipeg. I’m not sure they have wi-fi on that stretch of highway?
There are third party tools available, or Karla could use a build in calendar system for a site-building tool. That would cover number three above, but not the first two needs. I’m going to suggest a site called Bands In Town, because it actually integrates seamlessly with Squarespace sites, so we can get the best of both worlds!
This one is pretty basic. People need to know the best ways to get ahold of you. You may want fancy things like a map or a contact form (please don’t make me use a contact form), but you need your basics. Email. Phone. Social media. Let people know where you are at and how they can reach you. Now.
Squarespace offers some really nice integrations with social media. You can enter your contact details in the ‘settings’ page and many templates will build a contact page or area pretty much auto-magically. It can even pull in a nice Google map of your studio if you like!
So there you have it. All our bases covered with one tool. Squarespace.
In case you are wondering, I’m not getting any commission per use of the word Squarespace. But if they were to offer ...
Now Draw Me a Map
So there it is – your website in words. Now, because I know you’re just dying to create something, we’re going to draw a picture.
Take a piece of paper and draw a circle in the middle. Write home in that circle, and beneath home, your Most Important Thing from last week.
Now draw a circle for each of the items listed above, and write one item in each circle. Now connect a line from the centre circle to each of those outer circles. Call this a map, call it a web, call it what you like, but there it is. A simple diagram of the site we’re going to build starting next Wednesday.
Any content that lives on your site is going to live in one of those circles. I want you to resist the urge to create more and more pages. Keeping things simple will benefit everyone. Especially you. If there is something you want to add, ask yourself if it fits within those circles. If it doesn't, your site might not be the place for it. Send that item packing.
Be ruthless in your focus now, and you’ll thank yourself later.
You’ve got your map. You know where you’re heading. Now get packed and I’ll pick you up back here next Wednesday for the big trip, OK?
PS >> I’d love to see your map and give you any feedback if you’d like. Email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe I’ll post some of the maps here, too, and we can help one another out. You like to help, right?