What? You don’t have one? Yikes! No, truthfully: I don’t have one any more, either. And if you’re not trying to sell your work or get yourself published or have any kind of public presence, you don’t need one either. In fact, you can do all those things with a well-thought-out and well-maintained blog; you don’t have to have a website at all. But if you do! Ahhhhh–that’s what I want to nag you about today. All of this applies to a working blog (as opposed to one where you share photos of your motorcycles and collection of Batman costumes), as well.
I just spent a whole morning working with one of my editors, looking at artists’ websites to choose people whose work we love and would like to feature. And, honeys, there are tons of y’all out there, people doing amazingly fabulous work, simply amazing stuff. And many of you have wonderful websites: clean, easy to navigate, with great photos and up-to-date contact info. We thank you ever so much for making our jobs possible. But not everyone, and so today I’m going to have to nag again, as I do periodically about How to Make Your Website Work for You.
The first thing to do, of course, is decide whether or not you need a website. If you decide you do, then you’ve got to make the commitment to doing it right, and that means keeping it up-to-date and accurate. You would not believe how many artists’ websites I find that haven’t been updated in years. Literally. Maybe it’s because the person who was doing it for you took on another job or because you don’t have the money to pay someone or because you’re too busy or your camera’s broken or, gee, you just forgot. But if you want to get your stuff Out There, having a dusty, rusty, out-of-date website is the worst. It looks like you don’t care, or you’ve abandoned your work, or–worse yet–you might have been abducted by aliens. That’s scary: no one wants to try to get in touch with someone only to find something horrible has happened. So:
~~If you have a website, keep it up to date. Update the calendar, and make sure you update your contact info if you move or get a new phone number or email address. Nothing says “I don’t care” like non-working contact info.
~~If you have a website, don’t take it live before it’s ready. I came across one, for an artist whose stuff we loved, that had a home page and nothing else: all the other pages were “coming soon,” but the last date anywhere on the website was a couple years ago. I figured they gave up and got a job in real estate and moved to Columbus, so I crossed them off the list.
~~Whatever you do, please do not have auto-play music, animation (unless your work is animated, and then you’d want that, but on the relevant pages), sparkly stuff, or moving parts. While groovy pop-up buttons are just that–groovy–if we can’t find them to click through to your work, they do no good. Make it simple and easy and clean. Editors (gallery owners, event organizers) have a limited amount of time to check out websites. They want to see what you do and then, if they like that, they want an easy way to get in touch with you. They do not want loud music and flashing lights and little butterflies that take over the mouse when we try to find your portfolio.
~~Label the pages clearly. No cutesy heads. I look for “Bio,” “Portfolio” (some people use “Galleries,” but when others use that term, sometimes they mean “galleries that are showing my work,”), “News” “Calendar,” “Contact.” Some people also have “CV,” and sometimes that can be helpful. I know a links page is a courtesy, but I don’t think I’ve ever checked anyone’s links page. They’re good to have but not something vital, like good photos.
~~Whatever contact info you provide–email, a phone number–make sure it’s up-to-date AND make sure you check it regularly. I talked to a guy (not an artist) who said he checks his email about once a year and deletes thousands of messages, and I said, “?” I made that noise just like Scooby Doo when he’s baffled. What’s the point? If there’s nobody at the other end of the line, there’s no point in having the line, right?
OK–as usual, it turns out I have more to say than I thought. We’ve got another give-away starting on Monday, so come back then for that, and then check back next Wednesday for just a tiny bit more nagging~~painless nagging, of course. I won’t show up at your front door.
For more website tips and how to maintain your blog, check out Blogging for Creatives by Robin Houghton.
MORE RESOURCES FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS