I just finished working with someone who had a really complicated URL for their website, a combination of upper and lower case letters that seemed more appropriate for a password than an artist’s URL. Every time I typed it, I had to look it up to make sure I was getting it right–and I never did, not without looking. Sure, it was meaningful to the artist–that combination had personal significance, and I can see why they wanted to use it. But when you get right down it, it was much like the URL of my first website, voo-doo-cafe.net. Someone very, very generously helped me set up that website, and all the other possibilities–the .com URLs, the voodoocafe without hyphens–all those were already taken. And I really thought this one–voo-doo-cafe–would work out. You use it as a link, right? So nobody has to try to remember it or type it in unless they’re copying it from your business card, and then it’s right there in front of them.
Wrong. That seems like it’s how we’d use the URL of our website, but it turns out it’s not. Although I have business cards and Moo mini cards and a link to my website in my signature and on my blog and well, just about everywhere, I found that most of the time, the way I gave the information to people was in conversation, either over the phone or standing in line somewhere in a conversation that didn’t lend itself to handing the other person an actual card.
Let’s say your website is Suzy’s Paint Art, and you want the URL to be exactly that. But you can’t have Suzy’sPaintArt because it’s got that apostrophe and because someone else has SuzysPaintArt, and if you have suzyspaintart, it looks pretty much like “suzy spain tart” and so you heave the big sigh and choose Suzys_Paint_Art.com. It’s not perfect, but you figure it will work.
So now you’re standing in line at Starbucks, and you’re talking to someone you’ve just met who’s organizing a local art group, and they have their coffee and you have yours, and they ask, “So do you have a website where I can see your work?” and they’re in a hurry and your hands are full, and your business cards are in the bottom of your backpack and she’s moving toward the door, looking back at you expectantly, waiting for you to give her the URL.
And as you begin–“That’s capital ‘S’, ‘uzys,’ then underline, then capital ‘P’–you see her eyes glaze over and she gives you a bright smile and says, “OK, got it, thanks, great to meet you!” and she’s gone. And you’ve missed an opportunity to connect.
Or you’re on the phone with someone, trying to tell them how to write it. Or try this: let’s say you’ve heard creating a brand for yourself is really important, and so it seems as if you’d want to use your real name in the name of your website. Your name is Schneckengrüber, and although you’re going to have to compromise on that “ü,” you figure you can work in your first name, Sisselly, and your middle name, Eren, and have it be really, truly you: SissellyErenSchneckgruber.com.
Please don’t. Unless people know you and know how to spell your name, there’s no way you’re going to be able to tell them your URL without spelling it out, probably more than once. Trust me: I’ve spelled my own name so many times over the course of my life that I didn’t even THINK of using it as the name of my website. You’d be surprised at the number of people who aren’t really sure exactly what a “hyphen” is, which is OK if you’re telling them in person because you can kind of make that mark in the air with your finger but doesn’t work so great over the phone.
So if you’re choosing a name for your website or changing one you already have because it’s time for a total do-over, think about all the ways you’ll want to share that information with other people. It may take some work to find a URL that works *and* is available, but please don’t compromise by creating one that’s going to be more trouble for you than it’s worth. You’ll thank me later, really.
PS Check back next Monday for more suggestions about that website–things you might not think about but that really make a difference when someone else is checking you out online.
MORE RESOURCES FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS