How important is your Website for you?

March 3, 2008

Somehow this article got lost in cyberspace – so I had to re-write it and send it off again. So if you find something similar – just ignore it.

Since a couple of days I am busy with re-vamping and cleaning up my website. Something I wanted to do for quite a while but procrastinated because there were more important things to do.

Common excuse – I know – I should know better! A website – if you don’t use it exclusively for private and family matters – is an important marketing tool – for artists even the #1 tool I would say. There is no other tool that could reach your audience in an easier, more cost effective way than through the internet.

Therefore your website should be like your business card – up-to-date, intriguing, clean and organized, with an eye-catching design without being too sophisticated so that it starts to be annoying and confusing for the viewer! Hmm…

Well – it is nearly spring and as usual people start to do house cleaning. As I do not own a house my “house cleaning” is reduced to my working environment and of course the website belongs to that part of my life. So this is the time to get things right – right?

Although I keep my website really updated, because I use it also as a kind of professional documentation about my work, I did not like the layout any more. It seemed a bit old-fashioned and a bit too cluttered – too many different things on the front page – so I decided to do something about it and make it lean, a little bit more elegant and easy to navigate. I hope I found the right recipe. Please check out for yourself – here (I would be happy for any feedback).

And while I am bit proud about myself to have managed a functioning website all these years I also thought about what had happened in the past years, that it was quite a long way to get there where I am now. Everyone who is creating his/her own website knows these struggles, so I thought I should tell you a little bit about mine, pass on a few tips found during my research on the web, remembering that there was no-one at the beginning (6 years ago) who could have or would have helped me with my first steps.

I thought about the alternatives you have when you want to create a website. There are only three of them:

  1. you engage a professional web designer who is going to do the job for you – the only thing you would have to do is paying the bills – which could be quite a downside because this is an on-going “deal” and could be quite costly.
  2. you buy a software which hopefully makes you happy to use. I have heard horror stories from people who chose the wrong one. There are various options on the market, some of them quite costly as well but could help you to save time with your job. Organizing the website would be nevertheless your job – a time-consuming task if you don’t get it right from the beginning
  3. you buy a book about HTML, CGI, CSS etc. , research the web for free tutorials and start learning how to use all the exciting codes that make a website a disaster or a success! Think about all those little positive experiences if something is working after a long time of frustration where you were ready to throw your notebook against the wall – priceless happy little experiences!!

You get the drift? But I did not say that there is a cheap and easy way out!

So if your budget does not allow you to pay someone else for the job there is still hope – you only need some patience and perseverance. And some long deep breath and time for doing research on the Internet. This should not discourage you. Good things always take a while.

And – as I have shown – it is not necessarily expensive to have a website if you are ready to do some work for yourself and trust those thousands little helpers you can find on the Internet in the meanwhile.

Today you have tons of free tutorials to choose from – if you know what you are looking for – sometimes not so easy to understand but after some time you will get the point. You can get ready made scripts for nearly anything, whole HTML coding for really sophisticated tricks and stuff like that – I don’t want to go into detail here.

The most important step is to look for a provider or host for your website who does not rip you off, is reliable and gives support. I was lucky to choose the right one for my needs from the beginning and am still with my first provider and very happy with him. Some people are not so lucky – so it is important to get some feedback from other people first.

The second important step is that you understand the principles and very basics of HTML coding. With these you can nearly do everything and it is not difficult to understand. You only need to be very accurate with all the symbols. But also here you can get helper tools which check for you, whether your coding is correct and readable by your browser and the spiders of the searching machines.

SEO (Search engine optimization) is something you should only care for later when your website is ready to go. Your head will be spinning if you start worrying about this from the beginning. Also for this subject there are a lot of tools and tutorials you can learn from. But one step after another. I am going to add a couple of links to this post at the bottom which can be of big help (they helped me actually). I have added a link to Katherine Tyrells blog: Making a Mark – she wrote a good post about SEO and meta tags you need for being visible more easily.

An equally important step at the beginning is – before you even start to write the coding – to really think about the structure of your website and what the content will be. Changing the structures of an existing website is much harder than to think a bit longer about how you want it to look like. Believe me – I went through that…

As a painter I thought my website should have a true visual impact – should be the most important point for a painter – shouldn’t it? Also it should look well designed, with nice colours but not too colourful – otherwise it would look garish – images combined with an interesting text. Easy to navigate, to read and to find what you want to find. Not too sophisticated, in order to make it easy for the viewer but not too simple to look insipid. Very difficult to find the right mixture sometimes. I hope I did it.

Today many artists have a blog instead of a website and I admit that it is so much easier to handle and update because all the complicated things are done by the provider. But there is a downside too – you normally don’t have the freedom to create your own layout besides choosing from the existing templates. When you create your own website, it can be very satisfying to design and shape something that is equally creative as your artwork. I am serious about this. I use this work on the computer when I need a pause from the brush. Honestly! While other artists are possibly unhappy when they get stuck with the paints I use the computer as a valve and another tool for my creativity. I do not see “him” as an enemy.

Maybe you should try this too…

Subscribe to Newsletter of SiteProNews – I can really recommend this!
Link to Site Pro News Archives – free articles about SEO – lots of articles!!
CSS Crash Course – Forum of Webmaster World
Webmonkey – lots of free tutorials from the Lycos webproviders – I actually started with those…
W3Schools.com – Lots of tutorials
Javascript Codes – a quick guide if you are looking for something very specific
Tiny URL – you know this one? A tool to make very long URL’s short. Very useful in all kinds of situations
CSE HTML Validator – there is a free version to download from this website – I am using it all the time
Internet Archive – a website where you can check older versions of any website!
WhoIs.com – Register.com – one of the most important website where you can register your domain and where all registered domains can be looked up
CutePDF – a very valuable website where you can download a little program for free in order to create simple PDF documents which are also uploadable on your website per FTP. This can be very useful if you want to link to the original layout of a document that cannot be linked to otherwise (f.e. written emails)

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