So you need a website, eh? I kept putting off setting up my first website because I hadn’t a clue where to start. Then one day a gallery asked for my website so they could take a look at my portfolio...um... That’s when I knew it was time to get down to business. Setting up a website is not as difficult as you might think - and if you read this handy dandy post below I'll walk you through it step by step.
In this post we’ll discuss 5 simple steps for creating a stellar artist or business website.
- Buy a Domain
- Select a Web Host
- Design a Layout
- Create a Website
- Promote Your Site
1. Buy a Domain
The very first step when creating a website is to select and purchase a domain. A domain name is your address on the internet. It could be the name of your business or your own name if you are an artist or designer. For example, my domain name is lydiamakepeace.com.
In order to buy a domain you’ll first need to see if your chosen domain is available. To check the availability of a domain you can use a site such as www.instantdomainsearch.com. Once you’ve verified that your domain is available, you’ll want to pick a domain registrar to purchase the domain from. I use Hover because they offer flexibility and great customer service. There are many excellent registrars out there though.
Here’s a really helpful article that reviews and compares various registrars - Best Domain Name Registrars
2. Select a Web Host
Now that you’ve purchased a domain, it’s time to select a web host. The web host is the place that houses your website. Web hosts provide software and templates to design the look and feel of your website as well as offer various features such as an online shop or blog.
I use Squarespace to host my website and have fallen head over heels in love. (I’m not being paid for this glowing review...although it would be nice!) In this age of smart phone use I love that Squarespace websites automatically format for use on mobile devices - yea! Some other things I love about Squarespace -
- clean and modern customizable templates
- super easy integration of social media accounts
- excellent SEO (more on this later)
- kick ass 24/7 customer service (yeah, you read that right!)
Squarespace has easy to follow tutorials for setting up your website and if you can’t find what you’re looking for or have other questions you can always contact their 24/7 customer service. I’ve chatted with them several times and they have always been friendly and helpful.
Do some research to find the best web host to suit your needs. Here is an excellent article listing important things to consider when selecting a web host - How to Choose a Web Host
If you’re like me, you might be feeling confused with all this talk of domains, registrars and web hosts. Join the club! This article does a great job of explaining the basics - Create a Recognizable Domain Name
* Many times a domain registrar or web host will offer to both register a domain and host your website. It is best, however, to keep them with two separate companies for the sake of flexibility and safety. If you ever you need to change your registrar or web host it’s much easier, and often faster, if you have kept these two separate.
3. Design a Layout
After you’ve purchased your domain and selected a web host it’s time to pull out some good ‘ol pencil and paper. When you select a web host you’ll probably notice a menu of templates - it can be overwhelming at first! If you take the time to jot down ideas and sketch out potential layouts it’ll be easier for you to narrow down the list of templates and to finally select the best template for your website. To get started jot down the answers to these questions :
- What type of sections (and how many) does my website need? For example, my website sections include a Welcome page with my site navigation, an About section with a brief bio, my online Shop, a Contact form, my art Portfolio, and a Blog
- What type of vibe, style or personality do I want my website to communicate? I wrote down words such as colorful, simple, friendly and fun.
- What will my website be used for? Will it be used for a business or is it a personal website or portfolio? What you use your website for will determine the type of template you choose. For my website I needed a template that offered galleries to display my portfolio but also provided a way to prominently feature my online shop and blog. My website is a combination of business and personal.
As part of my design process I also like to check out other business and artist websites. It’s helpful to see how various websites are structured and sometimes you can find good ideas to adapt to your own site.
During the creation of my website I created a secret Pinterest board to pin examples of websites I liked and then consulted it during the design process. Secret Pinterest boards are an awesome way to collect ideas for projects!
4. Create a Website
Now that you’ve sketched out a general layout, it’s time to select a template and start customizing it with all of your own images and information. Be sure to follow the directions provided by your web host to properly connect your domain name to your website. (This can be kind of intimidating at first but hang in there! There are lots of awesome tutorials out there and once you’ve made it though all this you’re going to feel pretty proud of your accomplishments!)
Make it simple and easy for visitors to navigate your website by displaying the navigation or menu on each page of your site. You want visitors to spend as much time as possible looking through your site, and if they can’t easily navigate they’re apt to leave prematurely.
Keep visitors engaged by using a "call to action.” A call to action, or CTA, is a short phrase instructing the reader to perform a certain action. For example - “Read More,” “View Blog,” “Sign Up Now!” A call to action can be used to prompt visitors to do a variety of actions such as signing up for a newsletter...
Thank you for letting me subject you to one of my own CTAs! I hope it wasn’t too painful. Photojojo, an online photography shop, has the cutest CTA I’ve ever seen in the form of a “do not pull” lever.
Before uploading images or photos to your website be sure they are properly formatted and optimized for online use. Doing so will decrease the amount of time it takes to download and view an image when someone visits your site. If it’s not almost instantaneous people leave.
5. Promote Your Site
You’ve created a website - Congrats! After you’ve finished a happy dance and/or a glass of wine you’ll want to make sure all of your hard work gets noticed. It’s time to show off your new place and bring in some visitors.
Do you have a Facbook page, Twitter or Instagram account? Spread the word and invite your fans and followers to check out your new site. Social media is one of the best, easiest, fastest, FREEist ways to promote your site! Be sure to include links to all of your social media accounts on your website as well. The Squarespace template I use automatically inserts my social media icons at the bottom of every page. (I love me some Squarespace!) Make it super duper easy for people to follow you. You can follow me by clicking on the icons below :)
Something else you’ll want to learn about is search engine optimization, also known by the scary (only at first) acronym SEO. Search engine optimization (SEO) is -
"the practice of improving and promoting a web site in order to increase the number of visitors the site receives from search engines. There are many aspects to SEO, from the words on your page to the way other sites link to you on the web. Sometimes SEO is simply a matter of making sure your site is structured in a way that search engines understand.” - moz.com
Don’t worry if this all seems like a lot to take in at first. SEO is a constantly evolving process. Just take it a step at a time. Below you’ll find some helpful links regarding the use of social media and SEO -
You can do this! If you have any questions be sure to message me or submit your comments below. I’m happy to help!
Do you have any additional advice for creating a website? Share your thoughts below.
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