Your Home on the Web
One of the most useful classes I took during my undergraduate degree was a course on web design. At the time I was looking for a way to take a liberal arts credit without having to write yet another paper, but later it proved to be an absolutely indispensable skill to have. A musician’s website is our representation of ourselves on the internet. Nowadays, anytime we want to know more about something or someone, our first step is to search for it on the internet. A professional website is where all the necessary information about us can come together. All we need to do is decide on the content and set one up. Since with one quick search you can a find massive amount of technical information about websites, hosts, services, etc… I’m not going to write about that. Instead, I’d like to concentrate more on the content and design aspect of our websites as musicians.
One of the first things you will have to do when building your website is choosing a domain name, or your website address. For a solo musician, your name would probably be the best choice, since for so many of us our name is associated with what we do. There is a chance, if your name is a common one, that someone has already claimed www.yourname.com domain. In which case you will need to get a little more creative like, for example: www.davidrussellguitar.com. Whatever you choose, make sure that it’s related to you and what you do. The easier it is for people to remember it, the better.
Then you will need to decide on the content to include on your site. I like to treat my professional website as an all-inclusive location which has all necessary information about me as a guitarist, so anyone interested doesn’t have to scour the internet for little bits of information here or there. Think of it as a hub for information on you. There are a few basic pages that every musician needs to have on their website; a biography page, upcoming events page, a media page for video/audio samples, and a contact page. There are also a number of optional pages you can have depending on your specific material, such as discography, lessons, publications, a blog, a separate news page, links, etc… This will all depend on what kind of content you have to offer and would like to include on your site. What is also very useful is to have a press-kit available on your website for download. This will save whoever needs your biography and you precious time. At the very basic, a press-kit should include your biography, reviews if you have any, and high resolution photos. You can also include a resume, a repertoire list, a discography. Again, this depends on your specific content. On my website I have a separate page where a concert presenter, for example, can easily download a high resolution photo of their choosing. They can also find a WORD and a PDF version of my biography.
Social media links are also nice to include on your website. Many of us use social media to spread the word about an upcoming event or some exciting news. Chances are if someone wanted to keep up with your activities, they would not be checking back to your website every day, but they might follow you on Twitter, or “like” your Facebook page. I would recommend including links to your social media on your website, so you give your visitors options on how to keep up with you.
Once you have the domain and the content, you can choose a design and layout that best showcases everything you have to share. As mentioned earlier, our website is a representation of us and our work on the internet. We all have our likes and dislikes about certain websites, so when designing your own or working with a designer, think about the kind of website you want to represent you. Keep in mind that functionality should be your first priority. When someone visits our webpage, it needs to be a place that encourages the visitor to explore and learn more about you and your work as a musician. The design and the organization of the website is one of the most important aspects, right next to the content. You can have the most amazing content, but if the website lacks organization, is difficult to navigate or comes with a learning curve on how to actually use it, your content will be lost. Ease of use is very important. We have to remember that as musicians we have a very diverse audience and fan base, someone might be very tech savvy, someone else might not be so fluent with a computer. Choose a design that is clear and well organized, so anyone who visits can easily find the information they are looking for.
Regarding the finer details, I would recommend not getting too excited with fancy fonts and textured backgrounds. Although these might look very cool, we have to remember that people need to be able to read the content on the site. If the font is too hard to read, it will discourage visitors from exploring and learning more about you. Backgrounds and colors can make or break the appearance of a website. Keep in mind that light font on dark background is more difficult to read, than dark font on light background, not to mention any small cursive font on textured background. When in doubt, choose functionality and readability over the fancy appearance. Try to stick to a maximum of three different fonts. You don’t want the variety in fonts to distract from what’s really important, what the words actually say. Make sure you have professional photos you can use on your site. Just like colors and backgrounds, the quality of the photos have an immense influence on the final outcome of your site.
And lastly, make sure that you always update and maintain your website. Don’t let it sit dormant for years with outdated information. Once you have an official website to your name, it is automatically assumed to have the “correct” and up to date information, make sure that it actually does.