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How to Set Up a Website

As an artist, it is very important that you market yourself well.  An excellent way to put yourself out there is to create your own website.  You can direct interested parties to your website and promote yourself for gigs and other performing opportunities.

How To

Define Objectives

There are many good reasons for building a web page but it is important that your goals are clear. What is your goal?  Who is your target audience?  Your objectives should drive the content and the design. As an artist, think about what elements of yourself and your career you would like to highlight and promote.

Get Your Domain Name

The first thing you need to do before anything else is to get yourself a domain name. A domain name is the name you want to give to your website. For example, the domain name of the website could be “yourname.com”. To get a domain name, you have to pay an annual fee to a registrar for the right to use that name. Getting a name does not get you a website. It's just a name.

Getting a domain name involves registering the name you want with an organization called InterNIC through a domain name registrar. For example, if you choose a name like "mycompanyname.com", you will have to go to a registrar, pay a registration fee that ranges in between $10 to $35 for that name. That will give you the right to the name for a year, and you will have to renew it annually for (usually) the same amount per annum. 

If you want to register a domain name, here's what you need to do:

  • Think of a few good domain names that you'd like to use. It won't do to think of only one - it might already be taken.
  • Obtain from your web host the DNS IP addresses and names of their primary and secondary name servers. Don't worry if you don't understand what these things mean. Just save the information somewhere. The information can usually be obtained from their FAQs or other documentation on their site, usually under a category like "domain name" or "DNS" or "domain name transfer" and the like. If you can't find it, email their webmaster. If you don't have a web host yet, all is not lost. Read on. 
  • Get your credit card ready. This is a requirement of most if not all registrars. It will allow you to claim and get the domain name immediately on application. 
  • If you already have a web host, you can just go to one of the registrars listed below and apply for the domain name. Be sure you have the information mentioned earlier. 

If you do not have a web host, you can always use one of the registrars listed below that allow you to park your domain name at a temporary website specially set up for you. This way you can quickly secure your domain name before it's too late and still take your time to set up the other aspects of your site. Some of those registrars also provide you with a free email address at your domain name.  There are numerous domain name registrars. Listed below are just a few:

  • GoDaddy.com 
  • Dotster.com
  • Register.com

Design

Once you know exactly what you intend to publish and who the targeted audience will be, the next step is to determine the mood of your website. Should the ambience be informal, professional or high tech? Will you use graphics, animation or music? How will the text be structured and which fonts will be used?  How will visitors navigate through your site?   Whatever you decide, try to maintain the same theme and conventions throughout your site.

The most important part of your website is the textual content. What you write should add value and make the visitor want to return. Review your web page objectives and your target audience and make your message suit that audience. Don't forget to check your spelling and grammar before publishing your pages. 

Publishing on the net is different from writing for a newspaper in that you are able to take advantage of multimedia capabilities. Photos, graphics, music and video can make your site interesting.  Be careful, however, not to overdo it.  Graphics, for example are often large files that take time to download. Most people won't wait more than five seconds for a web page to load.  

Download an Editor

Unless you want to learn how to program, you will need to download a good HTML editor from the net. An HTML editor is a tool that generates a computer program in HTML using a sophisticated word processor. There are many good HTML editors available and many are free. For a more professional website, consider purchasing Microsoft Expression Web or Dreamweaver MX. These feature rich products are inexpensive and can help you create very attractive and easy-to-maintain websites.  Once you have downloaded the program file, you'll need to install the HTML Editor on your machine. 

Here are some websites that offer web design services (some targeted for musicians and artists):

Once the HTML editor is installed, you are ready to begin construction. The first thing to do is to orient yourself to the HTML editor. Most products have good tutorial and "help" features that will explain how to use the tool. In general, however, they are intuitive and function much like word processors. 

HTML editors let you insert images into the body of a document and create hyperlinks to other pages. They also permit you to reference a file to be used as a background image. Most HTML editors allow you to insert additional HTML code wherever you like. This is useful, for example, should you want to add a page counter, music or video clip to your site. 

Hyperlinks are words or graphics on a web page that, when clicked, take the visitor to another page or another web site. To add a hyperlink, you simply highlight the text field or graphic, select the hyperlink icon and specify the destination address (URL). You should specify the full URL address. 

Your main page should always be assigned the file name "index.htm". Other pages on your web site can be assigned any names you wish however keep them short and avoid using special characters (e.g. #, @).  For simplicity, all web page file names should end with ".htm"

Find a web server

At this point, construction of your home page is complete but your page still resides on your computer, not on the internet. You are now ready to publish your page on the World Wide Web. To do this, you will need to copy your page and all graphic and music files which your page uses from your computer's hard drive to a web server (computer). 

The Internet service provider (ISP) that you use for Internet access might provide free web hosting to its customers. Many do.  If not, there are a number of companies that will provide server space at no charge. You will, however, be required to include a banner or icon somewhere on the page to promote the free hosting service or their sponsors.  Although there are disadvantages to using free web hosting services, such services do provide an opportunity to learn and develop basic web publishing skills.  Alternatively, there are many professional web hosting companies that offer inexpensive hosting packages with advanced features. When you register for web hosting services, you will be sent instructions on how to upload files to the web server. The web host will also provide you with a user ID and password so that other people can't access or alter your files.

Upload Webpage

Copying files from your hard drive to the server is a simple process. The host site will prompt you for the name of the directory on your hard drive where your files are stored and the names of the specific files to be uploaded. To avoid confusion, make certain that all files are saved on the server using the same file names that were used on your hard drive. The only software that you require to upload files is a web browser such as Netscape or Internet Explorer. Alternatively, free FTP software (File Transfer Protocol) can be used.

Once you have uploaded all your files, you should test your page on the web server and make certain that it functions properly and that all files have uploaded correctly. It is also a good idea to test your page using a different computer to ensure that graphic files are being read from the server and not from your hard drive.  

Test your Website

You will need to test your web pages as you design them in the major browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Safari. Since all these browsers are free anyway, it should not be any hardship to get them and install them. 

Promote Webpage

Many web page developers seem to think that if you build a page, people will come.  Unfortunately, life isn't quite so simple. With several billion pages on the Internet, the odds of someone bumping into yours is rather remote, unless it is well promoted. Web page promotion entails registering your URL with one or more search engines and portals.

There are literally hundreds of search engines in existence today. Although it is free to add your URL to some search engines, the registration effort does take time.  Most major search engines now charge fees for registration. Search engines can be national, international, of subject specific. A few very large search engines, however, are used by most internet users on a regular basis. You should certainly register your site with each of these:

Alternatively, you can use a URL submission service to register your site with multiple search engines at once. When a search engine becomes aware of the existence of your page, a "robot" or "crawler" will visit your site and create a set of database indexes based on words or phrases that it finds. Search engines use different algorithms, however, in general, indexing occurs based on the number of times that specific words or combination of words are found in the title, section headings and body of the page. The title and first paragraph on your page are important for indexing purposes.  Your first paragraph on each page should therefore contain a concise overview of the page.  Link popularity has also become extremely important. 

Monitor Page Hits

It is very important to statistically track visitors to your website.  Web tracking software provides a wealth of information about website visitors that can help you improve your web content and navigational structure.  It is important to use the information to develop strategies that will improve your site's visibility in the major search engines. Good information will help make your website more productive.    

A good hit tracker provides answers to the following types of questions: 

  • From which countries did my website visitors come from?
  • Which search engine did they use to find my site?
  • Which words or phrases did they search on?
  • Which sites and URLs are sending me traffic?
  • How did my visitors navigate through my site?
  • Which of my pages are the most and least popular?

Information pulled from http://build-website.com and http://www.thesitewizard.com/

Web Design and Usability Considerations for Musicians  Adapted from Mike King

Do

  • Make the navigation as clear as possible. Some folks design their site with pop up navigations and cleverly hidden links. This may look cool, but folks that are finding out about you for the first time are not going to want to take the time to figure out how to operate the site.
  • Make the purpose of your site as clear as possible. You or your band’s logo or name should be up top; in a font that is consistent with anywhere else your name might be listed. 
  • Stay true to the focus of the site. What is most important for your users to know? Are you looking for gigs?  If so, the gig button on your navigation should be really prominent, and your homepage should have what you offer front and center. 
  • Encode sound and video files at a high enough quality that they sound and look presentable. There is always a trade off between file size and quality online, and while podcasts that feature spoken word may sound fine at 96K, you will definitely hear some problems with music files encoded at the same bit rate. I encourage creating podcasts of live performances, demos, or new singles.
  • Update your site and news more than occasionally. Obviously updated content is the reason folks come back to sites. 

Don't

  • Be copy heavy on the site. Folks don’t read online, they skim. Keep your descriptive copy short! Users spend 30 seconds generally on your homepage. Encapsulate what you do in as few words as possible.
  • Use large graphics that take a long time to load. By the time the graphic has finished loading, your user will be gone. 
  • Force people to watch a video or listen to music when they show up on the site. Many folks are already listening to music through speakers or headphones when they are online. It’s a total drag to have to turn off the music or sound from a video when they show up on your site. You need to give your users a reason to come back to the site, not a reason to stay away.
  • Link to a million other sites. You don’t want to give people a reason to leave your site. If you must link to another site, make sure it leads to a pop-up.
  • Create copy without having a keyword strategy in place. The majority of your traffic is going to come from keyword searches, and if your site is not highly optimized for the search engines, you may as well not exist. 
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