Friday, September 4, 2009

Creating Your Own Website

Creating your own website -by Chris Tyrell
(Opus Art newsletter article)

In the early days of the web, I expressed a skeptical point of view about its efficacy as a sales tool. I still feel pretty much the same way but I have come to really value a website as an important part of an artist’s marketing palette. As a source of information about you, as a way to collect e-addresses of people interested in your work a web presence is a valuable professional development asset—especially now that so many sites offer you free blog space and because so many Internet service providers (such as Shaw, Rogers and Telus) provide hosting services for customers.

To have a virtually “free” website is an amazing opportunity to offer deep insights into your work and career to interested parties. With a website archive of your work, thoughts and even voice and music, your business card can open the door to your heart and soul much in the way I do through these editorials. Here, then, are some very practical tips on getting started, either on your own or in company of a designer/builder. I have included below, several reference and support web sites that may be of value. Good luck to all of you who undertake to launch a site.

Plan Your Site. I go about this important task this way when I am helping artists create their sties. After visiting the sites of other artists, I help the artist make decide what the main sections of the site will be. Then, I make a list of the primary sections or pages of the site, with #1 being the home page. (For example: #1 – home page; #2 - biography, #3 - artist statement, #4 – gallery [or images of my artwork], #5 – how to buy my work, #6 - exhibitions, #7 – Contact [how to reach me], etc.) Then, I start to work on each section. A simple website is one page for each section. In some cases, you may need more. You may want, for example, to have your gallery section categorized by media. And when it comes to posting images, you can either embed the images in your gallery section (which will undoubtedly increase hosting and site construction costs) or provide a link to a website such as Flicker where you store your images online. Then I collect all my data. I gather digital images for my gallery section (see the last part of the “References” section below) and all the information required: my resume for the biography plus a good face shot of me, my artist statement or equivalent, a short written explanation on how to buy my artwork (I use the “contact me” method), contact information, etc. All the images and digital data is assembled. I burn it onto a CD or DVD if a designer is doing the work, or it is all gathered into one file on the hard drive of the artist doing the site building his or herself. If you are web savvy, you will know to consider navigational issues and downloading time in your planning. These issues are not of concern to those of you who build a simple site. If you use a designer, he or she will help you with these decisions if necessary.
Choose a domain name. You must search for, register and pay for the rights to use your domain name. Have options (many domain names are already taken), keep it very simple, and choose a host.
Get a host. Your host is where the files of your website reside on the Internet. Use the web space provided by your Internet supplier or contract with a hosting company by the month, year or in a multi-year payment package. The fee for hosting is based on the size (the amount of bytes) of your site. Fees also are affected with the addition of other available services (such as email, a password, etc.) The amount of space offered by Internet service providers such as Shaw and Rogers is usually enough for a basic artist’s website. However, their addresses are cumbersome so you might want to purchase a domain name and then have your service provider re-route visitors to the address where your site is hosted. (The sights, or offer domain name registration and provide hosting.)
Build the Site. The list of sections and the corresponding data are the tools you need to begin construction of your website. Or they inform your web designer if you have someone else build your site. I use a designer, and when I am helping an artist, I meet with the designer and the artist/client to discuss the look we want — the colours and the “feel” we want to create. Visiting the web sites of others helped my clients make their design decisions.
- a primer for creating websites.
- another primer for creating websites.
- an online instructional manual on creating a website.
- free instruction on starting a website.
- a comprehensive guide to designing a website.
- free instruction with an orientation to specific software (Fireworks and Dreamweaver).
If you have decent computer skills and a good how-to book, you can construct a website with the appropriate software. These programs enable you to create and manage your website with little HTML knowledge.
· Adobe's GoLive (
· Microsoft's FrontPage (
· Adobe’s (Macromedia) Dreamweaver (
If you include images of your artwork on your site, will also need a good image editing program.
· Adobe's Photoshop Elements (
· Mac users might also want to look for the shareware program GraphicConverter ( It converts pictures to different formats and it also contains many useful features for picture manipulation.
The two most common image file formats for the web are JPEG and GIF. Use JPEGs for images of artwork, and GIFs for buttons and other graphic elements. The resolution of these image files should be no larger than 72 dpi. Any files with a larger dpi will increase the download time for your images.
Publishing: Once your site has been created it needs to be uploaded to your host. Uploading is called “publishing.” This is something you do or your designer does, but you should learn how to update and republish your site if you have a designer build it. Publishing is an ongoing process as you update pages or make additions to your site — every time you make a change, you have to republish. One usually uses an FTP (file transfer protocol) program that allows you to transfer files from your home computer to your host’s server. Some good FTP programs that are freeware are:
· (Freeware and Shareware titles: or
· CuteFTP (
) is a Windows-based FTP application that allows you to utilize the capabilities of FTP without having to know all the protocols.
Searching: If you are building a site to advance sales and income, an important aspect of creating a website is ensuring that web users will be readily able to find your site. You or your web designer must build features into your site to make this happen. For more information on how search engines work and tips for submitting to search engines spend some time on

If this all sounds intimidating as a project for you, find a designer to help you. A student designer can be a good solution. They can often be relatively inexpensive and very, very creative. And once it is done, it is done, but be sure to learn how to maintain it.

Chris Tyrell

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