After I had graduated from my Bachelor of Music, my older brother, a Master’s Graduate in Business and Computers, insisted that I make a website for myself. “You need to sell yourself.” – “Nobody knows who you are outside of Windsor!” – “How is anyone ever gonna’ hire you if they don’t know who you are!?” No matter his argument, my rebuttal was always the same: I was too young and too inexperienced to need a website. Truth be told, however, I was hiding a more pressing matter: I didn’t know how to make a website!
Let’s face it, if your knowledge of computers doesn’t far extend the length of your cordless computer mouse (present company included), the idea of building your own website from the ground up can be intimidating. Between purchasing the right domain to formatting your predetermined graphics, it doesn’t take long for your dreams of designing the perfect website to suddenly turn into nightmares of setting your computer on fire from sheer frustration. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not professing myself as some sort of warlock of the World Wide Web; however, what little information I do know (claim to know), I’m willing to share.
Five beginner tips for creating a website (from a computer-illiterate singer)
- Picking the right website builder. 15 to 20 years ago, creating your own website seemed a little less feasible, unless you understood the basics of coding, programming, and even graphic design. Nowadays, website builders are a dime a dozen. While all of them offer a “painless” experience to help you get started, you need to be cautious when choosing the right one. Potential factors to consider should include your computer knowhow (some give you the option to work with the actual coding, if you want to further edit your website beyond the default options) and your price range (most are free to create an account but range in price after purchasing a domain or publishing your website). Come to think of it, there are probably just as many website builders out there as there are Young Artist Programs, but the same can be said for both: make sure to go in knowing what you want, as well as what they can offer to you, before agreeing to anything.
- Purchasing your domain. Even if you haven’t finished your website, let alone started it, it’s still a good idea to purchase your domain as early on as possible; that way, you don’t run the risk of losing that perfect domain name. You can still publish your website without purchasing a domain; however, it will be listed under a subdomain associated with your website builder (e.g. http://adamianetta.sitebuilder.ca), and you’ll most likely have to deal with an annoying banner ad somewhere on your website. I really shouldn’t have to say this, either, but choose your domain name wisely. Is it too long? Is it easy to find, let alone spell? Is it appropriate (it is the Internet, after all)? If anything else, think of choosing the right domain name like making a good first impression at an audition; don’t let the jurors get the wrong idea about you before you’ve even started singing.
- Keep it simple (at first, that is). Thankfully, most – if not all – website builders provide a veritable cornucopia of premade templates from which to choose, all without having to start completely from scratch. With your layout already… well, laid out for you, all you need to do is fill in the blanks (e.g. text, graphics, links to social media, etc.). Once you have the basic content of your website put together, feel free to experiment with the design (e.g. colour scheme, font, buttons, etc.), so your website can perfectly reflect your personality. Like learning any aria for the first time, you need to solidify the rudiments of the piece before diving too deep into the character of the work, and designing a website shouldn’t be any different.
- Brush up on your vocabulary. As musicians, our area of expertise comes with its own vocabulary (e.g. pitch, rhythm, motif, etc.). As luck would have it, website design has its own vocabulary, and it’s definitely in your best interest to familiarize yourself with these terms, that is of course if you don’t want to have to resort to a more – shall we say – “explicit” set of terms when designing your website. When it comes to the basics (e.g. page, section, menu, etc.), most terms are pretty self-explanatory; that being said, not all terms are so universally understood. Sometimes, the best way to understand a term is to test it out for yourself. Feel free to experiment with the menu’s docking or a line of text’s padding to figure out what it actually means – just keep your mouse close to that undo button.
- Just take your time. Remember your first attempt at reading through an opera role? A pretty frustrating process, right? Well, website design is not without its own frustrations, but that doesn’t mean you just give up and toss your computer down an elevator shaft. You didn’t just master that role after an hour at the piano, and nuts to you if you did, you psycho prodigy (I only kid, of course). Designing your perfect website – like learning that perfect role – is a labour of love: it requires patience, trial & error, collaboration, compromise, and – above all – perseverance. Before you can visit centre stage, you’ve got to first set up camp in the practice room; just as well, you need to dedicate some time to the drawing board before you can publish a polished, professional website.
I know it may not look like much, but the five aforementioned points certainly helped me when designing this website. Having designed my website with WordPress, I’m slightly biased when it comes to choosing a website builder; however, these are some other widely popular website builders: WIX, Squarespace, Weebly, Sitebuilder, and Voog. Like I said, I’m no all-knowing warlock, but I’ll tell you this much: my brother thought I did a pretty good job on my website for not knowing anything about website design. ACHIEVEMENT!
Calling all warlocks! Got any tips of your own on website design? Feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below.