What should a creative professional know about building a web presence?
November 30, 2010 4:12 AM   Subscribe

Please tell me everything a small-time creative professional should know about building a modest yet positive web presence. Must-dos, pitfalls, good habits and provider recommendations...I would like to hear them all.
posted by embrangled to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure what qualifies as a creative professional, so I can't give you any good recommendations for most of what you've asked. I'm guessing you're not in graphic design or webdev, that's based only on the scope of this question.

There are some fairly nice packages out there that are easily modifiable, do it yourself gallery style sites, or you can bridge galleries into things like Joomla and Wordpress, both of which are fairly powerful, free, and highly customizable. Or, you can do a very focused site in something like Dreamweaver, but I'm not a fan of that route. Is this what you're looking for?

Really, what I can recommend is provider based:
-Avoid GoDaddy. I can't say this enough. They charge too much, their customer service is crap, their overall capacity is crap, and everything under the sun is an upsell. I cannot stand them. When I work with customers who have already purchased godaddy hosting, I charge a surcharge just to deal w/ them.

-I love, and resell, ASmallOrange. It's not the *cheapest* per se, but definitely not the most expensive. Fast, extremely reliable, great customer service, and absolutely fully featured.

-I buy my names through namecheap.com, and I visit retailmenot for the months coupon codes. Generally domains cost about $8.88 a year. Other services cost less, BUT namecheap has great service, an easily navigable control panel, and they offer things like whois cloaking and SSL certs.
posted by TomMelee at 5:03 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, to address the sort of larger issues? You should have a process where you think about what you want your web presence to *do* (update people? Interact with people? Sell to people? Seduce people?), what you want it to be *like*, and, probably most importantly, how you want to be involved in it. Is the goal to interact and to "live" in a space with people who you work with? Then you'll want something that's extremely (and easily) updateable, and one that probably distributes itself across various often-used platforms. Or do you merely want to own your google results, so as to funnel people to you if they happen to search? Then you want something (relatively!) static, that's name-heavy. (Too static and you won't register in the search.)

I'm asking these vague, pull-back questions because you really need to think about what your regular involvement is going to be. Do you care about being on the Internet? Are you suited to being on the Internet? Or is it an annoyance? If it takes up your time and gets underfoot, it's a disaster. Think about if you just want to make sure you have something *there*? Too many times I've seen people build out a blog on their professional site and then it is not something they would organically use and it is stale and sad and not suited to them.

I suppose my overarching advice would be to find someone who does exactly what you want and take all their structural ideas. Also, unless it's a boon to your business, do not expend any substantial money on this. You should think about doing less instead of more and building from there if you both like it and find it useless.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 5:30 AM on November 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks so much to both of you for your answers. I know my question is broad, but this is exactly the sort of advice I'm looking for. Since I'm about to go to bed and won't be around to watch the thread, I'll add a few details:

I'm a journalist/researcher/producer. I make words and sound. I had decent HTML skills circa 1999 and I'm working on bringing them up to date. I am neither a designer nor a programmer, but I'm visually literate and probably have the patience to master a simple CMS.

Broadly, I want a web presence which says, "I exist. I'm reputable. Here is what I'm good at. Here is some of my prior work. Also, that woman of the same name who posts nonsense all over Yahoo and Myspace? Not me."

So, maybe I need a full website with my name as the domain, but maybe my goals could equally be met using third-party sites like Twitter and Wordpress. I guess I'm looking for advice on structure and strategy as well as implementation.
posted by embrangled at 6:33 AM on November 30, 2010

Oh that's interesting. Okay so, yes. I would say go look at people's professional sites and portfolios that you like, and steal the best ideas from what they've made. (Here's one way to do it, perhaps more assertive or "out there" than you might prefer, from your fellow countrywoman: http://elmokeep.com/ )

Obviously, I would make something fairly straightforward and easy to update that showcases your best work.

And I would definitely encourage you to have a Twitter presence, given your field? The world of people who work in media and with producers on Twitter is extremely large. (And annoying. In my opinion. Heh.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:54 AM on November 30, 2010

Hello embrangled,

If you're looking for an easy to build/use/update portfolio website, I'll suggest the following things:

Register yourname.com. I personally use name.com because they offer free private registration (meaning any random person won't be able to look up your physical address and email address) with the promo FREEWHOIS. As for hosting, I'd like to second asmallorange. For a small website, their service is perfect.

Then, I'd install WordPress on your server, which is very simple with asmallorange. After that, I'd start to look for WordPress portfolio themes. Check out some themes at WooThemes and ThemeForest. You can also check out Elegeant Themes. Most good WP themes will come with a nice, easy to use control panel that lets you change colors and other things. WooThemes and Elegeant Themes also offer support for their themes if you run into trouble.

The only technical thing you'll need to know is pointing your domain name to your account at asmallorange, which is very simple and only takes a few seconds.

Any other questions?
posted by babble at 12:50 PM on November 30, 2010

Be honest, useful, and dependable. Even if it's a tiny site with just a few things, make those things good and right and satisfying, so that everyone who searches for X and gets to your site about X is happy with the X-related material your offer.

If your site is purportedly about how to groom a penguin -- if that's the name of the site and that's the search people are using to find your site -- then make sure your site is actually about how to groom a penguin, not how to buy a book about grooming penguins or how to buy a subscription to Penguin Groomer's Monthly or how to buy a bottle of Pengo Sheen penguin polish. Explain a safe, simple, dependable, affordable way to groom a penguin. Make it useful to everyone who polishes penguins, not just to people who buy Pengo Sheen. Then penguin-grooming people will link to your site, recommend it, and boost it up the ol' ladder of search engine results. If your business is to sell Pengo Sheen penguin polish, describe it and tell them how to buy it from you, but don't let your sales pitch get in the way of the information you promised to provide them or they will be disappointed and go to your competitor's site.

You're a "journalist/researcher/producer" selling yourself and your ability to research, write, and produce, so link to a lot of downloadable full-length product about interesting subjects. Give them enough that they will be convinced you actually know what you're doing. Explain how you became involved in projects, how you researched them, how you filmed them, etc. Explain how happy your bosses were with the final product and how pleased the consumers were with it. Get the CV material up there. Don't force people to contact you just to get what they should have found on the site.

As for the other woman: I guess you could explain it on the About page, just in case anyone wonders whether you could possibly be that other person, but don't make that explanation long or searchable. If the other woman's specialty is weasel wrangling, you don't want to say "I am not the Sue Smith who specializes in weasel wrangling" and have that text found by search engines or you'll further confuse your identity and interests with hers. Just a short note ("I am not the weasel wrangler.") or nothing.
posted by pracowity at 2:42 AM on December 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

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