I’ve been doing some soul searching lately on the topic of websites, very aware that I need to streamline my online presence. So when illustrator Lisa Grabenstetter decided to write her guest post on the subject, I could not have been more pleased. Thank you Lisa!
A Brief History Of The Internet, or How To Learn From The Geocities of Yesteryear
The web has changed a hell of a lot since I first got here. I was 12, and through my parents’ Windows 3.1 PC each website appeared as a crowded pastiche of pixellated colors. Compressed serif fonts peppered with underlined blue links, tiled backgrounds, and animated gifs were the face of the web. You put up with a lot more in those days, and the much-derided short attention span of internet users hadn’t developed yet–you needed three or four minutes just to decode what a website was about in the first place. You didn’t have the luxury of a short attention span because the entire internet looked this way.
Yes, things sure have changed. All of us are better designers than the average Angelfire user of 1996, and the available blog and website templates are massively superior. Better yet, we creatives all woke up in 2005 to discover a new brain implant that contained information on how to properly market our work using these brilliant new web technologies!
Or maybe that last part I made up. Maybe it’s 2012 and not only are websites still pretty tricky to build and maintain, but they don’t even teach basic SEO in grade school. The future is only partly here, and it’s confusing.
Let’s talk about marketing yourself as a creative on the web.
The biggest mistake internet mistake your can make is lack of clarity. Remember those flaws of 1996 cyberspace I mentioned at the top of the article? We want to do the opposite of what everyone was doing back then. Your website needs a hook, and that hook is you. Your name is the title of your page, and your vocation is right under it. If you’re an artist, you need to put clear examples of your art right there on the front page. If you’re a writer, feature your writing–blogs make good front pages, accompanied by links to your published work. Be sure that you are the first thing that visitors notice, and tone down any advertising of others until that’s the case. Treat your website like it’s your business card for people who might never meet you.
In the same vein, don’t overwhelm your audience! Not all pertinent information needs to go on the front page. If your hook is effective, visitors will mosey on over to your links to learn more. Visual artists, keep that portfolio trim–only 12-20 pieces of your best work, showing cohesiveness of style and diversity of subject and composition. You can use a separate ‘past work’ section if you can’t bear to completely cull your favorite old work, or you can divide your portfolio into sections that target different markets.
Writers, you don’t need links to everything ever published either. Keep only a handful of links/book covers on your front page, with minimal text and a separate page for your full bibliography. You get less than half a minute to impress visitors and dissuade them from closing the tab (less if they’re a busy agent or art director). Make it count.
Consider these points while choosing your design. Whether making it from scratch yourself, hiring a designer, or selecting a promising WordPress template, strive for readability. Make sure that your design doesn’t compete with your content, and leave plenty extra of negative space to lend emphasis (and prevent eye cramps in your readers). Thinking of your website as a book page with margins is a good way to go about it.
And finally, bring your network together. Link all of your professional social media presences to your website, and maintain a cohesive and accessible web presence. People are more interested in other people than they are in brands, so make friends and network with both customers and other creatives. The future of the internet is about simplicity and interaction, and you as a creator are expected to embrace it. Now go forth, and delete your dancing baby gifs!
Basically, if you need a refresher, don’t do this.
*Ok, a lot of artists have more than 20 images in their portfolios! I still wouldn’t recommend it. Clean out your old stuff, folks! 😛
Lisa Grabenstetter was raised by trees. Or among trees, depending on how you’d like to phrase it. As a youngster, she had great hopes of becoming a Paleontologist. Eventually she realized that being a paleontologist didn’t mean what she thought it meant, and if she wanted to be the one drawing the dinosaurs she’d better become an artist. Her love of dinosaurs and other monstrous and winged things has not departed, and continues to show up in her work.
Lisa draws inspiration from artists of the symbolist movement, from art nouveau, and from contemporary fantasy and comic book illustrators. Her work is primarily in ink, graphite, and watercolor. Occasionally she has the good luck of being asked to print something.