Friday, December 01, 2006

How to get a cost-effective website (1)

How do you get a website without learning a lot of code and it costing a lot of money? This is the first of a couple of blog posts to help artists puzzled by this question.

On my travels around the web I often come across comments suggesting that it's essential to pay people to develop a website and feed it to the search engines so it will be ranked highly in searches on the main search engines. I also come across comments by people saying that's what they did and that none of it was worthwhile as the website never came up in searches. If this is you, then you need to know there is another way - read on!

The issue for many people on a budget (which includes a lot of artists who'd far rather be spending their money on art supplies!) is the level and complexity of effort required to learn about how to make e-processes work in a cost-effective way - in other words how to be able to keep your art supplies habit fed at the same time as you avoid tearing your hair out.

Anybody setting up a business these days needs to develop a certain amount of familiarity with IT, software and the internet. Artists are no different. If you want to spend a lot of money getting other people to do things for you, because you don't want to learn that is certainly possible. In the past it used to be necessary as the software was complicated and there was a certain amount of mystique connected to the ways of the website and the internet. However things have changed..........

It's now possible for artists to get an effective presence on the web without all that expense if you learn a little and put the effort in. There are now lots of opportunities out there for free exposure if you look. Both software and hosting sites have developed new ways of doing things which make it easier for everybody - including artists - to set up and develop an internet presence for no expense other than the time it takes to input content.

None of my websites have involved me in having to learn any code at all for basics (ie wysiwyg input) and nothing beyond some extremely simple html for tweaks. And they didn't cost me anything to develop - I only had to spend time.

The following describes what I use for my websites. I know there must be others out there which do a great job too - but my experience lies with the following. The point is that free services exist and can provide good quality support for your requirements.

My Website:

I use Sitekreator for my website having spotted it on a techie website being recommended by an impressive computer geek as suitable for his mother who had a hobby! I raised an eyebrow(!), thought it sounded interesting, went to have a look and signed up very quickly.
  • It is completely FREE - that means the software is web-based and FREE and the hosting for the first 10 MB is also FREE. I opted to spend just under $20 to get an extra 100MB storage space but 10MB is ample for most artists.
  • The personal edition has a number of features and benefits. including as many pages or galleries as you like. Primarily it is very easy to use both in terms of developing and updating a website with images, has good tutorials and excellent support - including real staff who provide a friendly and efficient service.
  • If you register a domain name you can arrange for it to be pointed to your website - which is why mine is called www.pastelsandpencils.com - check it out!
  • If you wish to sell your artwork from your site you can integrate paypal 'buy now' and shopping cart services using simple html code. You can see an example of this can work on the website of my friend Gayle Mason
  • You can upgrade to a fee-based business option which has some additional features but you don't need to use this if you don't want to and most artists use the personal site option.
  • After developing my site I was so pleased with how simple it was to develop, that I recommended Sitekreator all the time to a lot of other artists and, as a result, there are now many other artists out there with a Sitekreator website! So much so that artists are now recognised as a specialist group which the developers try to cater for. I've found Sitekreator has been very amenable to suggestions for small tweaks to make life easier for artists.
  • And just in case you're wondering I'm not an Associate (they don't have any) and do not get any money from Sitekreator for saying this. I recommend these people because their service worked for me and for a lot of other people who were complete novices as well. I love seeing them all recommending the site to others in turn - it makes me feel a bit like a proud grandmama!
My Blog

I use Blogger. Essentially when I started out I wasn't sure whether or not I wanted to blog and thought that a site which offered both free software and free hosting was a great way of dipping my toe in the water without any expense - and I was right, I was a blogging addict in no time at all . Some Blogger bloggers have had a few woes of late as Blogger Beta gets off the ground - but I'd still recommend Blogger for those who want to try blogging for the first time.

My Squidoo Lenses

I use Squidoo - also free - for all the useful links that I want to categorise and share. This also means that I can link independently to a lens for specific blog posts or from individual pages within my website if I wish.

In my next blog on this topic I'll outline the relative merits of a website and a blog and what to do about all those search engines.

Please use the comments function to add links to any other free software which you rate highly. Please note all comments are moderated and I'll only accept those where
  • the comment is from an individual using the software and
  • the comment outline why s/he likes it and provides a link to the site which uses it.
No links will be accepted from an entity or individual providing or selling the software in question - I do check so don't waste your time!

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