Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thoughts while hibernating - about new websites

This time of year I like to hibernate. It's the short days.  It also gives me time to think about what next...

In recent weeks I've been trying to work out what to do with respect to this blog and other things I want to do.  Hence the long gaps between very sporadic posts.

I operate by making use of (I hope) intelligent use of my gut reaction a lot of the time. This in turn is influenced by lots of bits of information picked up along the way, around and about. If my gut won't let me do something I have to listen to it.

Just recently it's been telling me to stop and think and to not be a slave to my regular blog posts and to think about what else I want to do.

Today I was advising somebody about a matter she was involved in where she could see she had opted for the short term least resistant option. I counselled that, in general, it's far better to think much longer term - and then match up your short term actions to steps to achieving where you want to be in the longer term - so that your short term actions match up and support your long term goals.

Which is not say you can't go off piste from time to time - but it can be risky - even terminal....!

Bottom line - I've been trying to get a couple of new "resources for artists" websites off the ground now for two years. They've been sat in draft and while they progress a little bit from time to time, they really need some concerted work to get them sorted enough to publish.

One of them is below.

The Home Page of my Tips for Artists website - a work in progress
The websites are informed by the fact that

  • lots of visits to my blog are visiting old blog posts
  • this blog has been very diverse in its nature whereas there's a trend to become increasingly focused around specific topics - and the development of niche websites.

A lot of visits to this blog are accessing past blog posts

By past I mean ones I wrote years ago when I used to do a major blog project each year.

I used to have a strategy for making archived blog posts relating to past projects or long term topics of interest - like Composition and Colour - more accessible which worked well. 

However that got scuppered some time ago when Seth Godin sold out of an enterprise I was involved in which gave me scope to provide individual websites for individual topics - at no cost to me.

Niche websites work

So now - in order to make the information collected over the years writing this blog more accessible, I have to pay for the websites to develop the topic areas - and it's really stupid paying for websites which are not published!

My first two websites - Botanical Art and Artists  and Art Business Info for Artists - have had different levels of success - but are both now being increasingly referenced by a wider audience, many of whom did not know about Making A Mark.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that my first new website (about botanical art - a favourite topic of mine) is now MORE successful than Making A Mark.
  • it took 5.5 years to get to one million visitors on Making A Mark (see
    Making A Mark notches up 1 million visits
  • and I learned a lot while working on the blog which is why..... 
  • it took me just 3.5 years to get to one million visits to Botanical Artists. It also has a low bounce rate because it is a niche audience and once found the devoted fans of botanical art tend to keep visiting!
So demand for the back catalogue + topic websites looking for a new home = a new niche website

It took a while to work out what these should be. They've also been through a few name changes

However, my consensus (after considerable internal debate - I give myself a hard time sometimes) is that they will be:
  • TIPS FOR ARTISTS covering The Basics and Genres - specifically
    • Drawing
    • Painting
    • Composition
    • Colour
    • Portraiture
    • Landscapes
    • Still Life
    • Pigments and Dyes
    • Dry Media - in various forms
    • Wet Media - in various forms
    • Supports
    • Equipment - for Drawing, Painting and Studios
    • Art Supplies
The Home Page of my "Fine Art Materials Guide - for Artists" website

That's as far as I've got so far in thinking through what they should cover - but doubtless they will develop further in the years to come.

The simple fact is that I like 
  • collecting information so I become better informed and 
  • sharing it so everybody else can become better informed

So what happens next?

What happens next is that I feel the need to devote more time to getting both these websites off the ground. 

What happened with Botanical Art and Artists and Art Business Info for Artists is that I found as I transferred content from the old websites I started to rewrite because of the much greater flexibility in terms of how I could present the information.

Which takes more time - but results in better quality content which is easier to read in the long-run.

What I'd also like to do is try and ways of making them a sharing collaborative endeavour - to a degree. 

I aim to do this by i.e. 
  • sharing as much as I know and have collected over time
  • trying to find new ways to find out even more e.g. by asking people for their tips - with a view to linking to anything good which people have written about on blogs or websites
I like people who share like me. I like giving them the link juice from what will become very big websites over time. 

I'm happy (in time) to list people who teach around specific subjects - subject to them being able to produce their information in a brief format.  For an example of what I do see my International Directory of Botanical Art Tutors and the UK Botanical Art Courses Page. 

However this particular aspect won't be a first priority so much as a second order development - because such a list lacks credibility if the website is only half finished. Plus if it gets off the ground earlier it's very likely to be influenced by who helps with the website!

I'll probably publish the websites when I have "enough". By enough I mean it looks substantial enough to be respectable - despite more that needs to be done.

Facebook Pages - and maybe Groups

I'm thinking of setting up Facebook Pages and associated groups for both websites.

That will allow me to tell you which topic I'm working on and allow you to
  • tell me your "need to know priorities
  • input information that might be useful e.g.
    • informative / useful blog posts about specific topics
    • great videos
    • great websites worth a mention
plus feedback after publication on what you think is:
  • good / bad / indifferent
  • what's missing
  • what would be good to add in
  • what needs a good edit!
How this works exactly probably depends on the extent to which people abuse the process. I've had to turn off comments on this blog because of the spam - and I need to find a way where I can block spam more effectively. Otherwise everything just becomes very tedious.

I'll get back to you in the near future with respect to the URLs of the new Facebook Pages.

Some of you may be getting an early invitation.......

So what happens to Making A Mark?

Not a lot. It's not going away - and I'm not going to be posting so often until I've got these new websites published.

I may well do some aggregate posts about things I've found and posted on facebooks.

I will still be reviewing art competitions and national art society exhibitions - but what else is a bit up in the air at the moment.

In the meantime, I've started to "champ at the bit" while writing this post. 

At last it feels like I know what I'm supposed to be doing in 2019!

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