I’m writing this in the hopes that others may benefit from my experiences as a less than tech savvy person who needs a website. If you are an artist, you need a website. It is your portfolio in online form. Unless you have unlimited financial resources to pay a responsive, professional web designer to make your site for you and kept it updated for years, I recommend taking a few days and learning to do it yourself. If you are a hip young web wizard, this article is not for you, and please don’t laugh too hard, just send this link to your mom.
In the mid 2000’s I had someone build a webiste for me in trade for my artwork. At first this arrangement was satisfactory but then it seemed like more and more of my work was exchanged for fewer and fewer hours of updating and the value of my contribution was forgotten. I was increasingly made to feel like I was imposing on this person’s time. Most of us who have tried these trade-sy situations know how this ends. In 2010 I realized that I needed to acquire some basic skills so I could do this work myself and I taught myself how to use the now defunct iWeb application that came installed on my MacBook Pro. Why didn’t I do this earlier?!! After having the freedom to easily make updates when I needed to, as many times as I needed to, I can say the two days it took me to learn iWeb to create my new site was time well spent. It was basic but clean and it served me well for years. Unfortunately, Apple discontinued my beloved iWeb years ago and did not replace it with another site building tool. I still have iWeb on my 6 year old laptop but it’s always in the back of my mind that my laptop, and with it my dear old friend iWeb, will perish at some point.
On April 21, 2015, Google made a significant change to their search algorithms: websites that were not mobile-optimized were penalized in their search-engine rankings. My old iWeb site was not mobile ready. Everyone including my mother is viewing my site on mobile devices. Increasingly I couldn’t do things I needed to do like paste in html code to create newsletter subscription forms, or add a page with a commerce component. It was time for me to find a new way to build and update my site.
In my search for a new website building tool, I looked at the many beautiful websites of my artist friends, http://jihamoon.com, http://www.lori-field.com, http://carrieannbaade.com, http://www.studiobeerhorst.com, among others to see how artists I love and respect were presenting themselves online. I read articles about artist’s websites from trusted sources like this one from Creative Capital http://blog.creative-capital.org/2013/04/internet-for-artists-why-we-only-recommend-two-website-services/. I figured out that some templates are built with Flash and that this is not a good thing. I researched sites like squarespace.com, wordpress.org, wordpress.com, wix.com, and many more that have templates which make it easy for those of us that don’t know much about building sites from scratch. Each service offers different features at different price points. I personally chose Squarespace because they have attractive templates for portfolios and they offered an introduction to eCommerce at a low price point (see my “shop” page with it’s lonely one item!) Those of you with more web skills than me might find wordpress.org more to your liking because you actually own the template you select.
It took me about a week to figure out how to use Squarespace templates, build my website, and then connect my squarespace domain to my own custom domain name susanjamison.com. At first I selected a template that gave me a look that was similar to my previous site that I had made with iWeb. Then I decided to go for something completely different instead with a very impacting and changing homepage which is what you see here. Because my domain is registered with a rather unpopular company, the most difficult part of this process for me was connecting my own domain name to my new site. I received tech support from my friend, WebQueen, Christina Owens Knapp of http://hellowyellow.com who got me pretty close. Then I turned to Jason with Squarespace support for help. I sent him screen shots to show him how far I had gotten and he sent me back my same visuals marked up with exactly what I needed to do. Boom, done! Most of you who have your sites registered through bigger providers like Go Daddy, Dotster, etc. will find detailed guides on the help page for this topic. During this process I received excellent support from Squarespace.
No matter which service you choose, I have complete faith in your ability to conquer the task of building and updating your own website with one of the terrific services out there, even if you need to cheat and use one that provides templates like I did. I think you will find that it is a great benefit to you to be able to easily make updates to your site yourself. The very first day I posted a link to my newly revamped website on social media, someone contacted me and bought a drawing. This sale paid for the expense of my new site for the first year and it paid me for the time I spent making it. Don’t sell yourself short, you can do this too!