A tech aware but not tech savvy artists guide to building a website.

‘Just start it’ he says, ‘you can always change it – just get going’, ‘Come up with a bit of content then off we go’ , or words to that effect. This all sounded very scary, jumping in off the deep end. I had wanted to plan exactly what I wanted it to look like and then find a template that fitted after that. But James (Steventon) knows his stuff. And sometimes you just have to trust and go for it – and this was one of those occasions.

I’d already decided upon a WordPress website. I had spent hours over the previous couple of years, researching artist’s websites – what did and didn’t I like about them? Who’s looked more commercially driven and who’s more artistic? Which looked visually interesting and which didn’t? What helped work to shine and create a story and what didn’t? There was an awful lot to consider and in some ways I had still only a vague concept, so James’ just get going approach sort of made sense.

One fundamental thing that I knew was that I didn’t want a blog as a website (I had tried that already when being my former artistic self) I wanted to pay for a ‘proper’ website. I also knew that I wanted it to be an experience for the viewer and not just a running list of works and facts.

So I presented James with a brief of sorts, who then spent time routing around WordPress to find the best template to suit my budget – Phogra– and off we went. After getting the ball rolling with some initial images, he guided me through, very patiently, with each stage of the process.

It really was a case of trial and error. It is difficult to imagine how a website works and looks without playing around with it. What I did find, was that once you add something (say an image), it changes the look of everything else, so it becomes about balance. Also – (and James had warned me several times) I learnt that simplicity is best. Too many options presented to the viewer on the home page causes confusion about what to look at first. So establishing an easy to understand menu is crucial.

After my mentoring session with Morag, I’d solidified the idea that I wanted the website to read like a book. That an impression could be gained at first glance, but also, by opening up each page, there were further options to explore and the viewer could go deeper if they wished.

It was also important that the site was a visual affair and had a rich look and sumptuous feel. It needed the ability to have text options, but not be text driven.

It took a number of attempts to come to the final decision of my home page menu. Various permutations preceded the form it is in now. To satisfy my desire to have lots of content options for the viewer, I needed a way to add this but by keeping the simple home page design. The answer came when I decided on the format to present work. Three headers: archive, recent and current/in progress.

Within these ‘parent’ pages, the viewer could then investigate at a more detailed level the history of my practice. I wanted the same format for ‘About’, options that the viewer could explore (Biography/ CV/ Statement) so in tech speak, these become the ‘children’ of About. By now I had learnt, how to create pages, what were parent pages and children pages, how to order them and how to create a main image for each page.

Once the content started to build I began to notice things in greater detail. Why did one image have a caption and another didn’t? Why couldn’t I format text how I wanted it? The next lessons from James were about how to Code. Yes, I said Code. For me, this was an alien language that was only discussed between fellow computer geeks. As I am from the generation where the first time I used a computer was in my first year at Uni, and having the attitude that as long as I know how to use something basically, I’ll get by, talking computer coding was not in my everyday mind-set. I am not incapable, far from it, just hadn’t seen (until applying for this bursary) that I really did need to learn about these things in order to progress.

You use coding in WordPress when you use the ‘text’ option and not the visual editor. The visual editor only gives you limited options in terms of formatting and editing content. In text you can be more detailed and fix problems that might occur when using the visual editor. It gives you increased flexibility and control over the design of your content. Blimey I sound like I am writing a WordPress manual!

Here is some code speak:

  means Non Breaking Space

is a closing tag. If I am to cut and paste a moving image, then I place the code of that in between the open and close captions

Want some more?!

<p> = paragraph

(h1) = header 1

James also taught me how to upload film onto Vimeo and then from Vimeo onto WordPress. To then use code to edit in order to tweak the aesthetics. So if I wanted to increase the width of the film, then I look for the word ‘width’ in the text and adjust the number of pixels that is next to it.

Now, I don’t remember all this off the top of my head –  I have written them all down in my own website building handbook! It has been a while since I have I have edited anything on my website – so a total revision session is in order to refresh my memory before I restart. There are formatting edits to be done and I would like there to be lots more content on the website, and although this will be a long process, I aiming for a soft launch at the beginning of March and a full launch at the end; so lots and lots of work to do!

We have only really touched on the tech training that I am in need of. Even though this has taken quite a bit of work so far, it is a great start and I look forward to learning much more. It is important that I learn all of this (film editing, uploading content, coding…..) as it enables me to take control of my work, get it out there and within my own timeline. 

And here is the link to my website – I shall allow you a sneaky peak!