Brian Ledwell

Some guy and a tagline

A Non Technical Artists Guide to Webpage/Site Creation

A resource for artists not interested in academic questions of ownership and control and just want to display their work in the easiest way possible.
Occassionally Ill give a presentation to a groups of people about online resources and how to use them. This class was Jessica Calderwood's class in Art Professionalism.... Um, I've totally forgot the actual class name, but the idea is to provide students with tools to go out into the world and survive. In my lecture I talked about a number of topics; Twitter, Buliding your network etc. (you can find my slides for the talk here) but after the class I got to thinking about a question I was asked and how I could have better answered so I wrote this up.
I was asked a question and on my walk home I think I could have done a better job of answering. The question was something like “I’m an artist I want to start a website, I don’t need or want to know any code, what do I need to do?”. Heres what I should have included that would be more helpful including some links to resources and my thoughts.
It depends on your goals for the site. You have 3 options. For the purposes of this document, the beginning users needs, and brevity you can only choose one goal. Later after your successful with one goal you can add another;
  • Selling your work
  • Talking about your work
  • Sharing/Displaying your Images.

Don’t forget at some point you will need to purchase a domain name.

Selling your work

The goal here is to easily upload images that can be used to sell your art. Included with the image will be short descriptions along with costs. The service will need to take care of payment processing and provide notification when and where the item need to be sent
  • Etsy - Simple, low-cost shopping cart solution 
  • Shopify - Many options and has plugins into social media sites like Facebook. Monthly costs apply, probably overkill for beginner seller. Its also more expensive and has a monthly fee as opposed to charging you per transaction. 
Discussion - Since theres money to be made this is arguably the one with the most selections. You have a wide variety of options as well from setting it up from scratch to purchasing a service. Theres a nice write up of various art shopping cart systems and their differences for selling art here

Talking about your work

The goal is to be able to easily add images and text based content. No interaction with public is needed, the communication only needs to be one way. Free hosting would be nice but should at least be cheap. Im aware I will need a domain name so if the service also offers domain name hosting that might be nice.
  • Github - Free hosting, The code created is clean and could be downloaded and uploaded to a different system if needed. The HTML could also be created locally then uploaded later. 
  • Wix/Weebly/SquareSpace - Point and click, Drag and drop easy to use, easy to choose a nice looking template and plenty of options.
  • Godaddy Hosting- This option also allows you to purchase a domain name at the same time you purchase hosting. Has a variety of options including uploading your own code OR using their control panel to choose an instance of WordPress or another CMS if you want. 
Discussion- Here is where you need to determine how much its worth to you to own your own content and code.  If you need to move to another system and want to easily move your code from system to system its probably not possible with Wix/Weebly/SquareSpace. Should you decide to change services you’d be forced to recreate your text content and re-upload your images. You can however move you’re content easily from Github to a hosting service on GoDaddy via ftp. The disadvantage is you’ll need to do a bit more work upfront to understand a little html code and how to move that code from your computer to a hosting service via FTP. This isnt hard.. But I can understand and appreciate the decision to not want to deal with it at all. For a user who just wants a site up quickly and does not care about content control / ownership Wix/Weebly/SquareSpace seems like a good solution. I mentioned in my lecture how I prefer content control over easy to set up and use but I also like and understand technology so Ill leave it to you to determine whats best for you. Should you use the Wix solution please be aware that choosing a theme then changing your mind and choosing another one later might be impossible to do (please read the review below). 
Lastly some of these services offer a “Free” option. There are no real free rides (with the exception of GitHub) the free comes with their advertising their service at the top of your site and not allowing your domain name to be pointed at the site (this is kinda BS because you can use domainName forwarding to point to the site, its not as elegant, but it works…) . But what FREE allows you to do is to sample it and see if you like the way it works. Before purchasing a package try a couple out to see what works best for you.
A review of Wix VS SquareSpace (some annoying popup adds here but good info) 

Sharing/Displaying your Images

The goal is to be able to display my images. I don’t need to have long descriptions or narratives Id like to simply curate and share my images
  • Flickr (owned by Yahoo)
  • Picassa (owned by Google)
  • Instagram (due to student interest I added this one) :)
Discussion - Company ownership might make a difference if you are already a “yahoo” user or already have a “google” account. Using what ever system your already a part of make it so that you don’t have to create yet one more account (user names and passwords) to keep track of. All of these have capabilities to be embedded within other systems. Also a shout out to ownership of the images you upload,  please read the TOS (Terms of service) so your at least aware of what rights your giving up. For a quick overview please see the site “Terms of Service I didn’t Read”