Week 5: How to Build a Website – The Quick and Dirty Method

You know you need a web presence. You may be on Twitter and Facebook and Google Plus. You’re addicted to Pinterest and like to think of yourself as an amateur pro on the Instagram. But, do you have a website? You should!
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Websites are an important way for you to connect with your fan base. It is the best way to control the image that you are putting out. You control all the content and you provide an easy and organized means for your fans to access all your important information: contact data, show dates, photos, videos, audio, merchandise. Everything. Simply.
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Nowadays, it is so easy to create a website that it really doesn’t make much sense not to have one. And if you really are taking yourself seriously, it’s the thing you’ve got to do.
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IMPORTANT: Don’t let this website thing hang you up. Keep it simple and get it done as quickly as possible. You can always tweak it later! The point is to get it made.
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First the definitions. You will see simple, basic descriptions below for web jargon that you may or may not know the meaning of. Now, I don’t want to you to start reading the definitions and go “This is way too complicated!” and quit. So, if you are getting too overwhelmed by the definitions or if you already know these things, just focus on the doing part of this and skip to the Building Your Website section below. THE KEY IS TO ACTUALLY BUILD YOURSELF A WEBSITE. It is really not nearly as complicated as you may think it is. I promise!
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DEFINITIONS:
Domain Name & URL
A domain name is another word for website address. Artists Underground’s domain name is www.artists-underground.com. We have one domain name, which is also a URL. However, we have several URLs on our website, and here’s why:
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URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It is the text used by your web browsers (Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explore), to identify a resource on the Internet, in other word, web pages, graphics, programs and other text documents that are accessible on the internet. Thus, your website will have many URLs. Every time you create a new page or post on your website, you will have a new URL.
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Hosting
Now that you have your domain name purchased, you will have to set up web hosting. A web hosting service, such as Blue Host or In Motion Hosting, “hosts” or stores your website data on their servers, or data storage systems, so that whenever someone types your domain name into their browser, they will be accessing that data from your web hosts server. Web hosting will also supply you with email services so that you can set up email addresses that are linked to your website. We will discuss website emails in another post.
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Plug-Ins
A plug-in is a piece of software you can add to your website to add a function to it. For example, you can add a plug-in to your website that makes it possible for your readers to share every post to their social networks. Another plug-in will give you the ability to organize your own online storefront. Cool! There are many many possibilities. Plug-ins are awesome.
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Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search Engine Optimization is a way of helping your website or web page to be found more easily by search engines. Doing this will help to boost your rating when people search for you on Google and Bing. That’s a good thing!
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Theme/Template
Website Builder sites allow you to easily “design” your site by letting you pick a theme or template. It’s a pre-designed, pre-layed out structure that you just have to add to. It’s kind of like a prefab house. The walls are all there and it’s painted all pretty, all you need to add are the furniture and the photos on the walls.
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Website Builder
Software that allows you to craft your own website instead of building it by scratch using HTML, you know, that coded gibberish those computer geeks use. Website builders have made it so easy to have your own website that it’s crazy not to. Think of WordPress and Tumblr and Blogger when you think of website builders. There are many out there.
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Widgets
Widgets allow you to add things to the sidebar area of the website, such as search bars, subscribe buttons, social media buttons, etc. See our website for examples.
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BUILDING YOUR WEBSITE
1) Choosing a Domain Name.  
The first thing you will want to do in setting up your website is to purchase a Domain Name or URL.
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In choosing a domain name, you will want to keep a few things in mind. Make the domain name something that tells others about who you are or what you do. If you owned a car repair company, the domain should have something about cars in it, for example.
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Once you’ve decided on a domain name, go to a domain purchasing site, such as GoDaddy.com, to see if that domain name is available. If it is not, you may have to find something similar. Be careful not to choose something too similar that your fans could be confused with another website that already exists.
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2) Choose a Website Builder.
Go to a web building site of your choice. We like WordPress. WordPress will host your website on their server for you. WordPress will host you for free, but your URL will look like this: mywebsite.wordpress.com. If you want to take the “wordpress” or taken out of your website you can pay for a premium upgrade. WordPress will then allow you to link your domain name to your WordPress site so that your site will look like this instead: www.mywebsite.com. It is much more professional to have a website with your own domain name than to have .wordpress site, so it is definitely encouraged that you do this.
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3) Choose a Template or Theme.
Now that you have your website builder account, you will want to chose a theme. Scroll through until you find one that you feel represents who you are as an artist. Think color scheme, layout, etc. Remember branding! We talked about figuring out what you want to communicate about yourself as an artist.
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4) Add a Menu.
You will want to add an About page, a Contact page, a Blog – you can refer to the blog as your Journal or some other thing as you like. If you do live shows, you will want to add a Shows page. Add a Gallery for photos or your art. Finally, you will want a Press page and/or a Timeline page. Use this page to record your activity, such as video and CD releases, important events, radio features, articles written about you, etc. Poke around our site and others you like to get an idea of how to organize your menu.
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For WordPress sites, here is the quick and dirty on how to add a menu:
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1. Menu Buttons can be created using a Page or a Category. Choose a Page if you want your Menu Button to lead to a Page. If you want your Button to lead to a series of posts, such as a Blog, you can add a Category. To add a Page, go to your Dashboard and choose Pages, then choose Add New and fill in the title and body form to create a new page. To add a Category: from the Dashboard, choose Posts, then choose Categories. Fill in the form information and click the Add New Category button.
2. Go to Dashboard.
3. Choose Appearance.
4. Choose Menu.
5. Select a series of Categories or Pages from the left side of the screen that you want to add to the menu. Click on them, then click the Add to Menu button.
6. The buttons should now appear on the right side of the screen. Now you can move them around in the order you would like them to appear on the menu. If you want buttons to be part of a drop down menu, add them beneath the button you want them to drop down from. The button will be beneath and slightly indented to the right of the button you choose to drop down from.
7. Scroll down and choose where you would like the menu to appear on the website in the Menu Settings section.
8. Now click the Save Menu button.
9. Check your website to ensure that the menu layout is to your liking. It could take a moment to update so be patient.
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5) Add Widgets.
Add a search bar. Add social media buttons. Add a subscribe button so people can keep up with you whenever you add new content. There are all sorts of fun widgets you can add to your sidebar. We have a widget that shows our Twitter feed.
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A few tips: Place your most important widgets “above the fold”. Above the fold means that it will appear in the portion of the web page that is showing on the screen when the page first loads. Below the fold would be anything that you need to scroll down to see.
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The most important widgets you should add above the fold are your search bar and your social media buttons that will send your readers to your Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest accounts. YOU WANT PEOPLE TO SEE THESE FIRST.
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For WordPress sites, here is the quick and dirty on how to add a widget:
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1. Go to Dashboard.
2. Choose Appearance.
3. Choose Widgets.
4. On the left side is the list of available widgets you can to the sidebar. On the right shows the layout of the sidebar. Drag and drop your widgets from the left side to the right side as you see fit.
5. Check your website to ensure that the sidebar layout is to your liking. It could take a moment to update so be patient.
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6) Add Plug-ins.
The below are some great WordPress plug-ins you can add to your website for better functionality.
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Akismet: Helps protect your blog from spam in your comments sections.
All in One SEO Pack: Provides SEO to help increase traffic to your site.
Slick Social Buttons: Share buttons added to the bottom of each posts allow readers to share your content on their social media sites.
nRelate Related Content: Puts related content buttons at the bottom of each post to link readers to similar content elsewhere on the site.
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There are lots of other great plug-ins that you can add to your site as you go. It’s fun to do plug-in searches and there are lots of articles online that will explain different types of plug-ins and which ones are the best for different purposes.
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For WordPress sites, here is the quick and dirty on how to add a plug-in:
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1. Go to Dashboard.
2. Choose Plugins.
3. Choose Add New.
4. Search for the desired plugins.
5. Install the plugin.
6. Activate the plugin.
7. Check your website to ensure that the plug-in has installed properly is to your liking. It could take a moment to update so be patient. Sometimes there are extra steps that you must do to add a plug-in. In this case, click on the plug-in and follow the directions given.
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7) Add Content.
Now you will want to add some photos, type some info about yourself and your art, etc. This is what it’s all about, after all!
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From the Dashboard, add either a Page or a Post. Add a post if you want your content to appear as a running blog. Add a Page if you simply want a static page to appear.
This is a great time to add your new bio, headshot and artist’s statement. Create a page with this data. Add Page this in the About section.
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8) Link Your Domain Name. 
Finally, now that you have your site built, you will want to link your website with your domain name.
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Here is a great link with a video to explain how you would do this on a WordPress site:
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The above article mentions that you will need to “change your domains name servers”. If you bought our domain name through GoDaddy, the below link will tell you how you can do this with them:
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Be sure to check that your domain name is actually linking to your new website. Again, it may take a little time to update, so you may have to wait a moment for the changes to take effect.
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Congrats! You now have your own official artist website! We will follow this post with more handy tips and tricks about how to make your website better. Tips such as creating an online store, adding more pages, posts, an event calendar, adding more cool plug-ins, increasing traffic to your site, and more!
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One quick note: As WordPress is first and foremost a blog site, your front page of your website will appear as a blog, as our Artists Underground front page does. There is a way to change your website to have a static front page instead, which we will cover in another post in the future. Also, if there is something you are having trouble figuring out, type it into your favorite web browser, such as Google, and you can often find tips and advice on how to do exactly what you are trying to do.
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But for now, bask in the glow of your accomplishment. You have a new, killer website that you created yourself. Now go tell the world!
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C.R. Cohen’s love affair with words and the arts has lead her on a lifelong journey as a poet and writer and an art activist, founding Artists Underground, to bring networking, resources and advice to artists, and joining forces with Soapbox Nation to provide creative career consultations and artist services to help artists get further faster.
About C.R. Cohen
C.R. Cohen’s love affair with words and the arts has lead her on a lifelong journey as a poet and writer and an art activist, founding Artists Underground, to bring networking, resources and advice to artists, and joining forces with Soapbox Nation to provide creative career consultations and artist services to help artists get further faster.

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