A guide to getting started online pt. 2
Continuing from last week’s discussion about consistency across social media platforms, I’d like to venture a bit further into why you should take time to properly curate those spaces. Keep in mind that although you may not be able to tell, your profile is always being watched! It sounds creepy, but most times this could be used to your advantage.
Yes, there are settings that allow you to control who sees your profile (in most cases), but if you’re a creative practitioner looking to get your work recognized then having a private profile does very little to help build your professional network. One of the main things to consider is the purpose of each profile. Ask yourself: “What am I trying to do/say here?” And get used to having those conversations with yourself because they become crucial as you navigate the murky waters of social media.
In some cases, persons choose to have multiple accounts on the same platform in an effort to separate their personal life from their professional practice. This is absolutely okay if you’re disciplined enough to update all of those accounts on a regular basis. But if you’re anything like me and you have a love/hate relationship with social media, then this is not an option.
Instead, consider limiting the amount of personal content you post on your profiles. Case in point, my Tumblr, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts (albeit neglected at times) are almost exclusively related to my work and process. Of all my social media accounts, I tend to post the majority of my personal content (which is actually very little) to my Instagram profile. Most times I would go back a few days later to delete them (don’t ask why, it’s a Dominique-ism). But this is a great way to keep the attention where it needs to be – on your work.
Persons shouldn’t have to work too hard to find the artwork on your page, particularly if you don’t have a website or online portfolio. I know the temptation to give in to the “me, me, me” trend is real but platforms like Snapchat are perfect (and far less permanent) for facilitating the need to post every detail of your daily routine. The curators and critics aren’t interested in what you had for lunch or your gym routine or the hundreds of selfies you may be tempted to post, so don’t disengage them by falling into the social media trap. Very often, life as a creative practitioner doesn’t afford you the same luxuries as your less creatively inclined friends and family members. The sooner you recognize this the better off you’ll be in the long run.
Establishing accounts on any social media platform is relatively easy. There are usually support groups and forums available to answer any questions you might have. And in most cases, learning to navigate through those spaces functions as an introduction to the more complex and mind-numbing world of website development. Although you can pay a professional to spare you that torture, you can also explore the “drag and drop” options if you’re on a tight budget. If you’re considering the latter then brace yourself for a long and bumpy road.
My general attitude is “I prefer to do it myself,” and so there really wasn’t much consideration given to involving someone else in this process. Unfortunately, as with most things in my life, I had no idea what this decision really meant until I was a red-eyed, sleep deprived zombie with an even lower tolerance level for human interaction. Yes, “drag and drop” options are infinitely easier than learning to code, but it’s still very difficult for the average Joe/Jane who has never worked on the back end of those platforms. But thankfully Youtube and Google exist to make our lives a little easier. Where would we be without them? I shudder to imagine.
Now there are a number of web-development platforms that allow users to work with templates, as opposed to building them from the ground up. These “drag and drop” templates cater to persons, like myself, who don’t know head from tail about creating codes for building websites. Platforms like Wix, Weebly, WordPress and SquareSpace are just a few of the places interested persons could explore until they find the perfect fit for all of their web needs.
I’m not in a position to recommend the best web-development platform since I’ve only ever worked with WordPress and Wix, and casually browsed through SquareSpace. After spending way too much time combing through thousands of comments in various forums looking for the platform best suited for visual artists, I finally found what I thought was “the one.” Although WordPress is perhaps the most popular platform, I was surprised to read so many persons in the creative community speaking out against using it. Instead, all signs at the time pointed to Wix and so this is was the platform I chose to invest my time and money.
From all indications, Wix seems to be a lot more user friendly than WordPress. Even with its many limitations (that are notably absent in WordPress), going at it on your own is much easier and you have the added benefit of building and reviewing content in Preview mode before publishing it for the world to see. Wix’s support team is also very responsive and they automatically deploy updates to your site to improve security and fix any bugs so that you don’t have to. Although Wix checked off a lot of the boxes that were important to me, there was one thing that I wish I knew before I committed to them. There is an ugly little thing that presents itself in your website URL called a hashbang. It sounds really dirty but it’s not, just extremely annoying to see.
Now again, I have no idea what’s what when it comes to the technical web building mumbo jumbo but I do know an ugly URL when I see one. When I first envisioned my finished website, I never imagined the address to my biography page would be www.dominiquehunter.org./#!biography/c1lo9. That is not attractive to anyone, let alone a visual artist preoccupied with aesthetics. I believed that the page to my biography would read www.dominiquehunter.org/biography. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper when I realized that there was absolutely no way around this as a Wix user. I spent endless days trying to figure out what I had done wrong, only to stumble across a category in Wix’s Support section that offered this explanation:
“The hashbang symbols (#!) in the URL are part of the AJAX technology and deep linking mechanism and cannot be removed or altered. This mechanism is important for SEO purposes, as it ensures the visibility of your site content for search engines.”
Great, so the only way people can see my website is if it has that horrendous hashbang mixed in. Gee, thanks. In their defense, they have provided a feature for Wix users desperate to work around this saying:
“You can use the 301 redirect feature to create custom URLs for the purpose of sharing your site pages. These URLs can be shared via social media or via email. Keep in mind that the customized URLs will redirect to the original URL when the page is loaded.”
I gave up the fight at that point of my journey. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard and, quite frankly, I resigned myself to “It is what it is.” So no, I can’t tell you anything about that alternative because I just wasn’t interested enough to go the extra mile. I’m learning to live with assault on my eyes.
I know for sure that this is not a problem with the WordPress platform and I would be willing to bet that none of the other platforms have this problem either. What I would advise you to do is to be patient and spend as much time as possible exploring all platforms thoroughly before committing to any one. Take advantage of their free trials by creating some dummy sites so that you could see exactly what you would be paying for. Don’t be like me and make payments for 3 years in advance, only to realize you’re not 100% happy with what you paid for. Or you can just save your money and call the professionals.
This article was first published in the Pepperpot magazine of the Sunday Chronicle newspaper on July 24, 2016. Click on the link to be redirected to their website: