Just like everything else that we strive to do in our lives, our website should be authentic. It should truly represent who we are and what we believe in. However, one can be authentic but still miss the mark in terms of professionalism and functionality. The design should be you but in a more polished and professional sense. As creative individuals we sometimes have problems (I know I do) taking the business side of art seriously. We want to feel good about what we create and let it sell itself but unfortunately it rarely works that way. Your website should house your online portfolio, yes, but it can be so much more than that. Your artwork is only one facet of who you are as a creative professional.
This is not a web design 101 post. It is not a write up on layout, color theory, or hosting. I want to use this post to say a few words about how to make your site work for you. How to make sure your site isn't cookie cutter but instead speaks to who you are. This doesn't have to be overly complicated. It just takes a little thought and a little love.
Spirit in the Machine. I came up with this phrase while rocking my son to sleep one night. I was exhausted and trying not to fall asleep so I let my mind wander to my artwork and the book I was thinking about writing. Spirit in the Machine was a phrase that came to me that night and I was never able to get it out of my head. As a Digital Artist I use very clinical equipment but at the same time I insert my soul into everything I do, thus allowing my spirit to enter into the machine. Art is art, no matter what you use to make it, as long as the individual allows their true spirit to embody everything they do. Spirit in the Machine also references the corporeal / ethereal push and pull that I am constantly exploring in my work. The phrase seemed to sing to me on multiple levels.
I decided to buy the domain name, spiritinthemachine.com, instead of using my name. I wanted to individualize the site. I wanted to create an overarching message with the domain and I didn't feel my name did that. I suppose you could say I was creating a brand for myself. I created a key phrase that was built around my core beliefs. It mirrors my artistic line of investigation and speaks to my medium as well - perfect.
Digital Handmade was another phrase that kept rolling around in my head. I knew I wanted to incorporate that feeling into my site because I have always been very hands on with my digital work - whether it be through altering prints or bringing the feeling of tangible surface quality on screen, it is something that is present in all that I do. So I decided to use that as the name of my blog. It helped shape the focus of the blog and couples nicely with the ideals present in the initial phrase used to name the site.
I made sure to use a host that was going to be user friendly as I wanted to make sure it was easy for me to update the site. I don't have a lot of time to fuss around with coding or complicated user interfaces. I needed to keep things straight forward and use something that would allow for quick changes, easy access to apps and add-ons, and flexible design options. Everyone is motivated at first when they are creating their site, my goal was to find the motivation to keep it going!
I really enjoy updating my site and making it better day by day. This has not always been the case for me. This year my website has become one of my top priorities in terms of my professional artistic goals and it has paid off. Since redesigning and rethinking my approach to my site, I have gained opportunities to show my work, made sales, and have been able to really connect with a larger community of individuals then I ever have in the past.
Your site should be an extension of your voice. So, stop and listen to your current site for a minute and see if you are hearing any signals of distress. If so, don't panic, simply redirect the ship and come up with a new course of action. It takes a little investment up front but it is so worth the time. Let your website truly reflect you and you might be surprised just how far an individual voice can carry.