Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Web Hosting for Artist Websites

For years I have had a Dreamweaver built website that a web designer set up for me. I learned enough Dreamweaver to maintain and update it and redesign parts of it. But it was cumbersome and time consuming to update. If something went wrong with the script or programming, then I wouldn't always know how to fix it beyond cutting and pasting from another page and hoping the problem would disappear. Mostly it did. Sometimes it didn't. Until lately when I couldn't even upload changes.

Years ago I looked for a clean, free web host in order to set up a site for another artist who made small scale sculptures. I couldn't find anything I thought looked professional and minimal enough. When I looked at paid websites I still couldn't find anything decent. There seemed to be a hole in the market. I had an idea 10 years ago that this was a brilliant business opportunity if I could only find a web designer to work with me. Then I could design the layouts and they could do the programming. Now, 10 years later I actually need the website for myself and am surprised at what I find.

I read an excellent article in my web search written by a web designer. He maintained that there were only two places he would recommend a visual artist use: Wordpress and Squarespace. He wouldn't bother with any other. When I ask artists what they recommend it is always Squarespace that comes up. Both Wix and Weebly come up now and again too so I thought I would explore these as well. But I am sort of stuck on the idea of using Wordpress.org because it can be free and I would have 100% control.

I looked at Wix and Weebly to begin with as they were the last options on my list. They are both paid and I am not sure how easy and uniform they are to maintain an artist website with 10+ bodies of work. If I am going to pay, then I might as well use the one designed for artists (Squarespace). I crossed them both off my list despite thinking maybe I should build a website in each to test them all (I obviously don't know how much work that is).

Wordpress.org is my first option (not to be confused with Wordpress.com) and I found a free theme that seemed to do almost all of what I want. Responsive Theme: Hatch (see below).


So I download Wordpress.org and the Hatch template. I have two folders for each on my desktop which I open. I am looking at programming files in each. What is this? I have no idea what to do with them. Yes, I can watch videos and read tutorials and learn, but if I can't intuitively figure it out quickly, this likely will take up too much of my time. Besides, I need a new website finished in a month and my time is tight within that window.

I immediately go to Squarespace.com to check out much closer what they have to offer. The Avenue template is what I visually like the best. (see below)


What are my top goals for a website? 
-Clean, professional, minimal that can showcase my art and make it look really professional.
-Free if possible or almost free.
-Easy to use and possible for me to build and maintain myself.
-Somewhere I can port my domain to.
-A responsive site (it resizes for different devices and therefore does not get downgraded by Google search engine).

After choosing Squarespace I realise I also need some further things they offer:
-A built in Google Analytics.
-A built in Google search thingy (where you put in the key words and it makes the search engine work for you).
-An easy way to add galleries, videos, photos, etc..
-Web support.

Downside? 
-No domain email capacity. I signed up with Zoho Mail (free) and have just got all the kinks ironed out for IMAP/POP mail.
-Templates can be a bit limited, but for the sake of the ease of the rest, it is workable.
-It is not free. I am the consummate starving artist always looking for the cheapest. The good news is it is cheaper than my last hosting plan.

Would I recommend Squarespace? 
Quite frankly I think it is the only option out there for artists. It is what I would have liked to have come up with 10 years ago when nothing like this existed and there was that black hole in the market. But looking at what they have achieved, I would have had to give up my creative job in order to built such a successful empire. Go Squarespace! 

Most artists that I know hire web designers to set up their Squarespace website. But I am determined it must be easy to do myself. It takes me a good whole day to figure it all out, googling how to do things the template doesn't naturally do. But I do it and now I know how it works and I can control it and maintain it (and change templates anytime I want to). 

The price I figure is less than I was spending at my previous host (doteasy.com). Currently Doteasy holds my domains (michal.ca/michaltkachenko.com), Squarespace hosts my website (michal.ca), and Zohomail hosts my domain email (michal@michal.ca). 

Note: you can Google Squarespace voucher codes and get 10% off the first year. I did and I think I paid about $86 for the year on top of the domain. 

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