As someone who uses your website, allow me to point out why it's not working for you.
The first time I go to your website is when you point me to it as part of your application to our festival or club. That's when I want to find out who you are, where you're from, what other people are saying about you and your achievements, and see or hear a few clips. Most of you get this much right, but the trick is to give a good overview with a few salient words and images: I should not have to keep digging down through pages and links to glean a complete picture.
The second time I go to your website is when we've booked you and I need some sensible copy and print-quality photographs. I'm looking for links that say Press or Bio or EPK (electronic press kit). This is where even the most seasoned touring artists fall down. Often what I find is a rambling history of the artist, punctuated by name-dropping lists of famous people they've played with, played for, been on the bill with or once met backstage.
When I design a website, be it for an artist, venue or festival (disclaimer: I'm not a graphic designer - I secure those services from the professionals), these are the key points I observe:
- Title or name as the heading. (You might think this is obvious, but some websites eliminate it in favour of some clever graphic.)
- Byline. A pithy, quotable sentence that describes you.
- A 40 - 80 word paragraph that says what you do. (Get someone to write this for you if you're squeamish about self-promotion.) Imagine this as the blurb about you in a programme or a newspaper article.
- Link to a biography page. This should contain a list and description of personnel (if it's a band) and a short timeline of your accomplishments. The key to writing a good bio is to make each paragraph complete in itself so that at the end of any given paragraph it makes good sense. This is so that someone (me) wanting to get promotional copy about you can select one, two or three paragraphs to fill the available space without having to rewrite it.
- At least two or three up-to-date digital photographs at high resolution (behind thumbnails for selecting) for use in the print media. Each should be 2Mb or greater. Have at least one in portrait and one in landscape. It's worth paying a professional photographer.
- Entry homepage. "Welcome to my website, Click to enter." is an annoying waste of time. Get all the relevant information in front of the viewer immediately (hence fast loading).
- Homepages that are insider oriented. Too many websites are designed for fans and people that already know them and don't provide information for the first-time visitor.
- A Facebook page is not a substitute for a website. Social networking is ideal for keeping up buzz and information among your fans and promoting your next gig. It is not particularly useful for definitive information or as a repository for promotional resources. Make sure your Facebook page links to your website (and vice versa).
- The dead website. Nothing looks worse than an abandoned website, where the last blog entry was 2006 or where there are spammy entries in the comments (Aunty hates it too and will push you down the search pages as punishment.). It's ok for your website to be static (non-interactive) as long as it's accurate and up-to-date.
- Pages that scroll sideways. Total fail. And keep all the most important information 'above the fold' - don't make the reader have to scroll down until they're fully engaged.
- Text information as an image. It might look pretty but I can't copy the text - unless that was your point in the first place.
The key thing is to make it immediately obvious to the visitor who you are, what you do and how to contact you in a single hit and then easy navigation to fuller media content after that. Everything else is superfluous.
Dedicated to Louise who is trying to put the festival programme together.