Making your Website a Masterpiece

It’s all about the audience 

According to Reddish, “writing successful web content doesn’t start with typing words. It starts with finding out about your audience and their needs.” So, in order to make a successful website, we must understand our audience. To do this, we must focus on who’s coming and why. We must “let go” of our words, and start using words that mean something to our audience. Helpful strategies to accomplish this is to list your major audiences and gather and define characteristics, questions, tasks, and goals. Focusing on the audience and their needs will enable you to better develop your website.

Connecting with the Homepage:  

GIving your website a great home page allows your audience to find what the need, and act based on the understanding they achieve. Redish outlines five functions crucial to maintaining a successful homepage:

  • Identifying the site and establishing a brand
  • Setting a tone and personality
  • Providing a sense of what the site is about
  • Letting people start key tasks immediately
  • Sending people in the right direction efficiently

Homepage Case Study: Jen Ramos’ Cocoa and Hearts

To exemplify the features of a successful website, let’s look at artist Jen Ramos and her website, Cocoa and Hearts and see if it reflects the five functions.

1. The site clearly is clearly defined with the name “Cocoa and Hearts” and tagline “Orginal Art by Jen Ramos.” The audience can clearly identify the brand of the site, especially the way her artwork comes to represent her logo, specifically by putting her famously bright and colorful brushstrokes by the tagline.

2. The artist successfully sets the tone and personality of the site through consistent style, color, typography, and writing style. The text is typically a light brown or black, and the main typing is a georgia/times new roman font, with cursive header links. The simple text is a nice contrast to the brightly colored paintings

3. The homepage provides a sense of what the site is about by establishing it’s an art website where the audience can buy art and learn more about the artist. These aspects are made clear with header links and social media links to the right. She also provides this sense with a slideshow of her work, which quickly shows the style of her work to the audience.

4. The homepage allows viewers to start key tasks immediately. The links quickly direct the audience to what they are coming for and, make it easily accessible. The viewer can quickly click to the gallery, blog, etc. The homepage also has a box for the viewer to add themselves to a mailing list.

5. The website is also great about sending people in the right way efficiently. The artist does this best by using your visitors’ words throughout her website, and creating good, recognizable links for them to click on. As a result, the audience has a clear understanding of how to navigate the homepage.

Learning from Lulie Wallace’s Website

What’s most important when analyzing a website? In “Online Editing, Designing, and Publishing,” Carroll presents a general guideline to follow when managing a website. Understanding and adhering to an approach similar to Carroll is crucial for today’s “content producer.” This especially holds true for artists. The new opportunities brought by media convergence invite artists to showcase their work in novel ways. However, “getting it right” is also a challenge.

“Each and every element on a Web page should be scrutinized”–Brian Carroll

With every element in web design and editing held up to criticism, Carroll’s guidelines become an invaluable tool. His approach encompasses three crucial components:

  • Identifying with your readers
  • Clear and consistent structure and organization
  • Edit, edit, edit!

These can be demonstrated through the website of Lulie Wallace, who paints the beautiful and funky flowers always being pinned on pinterest.

Lulie Wallace’s Popular Flower Paintings

Case Study: Lulie Wallace

Carroll argues we must be concerned about the readers need. To have a successful website you must know and reach out to your readers. I think Lulie achieves this through her blog, which is directed at her audience. This shows who the artist is behind the paintings.

Second, Carroll emphasizes the importance of developing content that is organized and easy to navigate. The reader must have a clear sense of how to get through the page. A key way to accomplish this is through consistency, especially in headlines and in templates. Lulie best does this through her flowers, which is what she primarily sells. Her audience can expect that in her work, but it’s also a design element on her website, which ties it all together. I also like how she uses the same fonts throughout the page. Her homepage is clearly organized with her name in large letters, and smaller headlines to lead to different links. This offers a clear and readable structure for the viewer.

Lastly, Carroll stresses the importance of editing; editing content, structure, navigation, links, writing, and visual design. In other words, everything. This can best be achieved by editing content in chunks at a random order as if you were a first time viewer. This “culture of editing” includes proof reading content for spelling and grammatical errors and analyzing the flow of stories. However, since Lulie only has a tumblr, she is limited on how much she can text. Do you think this hinders the success of her website? Or do you find its visual orientation satisfying? Would incorporating multimedia would enhance her website as well? If so, how can artists incorporate this?

Citizen Journalism: the Arts Edition

The Modern Journalist

In his chapter “We the People: Citizen Journalism,” Brian Carroll outlines how the influx of citizen journalism and new technologies have created a modern journalist in place of the traditional one. The traditional function of journalists is to “gather and share information,” but they are now additionally being asked to be what Carroll calls “jacks of many trades.” As such, journalists are expected to be more than just writers, but content producers.

At the same time, these journalists must separate themselves from participatory citizen journalists. Citizen journalism has changed the way we recieve and send information: the more we participate, the more engaged we are in the process. Therefore, this participatory journalism allowed by novel forms of social media proves to encompass invaluable benefits.

The Response of News Sites

News sites take different approaches in responding to these citizen journalists. For example, CNN creates “i-reports” in an effort to include these journalists, but segregate them from their professional journalists. This allows a wider range of depth and participation in their content. News sources also turn to interactive features, mobile trends, and social media devices to further reach out to their audience.

Let’s take a look at how the art world has transitioned to the influx of citizen journalists. To analyze this, I analyzed the ArtsJournal website. Though, in my opinion, the organization is extremely cluttered, the site seems to conform to CNN’s i-reports model of segregating these citizen journalists with their AJ Blogs section. As with CNN, this includes these bloggers to expand their content but still maintains a distinction from their professional journalists. I think citizen journalism greatly enhances the content of such websites as it allows readers to interact and get the opinions from everyday citizens.

Though they do include a section for bloggers, ArtsJournal seems to be a poor example of utilizing interactive features, mobile trends, and social media devices. How would Carroll argue that features would enhance their website? Because, as a whole, it seems other art news sources are behind on delivering information the same way in which other media sources do. With so much of art valued locally, how do you think organizations such as art galleries make themselves more attractive with Carroll’s idea of hyperlocal news?

This Week in Greenville Arts: Open Studios

This coming weekend (November 3rd-4th) Greenville’s Metropolitan Arts Council (MAC) is putting on an exciting event for all you art lovers out there called Open Studios. This weekend long event will open the studios of 140 local artists to the public. showcase artists as they work in their studios. Now in its eleventh year, Greenville Open Studios showcases the artistic talents across Greenville, and allows the community to see them on a more personal level as they work in their studios.

An advertisement for Open Studios in Town Magazine

The hours of Greenville Open Studios 2012 will be:
Saturday, November 3, 10am – 6pm
Sunday, November 4, Noon – 6pm.
Friday, November 2, 6pm – 9pm (select artists)

With the artists spanning all across Greenville, MAC has created a Greenville Open Studios App so art lovers can easily locate and learn about different artists. The app will enable the artists to be more accessible to the community.