What?! Using your fridge to improve your website? For musicians struggling with website design, I’ve got 4 actions steps to help you create a more compelling site. And yes, one of these includes a large kitchen appliance.
Website angst is common among musicians. Been there, done that.
I struggled for months before writing new copy, getting new photos taken, and getting help on the design of my site from the terrific Suzanne Bird-Harris.
But then after it’s finally done, it’s never finished, right? You need to update it regularly, and consider even better ways to tell your story and help visitors connect.
Instead of pulling out our hair, worrying and procrastinating over website design issues, here’s an alternative. I’ve got 4 action steps to help you arrive at your own authentic and compelling site.
But first a couple of points on what NOT to do.
DON’T fixate on another musician’s website. If you model yours on a “hero’s” site yours will look like a knock off, a wanna-be. Instead, you need to dig deep and communicate who you really are.
DON’T hire a web designer / developer and turn over all the decision making to that person. It’s another big mistake. Unless you want a generic site that looks profession but indistinguishable from a gazillion others, then go right ahead.
But if you want a site that conveys the real you, and speaks directly to your audience, you need to do much more. YOU are the person who needs to choose the look, colors, fonts, photos, menu, and architecture. Sure, you want to get expert help and perspective, but the content, inspiration, copy, concept, and brand message all have come from you—what you have articulated, chosen, and clarified.
I’ve helped many musicians hone their messages through their website and other marketing materials. It’s a fascinating discovery process. At its core, it’s about aligning your messaging with your purpose. Here are 4 action steps to get you started:
1. Clarify the authentic “YOU” you want to present online.
This isn’t about the air-brushed, glamorous, fantasy version of yourself you imagine. This is the REAL you—at your best. Write down 5-6 adjectives of who that person is. (My words, when I was re-thinking my site were: direct, kind, witty, smart, creative, and intuitive. That’s what I wanted my messaging to convey about my work through my site—through my photos, text, graphics, blog, videos, etc). What are YOUR words?
2. Think of two stories that illustrate your WHY (and your HOW).
These stories may show up in some version of your “about,” “projects,” or “teaching” pages. They may explain how you got hooked on music, or how and why your ensemble came together, or what the most rewarding performance or teaching experience you’ve ever had was like. But no matter what, these stories should inform what you choose to put on your site: telling the reader about your mission and how you work. For more on finding your WHY see HERE.
3. Make a vision board.
With a clear sense of what you want to communicate, gather a bunch magazines. Grab your scissors and start cutting out images, words, or phrases, that remind of you of you doing your best work.
Seth Godin, in his amazing marketing seminar (best online course I’ve EVER taken), recommends cutting out “the things you look like, the words you sound like, the images that bring to mind the things you want to bring to mind.” Paste them on a big poster board or cover a wall with them.
To do this, you’ll have to make clear choices of what you like in terms of colors, fonts, words, brands, and focus. Choose what resonates most with you. Seth says, “you can’t pick both earth tones and primary colors” and “you can’t pick Jennifer Aniston AND J.D. Salinger. Which one is it?” You should end up with something that clarifies the specifics of your preferences.
4. Find a model site outside of music.
Seth says, find “somebody who does something unrelated to what you do. But who does it in a way that you would be proud to do it. Who has a look, a feel, an architecture, and an approach that reminds you of you when you are your best version of yourself.”
FYI: the site that inspired my site redesign was neither music nor career-consulting related. It was a writing coach’s site that I found by chance. I found it terrifically direct and engaging, streamlined and personal. Thinking outside my discipline helped me to see new possibilities for how I might communicate about what I offer.
Once you’ve found an exemplary non-music site that inspires you, print the pages out. To make things easier, Seth suggests using a color printer and the special flexible magnetic paper (find it at Staples and Amazon). Cut out the images, highlights, and menu items you want and move them around using your fridge as your canvas to experiment with layout. Then add to it the words and concepts from your vision board exercise to make a rough draft of your new site.
With this design draft and your text and photos ready, you are in a much better place to find an affordable web designer (or a student) to build your site from your blueprint.This doesn’t have to cost a bundle.
Whatever platform you use, make sure you learn how to make the updates yourself.
The key work on most musicians’ websites isn’t technical. It’s clarifying the message you actually want to communicate. Take the time to clarify your message so you end up with a site that reflects who you really are as a musician and as a person.
Want more tips? They’re HERE.
This week: do a vision board for your freelance work, your ensemble, or your teaching studio. There’s something about cutting paper and making a collage that liberates our inner third grader. Through images and metaphors it connects us to our natural creative energy.
Looking forward to hearing from you:
Dream Big, Plan Smart. Live Well!