When my wife and I decided that we'd try to "go professional" with her art (which, by the way, simply means spending a lot of money so you can show your art to more people :P), there were two things that I believed were necessities. The art booth, which I spoke of a few posts ago, being one and a website being the other.
I like to think of myself as being a thoroughly self-sufficient and capable person. What this usually means is that I often find myself tackling a task which I have absolutely no knowledge of. The website was one such task. Fortunately for me, even know I knew nothing about creating websites, I am good at using them so I spent the better portion of a week doing some research.
My first step was to find out how websites even make it to the web. After a bit of searching, I discovered that website must be "hosted", in other words, some other company stores your site on their servers which is then accessible via the internet. There are two ways that you can have a website hosted, either free or paid. As it turns out, the free ones aren't all that great if you want a professional looking website due primarily to ads.
Of course, before you decide on a hosting company, you've got to come up with a website name! This reminded me a bit of naming my son actually. We wanted something that was unique and memorable, but not wierd. Something fairly short and easy to write and say, but not too simple (we went with Elijah btw). Since my wife had already adopted a name for herself in her blog (which btw is http://www.watercoloredhands.wordpress.com/), it was a fairly simple matter to decide that it would make a decent website name as well. It may be important to note that a website name and a domain name are not necessarily the same thing. For example, my wife's website name is Watercolored Hands - Fine Art by Yevgenia Watts. We were fortunate in that we were able to get the same domain name as well - http://www.watercoloredhands.com/. Unfortunately, this may not always be the case but it is easy to find out if your desired name is available, just type the one you want into the address bar of your browser. You can also go to a domain name search which can tell you not only if watercoloredhands.com is taken, but also watercoloredhands.org, .net, .biz, etc.
A few things to keep in mind when choosing names are:
-Don't make it too long or obscure! You want people to be able to easily remember it.
-Don't use strange spellings. As cool as it is, most people will try the normal spelling of something first (ie. fish vs phish)
- Avoid special characters. They are often easy to forget.
- If you use plurals, articles or possesives, make sure you promote your site using the entire name (ie. theartistshusband.com vs ArtistsHusband)
- Try to get the .com version of your domain name. Though the other extensions are no longer exclusive (a .org site doesn't have to be an organization anymore), most people will naturally try .com first.
- Here is a link to The Site Wizard which gives many more tips and explanations.
When it comes to paid hosting, there are a TON of options. Eventually, I decided on the company http://www.inmotionhosting.com/ due to their high reviews and relatively low cost - about $120 for the year in our case. There are a number of things that you want to look for, the biggest ones that I can see are "up-time" and customer service availability. Up-time is simply the amount of time that your site is available for viewing (once is created and uploaded that is). Inmotion boasts an up-time of 99.9%, meaning that your website will be available 99.9% of the time. Apparently, anything less than 99.8% is sub-par and you should look elsewhere. Inmotion also offers 24/7/365 customer service which is a must. Think of it this way: if your site goes down Friday evening for some reason, do you really want to miss out on an entire weekend's worth of sales because your hosting provider only has 5 day customer service? There are a number of other features that are too innumerable to list but look at the options for a few of your top picks and see if anything is a must-have for you.
Now that you have you domain name hosted, its time to create! I'll be talking about this stage in the website-building process in a future blog so keep an eye out :)