5 Tips for Launching Your Personal Website

Jan 14, 2009

You need to have a website, Jean. I wonder how many times I heard that before I actually did something about it. It wasn’t that I didn’t want a website. The reality was that I just didn’t know where to begin. The whole thing seemed so daunting and costly that I chose instead to become Cleopatra, Queen of D’Nile.

Are you in that same “ignore it and maybe it’ll go away” boat? If you have a jewelry-related business you really can’t hide from the fact—you need to develop a website. And don’t just take it from me. Bead business pro Viki Laureau says in her book Marketing and Selling Your Handmade Jewelry:

"Why have a website? I think every artist needs at least a one-page website, the same as they should have business cards and postcards."

In her book, Viki shares a bulleted list of “must have” features for any jewelery maker’s website—invaluable as you build your site. (And while you’re at it, read through the rest of the book because you’ll soon find out it’s a wonderful go-to guide as you develop your jewelry business!)

I finally put together a website that works for me. It’s not the shimmering portal of artistic perfection I’d originally envisioned, but it works great as a communication tool, which is what I need most at this point in my beading career. That was my first lesson about websites: The best thing about them is they are truly “living” documents that can be altered and expanded as your needs change.
 
As I’ve developed my website I’ve had lots of other lessons, too. Here are 5 more that I hope prove helpful as you build your own website:

1) Do your Homework.
The best way to know what you want on your site is to look at other sites, so surf, surf, surf. Research beading websites, but also check out other craft sites. What attracts you? What turns you off? How do you navigate from page to page? Take notes, make sketches, and do thinking maps. Then narrow your search to websites that are similar to the one you envision for yourself. Bookmark these pages for future reference. Next, do some research on website hosts. What services are offered? How much is the fee? Will you be able to design your own site? What do the templates look like? Is there a shopping cart option?

2) Just Do It.
Don’t be like me, the victim of extreme expectations paired with a severe case of Ahsdragen disease, and wait for months or never publish a website at all because you want it to be perfect and fabulous the first time out. Even a simple page with your name, contact information, and a few examples of your work is better than nothing at all. Just get something up and then continue to work with the site like clay—molding it, adding to it, changing it, interacting with it.

3) Keep it Simple.
If you’re designing your own site from scratch, simplicity is key. The best sites I’ve seen from individual beaders are clean and crisp. Their navigation bar has only a handful of items and there isn’t a bunch of distracting borders or small, busy type. The photography is clear, on white or plain-colored background without too many props. I’ve tried to keep all those things in mind as I designed my site. 
 
Remember that you have a maximum of about 3 seconds to get your viewers’ attention, so make sure your most enticing beadwork is on your homepage. Give the viewer a reason to stick around and explore your site by offering plenty of visuals and text on subsequent pages.

4) Don’t Stress about the Design.
If you’re technologically and/or graphic design-challenged and aren’t up for designing your site from the ground up, take advantage of your web service provider’s many free templates. Most offer enough styles that you’ll find one you like, and many give very easy-to-follow suggestions on what type of information to put on which pages.

If you find you’re overwhelmed by the idea of getting a website going on your own, there are lots of web design services available. This is, of course, a more costly way to go, but for some people it’s worth it .One of the best ways to find this kind of service is to contact a site you really like that’s been designed by someone else. (Most web designers have their name at the bottom of the websites they’ve designed.) Once you contact the designer, ask lots of questions to find out what services they offer, such as site design, ongoing maintenance, shopping cart set up, etc. Be sure to get quotes and, most importantly, several references.

5) Keep it Updated.
If you want people to keep coming back to your site, be sure to give them a reason. Keep your product updated and make sure all the dates and photos are current. You may even want to start a blog to share tips, events, and news. 

Do you have more tips on getting your website up and running? Share them with everyone on Beading Daily!


Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks! 



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Comments

MarciaD@9 wrote
on Jan 14, 2009 12:03 PM
Great article and good advice!
on Jan 14, 2009 12:03 PM
As a website designer for almost as long as the Web has been around, I'll add this one: please don't ask a website designer to copy your copy and pictures into someone else's website design and call that your website. (The groan-inducing "I want a website JUST LIKE THAT.") Just like you wouldn't copy someone else's jewelry design, please don't ask a website designer to give you someone else's design, if it's not a template. You're worth original work, aren't you? There are website designers out there who will do that sort of thing. Please don't use them. You wouldn't want a customer of yours to have another designer copy your jewelry design for their customer. Please don't aid and abet that sort of thing either. I would also suggest this: use the lowest level technology you can be happy with and get the result you want to get. A Flash website with movies and all sorts of bells and whistles isn't usually necessary for most websites -- one can make a case (and people have) that all websites don't need them, but heck. Someone's got to be cutting edge. But it's probably not you. Haven't you ever surfed away from a website because you couldn't stand waiting for the darn Flash intro to finish loading, or ditched a site because there was no way to skip the freaking Flash intro? Don't let that be you. And, expanding on "keep it simple", don't let a designer, eager to fill out their portfolio, to give you a website with way more *stuff* on it than you need. A shopping cart that remembers what pages someone's already visited, and fancy tricks of programming that actually make things easy for the customer? Great -- you don't want anything stopping that sale if you can possibly help it. But if it's just for looks? -- skip it. Just my two cents!
Daethian wrote
on Jan 14, 2009 12:06 PM
I create simple starter websites as a side business. There are a lot of free hosting sites out there but your features are very limited. Choose a good web host so that your site can grow with your business and that has excellent customer service. I often find the biggest hurdle is people have no idea where to begin with securing a domain name and a webhost. Right now blogs are the easiest way to get your site up and running and keep it updated without any need to pay an outside person. There are several blogging formats that are free and are built in to your web hosting control panel. I'm happy to give advice to anyone interested in getting started or if you would like to hire me to get you up and running and introduce you to some easy ways to build your web traffic, just find me on the Beading Daily forum! I own and manage 12 of my own websites and can offer references from many other people I've created sites for.
on Jan 14, 2009 12:17 PM
Oh, and another thing about web hosts...take a look at the exchange rate between you and somewhere else. Basically, once you're on the Web, it doesn't matter where in the world you are. A lot of my clients in the UK and EU have opted to use a US host, if the exchange rate works out for them. The UK clients have particularly enjoyed a great exchange rate in the near past. Save a few pennies (or a lot of pennies) where you can. These days, that could make or break your business.
RhondaK@12 wrote
on Jan 14, 2009 12:21 PM
I was interested in seeing your website, Jean, but when I googled it, I got tons of stuff with your name (!), but no dedicated website. I just wanted to see what you had done, and to see how you addressed your needs/desires/problems, etc. on your own website. Maybe you could give the link in your next beadingdaily.com piece. =) Thanks.
on Jan 14, 2009 12:46 PM
Greetings Jean! How is it that you and the other creative souls at Beading Daily know exactly what I need to hear when I need to hear it!? I appreciate all your tips and very timely advice. I have Vicki Loreau's book and it is a really good one...which reminds me that I should get it out and re-read it as it is a new year, new goals. I would add this about web design....make sure that it is YOU that you are presenting and be consistent. I don't think those templates out there really give you the personality that you should portray. Your jewelry is as unique as you are, and your site should be too. I have seen several designers who have the exact same template. I tune out. I know that it can be a cost savings to go with a service that has 1000s to choose from, but in this day and age you really need to stand out and if you don' t have a web presence it is akin to not really having a company in the eyes of many potential clients. I would add that you need to make all your marketing fit the same pattern...logo, website, brochures, packaging, trade show booth, etc. There is nothing I dislike more than to get mixed messages from a company. I really liked the perspective of the web designers who chimed in. I would add that you need to research the company well and follow up on the references. Be wary of being taken advantage of (not that everyone is out to get you...just that I am in a bit of a web meltdown right now)....I am a sticky situation with the company I recently hired to do my site, based on the fact that my PR firm recently switched to them. They have since fired the entire web team, but not before they cashed my first installment check two days after releasing their entire web team. I am in the process of finding out where that leaves me, with a newly signed contract and out a chunk of money. Right now I feel a bit uneasy about it. I will certainly be more careful and proactive the next time. I know that I will land on my feet and I will get that site programmed (I only have a splash page now), it just may take me a bit longer. I am ever hopeful... Great post Jean! Now....back to beading! Enjoy the day! Erin Prais-Hintz, Tesori Trovati Jewelry
ClayH@3 wrote
on Jan 14, 2009 12:55 PM
Tip # 6 Make sure to include a hyperlink to Beading Daily!
vickythunt wrote
on Jan 14, 2009 12:55 PM
Hi Jean. I was lucky in that I found a webdesigner to build my site who was just setting up his own web design business. He needed examples of his website designs to use to attract more business - so I got a great, original website at a fraction of the 'normal' cost because it was also being used as his 'advertising'! Fab post - very interesting. Have a good one........Vicky (Ginga Squid)
KirstenC@4 wrote
on Jan 14, 2009 2:08 PM
Don't forget...your PHOTOS will "make or break" you! As a beader, website owner and jewelry photographer, I HIGHLY recommend getting your image portfolio together FIRST! Nothing is more damaging to your hard earned website than to have it sit idle while visitors wait for photos of your work (and they won't wait long, meaning, they may never come back!). To get a head start on this, look up my article "3 Steps to Better Beadwork Photos" in the Beading Daily "Free Projects" section. Here's the link: http://www.beadingdaily.com/blogs/howto/archive/2008/06/30/3-steps-to-better-beadwork-photos.aspx After reading the article, practice getting crisp, clear shots of your beadwork, create a folder on your computer, and only put your final, resized images in this. Then, whether, you use a web designer or "do-it-yourself", you'll be able to quickly access your images as your site is being designed. If you have any questions, visit my BeadingDaily forum at: http://www.beadingdaily.com/forums/p/1193/5436.aspx#5436 Good luck!
asing wrote
on Jan 14, 2009 2:11 PM
Hey Jean, timely advice...one of the things on my long list!
EleanorJ@8 wrote
on Jan 14, 2009 2:18 PM
I found it, Rhonda! I had to go via Jean's blog though http://www.jeancampbellink.com/
CarlaH@15 wrote
on Jan 14, 2009 3:09 PM
i read that doing your home work before getting your own web site is important. i definitly agree with that. i have a web site now but i didnt do my home work and there were many nites of frustration of not knowing . i learned by trail and error. had i known more about what i was doing before i started i dont think i would have gotten so may gray hairs over it. also good clear pictures are a must. at firt my pics were not very clear, then a friend told me about Gimp, which is free on line. my pics have never looked so good. so if you need something to make your pics look good plz try gimp. its great. thx for all the wonderful advice from all the happy beaders out there. good luck to everyone in the new year. c-raes-jewlery-designs
on Jan 14, 2009 4:38 PM
Hi When thinking about building your own website think about this. You can go to http://lvs.com and for 20 dollars, an extra 5 for a certificate, you can take a 6 week course on learning CSS-Cascading Style Sheets. There are 3-4 classes in the series that start every 6-7 weeks and you'll never regret it. After your first class you can build a very decent website. That is up to date with the latest W3C.org rules and regulations for the web. It's very simple and you will learn so much. If your going to invest in a website, invest in yourself and your knowledge first. This will give you more control over your future, your business and you'll feel absolutely great about it! Plus you can scan your certificate which comes in the mail all caligraphied and cool and show it off on your site. p.s. tell em I sent you!! love to all Becky
Natashja wrote
on Jan 14, 2009 8:21 PM
Jean, this is great! I was actually thinking about how could I get started with my website, it's part of my New Year's resolution. I've read the book and I found it to be a very helpful tool in this journey of mine. Also, I'd like to suggest another tip. Now-a-days social media is crucial to your business. Start a group on Facebook (or any of the other sites Twitter, My Space, etc.), it will do wonders. They're available to anyone in the FB community and it's great for spreading the word around and bringing in new customers. Becky S, I copy/paste the link you posted on the 6 week website course; however it returned an error. Can you re-post it? Best, N
RomaJane wrote
on Jan 14, 2009 8:24 PM
Thank you Becky, this is what I need. I'm not ready for a web site and this time but I hope in the future I would be. I just tried that site and nothing came up, can you give me more info on the site so I can research? Thanks Roma
on Jan 14, 2009 8:55 PM
http://www.lvsassociates.com/register/index.php?cPath=5_28 I'm so sorry it's lvsonline.com copy and paste the link above and it will take you to the course menu for your css classes. You need to start with Build 1. It's really fairly easy there are 6 lessons and 6 weeks to complete them. It's all online. Sign up for the emails and they will send you a message every 6 weeks or email them and Vicki will help you. It's so much fun to build your own site when you can code it by hand and you will take such pride in it and what you have accomplished. Follow all the way through the 4 classes and you will be a professional web builder at the end of all 4. Thank you for your interest in my post and good luck. Don't forget have fun with it! Because LVS is the best, cheapest most up to date place to learn coding for web pages. Let me know how it went and post your links to your homework here so we can see them. Many Hugs Becky
on Jan 14, 2009 9:06 PM
http://www.lvsassociates.com/register/index.php?cPath=5_28 I am so sorry Roma and Natashja copy and paste this link. It will take you to the menu for the css classes you need to start with Build 1. There are 4 total all done online. The most up to date web coding at a very nominal price. At the end of Build 1 you can build a very nice website and as you progress through each class you can add to it. There are 6 lessons in each course and you have 6 weeks to complete them. It is not really that hard there is just a lot of memorization but there is also lots and lots of help. There is a Teacher/monitor and a bulletin board to post question. Good Luck to all of you! Please post your homework assignments so we can see how your doing. Please tell them Becky Sladky sent you so I can get credit on my next class. Also they work with Corel and many other computer program companies and you can get a significant student discount on lots and lots of programs. If you have any questions email them they are very friendly and helpful and Vicki is great! Sign up for their emails and they will tell you when the next class starts. I'm babbling now I'm so excited for your new adventure. This will help you grow significantly and in the end help your business grow also. And in the end that's what it's all about isn't it! Hugs to all, good luck Living and Breathing Jewelry Becky S
RomaJane wrote
on Jan 14, 2009 9:45 PM
Thank you Jean, Becky and evreyone for all the information post today. It has been great read all comments posted. I found the site, thank you Becky; for now I am going to research the site and see about starting classes in the spring or summer. I will mention you name! Roma
MonikaP@6 wrote
on Jan 15, 2009 2:16 AM
Have you ever heard about Joomla (http://www.joomla.org)? It is open-source CMS, which can be learn on-line for free and it is really easy. I have manage to start building my own website www.extrano.pl after a few hours of on-line learning. I'm not professional, programist or so. There are a lot of templates, useful extentions. I cvan also agree with the first advice: do your homework before you start creating the website. It makes the whole process faster and more fruitful. Extrano
lindalton wrote
on Jan 15, 2009 5:16 AM
Hi! My son designs and hosts websites, and specializes in helping artists/small businesses develop a look and feel that showcases their unique talents. His content management system is magically easy to use - no need to learn any code or anything - so you can keep everything fresh and current all by yourself (any time of day or night). Check it out at: aimedia.biz Here's to a beautiful website in 2009!
Sue Green wrote
on Jan 15, 2009 8:55 AM
How interesting to read all these comments from people going through this experience. I started with my own website exactly a year ago, put it together myself with hosted web space, and was quite happy with it. 6 months on however I needed bigger and better and took the plunge to get it redone by professionals. It did of course cost money but I reckon that it still cost less than say getting a professional brochure printed, and it is my little shop front, and I love it. I'm in the UK and I used W3 website design, Lee Ann there understood my business needs really well. And my website is www.suegreenjewellery.co.uk - have a look and let me know what you think! Sue
on Jan 15, 2009 9:21 AM
Great article ! I have one little piece of advice regarding updating. Save your potential customers and yourself a whole lot of aggravation by deleting sold out items. Unless there's a good reason to keep them on the site, I suggest removing them. You'll just frustrate customers by showing them what they can't have. In fact, I better take my own advice and get back to work ! Best regards, Ellen DiGiovanni Splendor In The Glass www.splendorintheglass.net
JulianaT wrote
on Jan 15, 2009 2:39 PM
I have been meaning to update my website for a very long time. After I read this I decided to finally do it. My site is hosted on Yahoo and they have incredible software for you to make your own website. In two hours I had completely done over my site to look way better than the old one, all by myself, and for free. Take a look at www.julianacreations.com
MaureenR@12 wrote
on Jan 16, 2009 12:44 PM
My business website was built using templates. One thing I would suggest is , if you want to try to use yourself, look around for a service that offers a lot of flexible packages. We started with a package that cost $3.00 a month and as the business has grown, we have changed packages. We now pay $10.00 a month. but this is like 4 packages later. We use oneandone.com. It was suggested by a developer friend. I am not a programmer but was able to use the templates. Our goal is to eventually use a web developer, but this gave us something we could use and that wouldn't bankrupt us. This is a link to our website. www.rrcreationsjewelry.com . It's not real slick, but it does the job.
Hannah@44 wrote
on Jan 19, 2009 9:35 AM
What a wonderful article! Having put up my own website while knowing nothing about web design, I can tell you that a little bit of HTML knowledge goes a long way. There are also plenty of open source (read "free") shopping carts out there that make building a site really easy. Zen-cart is a great one; OS-Commerce is bigger and more powerful. There are also plenty of free scripts out there to help you create slideshows, hit counters, fancy cursors and the like. Just do a search for them on your favorite engine. All you have to do is copy and paste. The site you use to find your scripts will tell you exactly what to do. If you want to see a few of the possiblities, go to my website: www.anbeadsjewelry.com. There's all sorts of little things that I picked up and incorporated- especially on my front page.
KarenC@129 wrote
on Jan 20, 2009 2:02 PM
I believe that having your own site is important. Not just for selling - I got a book contract and a few interviews because of my site. My background is computer science, although at this point I'm retired and spend my time beading! I have a page on the web to describe my opinion on how to get better ranking in the search engines. Check it out at: http://www.kcenamels.com/HTML_Info Also, if you have someone else do the site for you, take note of two problems you have to be aware of: 1) if they register a domain name for you, BE SURE they register the name under YOU, not them. some people are not too ethical 2) Be sure to sign a contract that YOU own the design and pages that they develop, not them. And part of the deal should be that after the site is up and running, that they give you a CD with all the files for the site - both the site itself and the source code files for the graphics that were developed. The source code files are important incase you need updates. For example: if you have fancy navigation buttons, suppose you need a new one. if you don't have the source code files, then the design has to be reconstructed which will cost you more money, if it can even be reproduced. hope this helps
on Jan 26, 2009 2:42 PM
This has been the most interesting forum. I am going to investigate a few of the things mentioned. My website was developed and hosted for free with www.synthasite.com. The free development tool works like publishing software. All you do is click and drag text and/or picture elements to where you want them. Fantastically easy to use. You can see my result at www.jubeadilation.synthasite.com
Sharon@356 wrote
on Jan 27, 2009 12:53 PM
WOW! I just got thru reading the bulf of the entries on this forum. How interesting. I have taken a lot of notes and I have a lot to check on. I have been wanted to set up my own website and had no idea where to start. Thanks to everyones help I now have some much needed information. This blogging is fairly new to me. I have been missing out on a lot! Thanks for all the great info.
kevin34 wrote
on Feb 15, 2010 11:55 AM

First of all thanks a lot for the great and informative entry. I have to admit that I am very interested in all advices related with websites launching so reading this your post I have noticed some new information related with this sphere. Well I have just started to work in the web development company that's why I am very interested in it.  Well Your advices are really great and I think that it is suitable for all people. There are the main thing if we want to have a great website. Thanks a lot one more time for the useful information and I will be waiting for more good news from you in the nearest future.

Regards, Kevin Patton from <a href="www.azoft.com/">web application development</a>