24 Feb 2011

Domain Names: Why Artists Should Own One

Posted by Moshe Mikanovsky

This article was published on FineArtViews blog on February 10, 2011

Domain Names: Why Artists Should Own One

by Moshe Mikanovsky

This article  is by Moshe Mikanovsky, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  An emerging artist searching his way in the art world, he loves to share what he learns.  With over 20 years of technology experience, Moshe combines his technological background and his passion for the arts with the goal of “working his dream”.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

I have been in touch recently with a talented artist who also curates art shows all over the world. I am not going to mention his name, as my position is not to slander him in any way, but rather to give an example of what you should not do and what we can learn from that. For the sake of our story, let’s call him John.

To promote his art, many artistic projects and shows he has curated, John had used, for many years, an old fashioned page posting system that was still lacking what the current generation of website had. Some of the problems of this system included:

  • Ads and banners that were not in the control of the website creator
  • Unappealing page formatting
  • Inconsistency between pages
  • Very long page download time
  • Every link, even between pages created by John, opened a new web browser window
  • Terrible page names that could not be remembered by anyone

The one bottom line of the system was that it was a free system. John spent $0 investing in the site. As for time spent updating and creating all these pages, I am sure John spent many hours on this. But dollar-wise, he kept it to the minimum.

Since I was about to launch a new project with John, I tried to diplomatically tell him that if we do work together, I would like him “to do something” about his website. I believed that associating myself professionally with another artist who does not see the value of a proper website presence, one that will not only convey the message clearly – who you are and what your art is all about – and also be visually appealing, would actually decrease my own credibility. It might be the perfectionist in me or just me trying to help him see how spending a few dollars on a proper site can benefit him professionally. After all, as artists, we are striving for visual solutions and any visual output you put out there, one that bears your name, represents you.

At the time, I thought that John’s reaction to my gentle nudge was a bit stand-offish. And his contact with me also became close to none, with our mutual project on hold. I must say that it went that direction because of many other reasons. I sure hope it was not my gentle suggestion that caused it.

My proof is that a few weeks ago, he actually did launch a new website! Mazel Tov! I was very excited for him when he announced it on his favorite social network. And immediately I “liked” it and went to check it out.

So, first of all – much improved! The site is finally consistent and much more 2011 then 1995! No more lengthy pages that the most used feature on them is the scroll-wheel, a way better layout and decipherable page names, names that actually include words and not just a bunch of numbers. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can now be done, where before the page names had nothing to do with John or his art.

But then, I noticed the Google AddSense ads throughout the site, including the Home page, and not in an off-to-the-side location, but prominently in the middle of the page. And looking more closely at the website address, I see that, yet again, John opted to use a free service to build his new site. Although he obtained his own customized address, using his full name, the domain – a name (such as “canvoo.com“) of a service, website, or computer – is NOT his own, but it is the free service’s domain. For example, if the free service’s domain is “i-am-a-free-service.com”, and the home page for the services could be “www.i-am-a-free-service.com”, then John’s site is “johnfullname.i-am-a-free-service.com”.

Bear in mind, that most free services might not have such an in-your-face domain name announcing to everyone that they are free, possibly making it more appealing for people to use. But they are still the same. Free. So what is the problem with that?

Here are some of the problems I have seen and they all boil down to control:

  • When you build your online presence, you do not ever want to give control over your online presence to someone you do not know.  You have no idea how well they will maintain their business, and therefore, your free website. When they go down, your service will go down with them.
  • Part of building online presence is creating links from other sites to yours. The more links you have, the better chances to rate higher on search engines. If you spend years to build these links and the free service provider decides to close shop or rename their domain, you lose everything you have worked for.
  • Your online presence is to promote yourself as an artist and your artwork. You want to promote yourself, not to promote a free website hosting service.
  • You want to have control over the content. If you wish to be an affiliate of any 3rd party, including Google, and host ads on your site, it is your decision and you should be the one making a few bucks (or even more) from this, not the host provider of your site.
  • In addition, putting generic Google Ads on the Home page of your site diminishes the site appeal and the professionalism of the owner.
  • The tools that the free services will offer you are usually quite generic and might not fit the artist’s website. There are ways to show your artwork in the best light and these sometimes can only be done in sites that were developed more specifically for that, or alternatively, by a website designer who has experience building working sites for artists.

There are many reasons why not to use a free service. But there might be free services out there that will give you what you need. It is up to you to determine. What you should check is this:

  • Can you use your own domain? Purchase your domain name and use it instead of one given to you by the host service (with their domain).
  • Can you backup the website?
  • How portable will the backup will be? If the host service will shut down, can you easily port your pages to another provider or not.
  • Who controls free ads? Do you have any control over it?
  • How flexible are the tools to build the site? Are they easy to learn and can you achieve with them everything you need for a proper website?

These questions should be asked also when using pay-for service. One such excellent service is FASO. I recommend it wholeheartedly (even though I have built my own website, but that is another story…)

My bottom line is this – Artists, own your domain name today. You owe it to yourself.

Cheers

Moshe

P.S. I had written in my blog sometime ago, what artists should learn from Boundless Gallery closing down, a real life situation that happened in March 2010, where many artists lost all their hard-worked for online presence over night.
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4 Responses to “Domain Names: Why Artists Should Own One”

  1. Ok, so don’t laugh… yet. Let me explain! I wound up here because I’ve been going crazy trying to choose a domain name. I am an artist and designer. Every domain name that makes sense for me and my business (even ones I’m not thrilled about) are already taken! I wanted either upchurch.com (because my husband is a creative as well) or heatherupchurch.com. The former is taken by a company and the latter is taken by some infomercial doctor. Extremely let down with that last one on so many levels. :)

    My next choice was my business name: Art & Design Studios. Every variation of this name is taken… but it most clearly defines the work I do and I’ve used it for many years so I hate to change it up now.

    I was advised to never to settle for a .net, which made sense to me because I always type .com first myself…. and I don’t want my clients accidentally going to the hideous site that the good “doctor” owns. Anything else I choose will be completely unrelated or WAY too long.

    Do you have any suggestions or advice? I suppose a .net would be better than the other options, but I’m not loving the idea at all. I’d love to know your thoughts!

    Thank you in advance! :) Heather

    Heather UpChurch
    Art & Design Studios
    http://www.flickr.com/artanddesignstudios

     

    Heather UpChurch

  2. Hi Heather,

    Yes, sometime it can be a challenge to find the right domain…. And even if you get one that makes sense, as time goes by, you might come up with something even better, but then you already established some of your online presence…

    How about UpchurchArt.com or UpchurchArts.com (the last one in plural since it will be for both you and your husband)? You can always do also with hyphen, like Upchuch-Art.com if you don’t like it attached…
    I checked, and they are all available. Also ArtUpchurch.com is available….

    You are right that the best domain should be a .com. I live in Canada, and many companies or people here have the .ca domains, which is Canadians, and my friends in Israel have the .co.il which is the Israeli domains, but to get the best international exposure, I would try to go with .com. And in any case, you can always have as many domains as you want (.com, .net, .org, .ca etc) and direct all of them to the same place, which will your main one….

    Hope this helps. Let me know what you ended up with.

    Cheers
    Moshe

     

    Moshe Mikanovsky

  3. Thank you so much, Moshe! I certainly will! :) Heather

     

    Heather UpChurch

  4. Moshe,
    I wonder if you could recommend a service that allows one to design and own one’s website at a reasonable cost. I am just starting up, the FASO basic plan is OK, but allows only 25 images to be included. Any tools you can suggest so that I can set up myself?

     

    Zsolt Orban

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