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Guest ChoralTech: I Have a Website, Now What?

Guest ChoralTech Blogger Seth Garrepy has taken us through why we need a website, and how to purchase one-- in the third and final part of this DIY Website Crash Course, Seth tells us what to do with it once we have one!

 
“I Have a Website, Now What?”
 
In the past two weeks, you have seen how easy it is to get your choir on Internet.  The how’s and why’s have begun to fill in, and what we’re going to look at this week will continue to polish the vision you’re creating.  The last topic from last week’s article dealt with the idea that WordPress (WP) is flexible and user-friendly.  I want to show you how easy it is to enter your website’s content into WP and how simple it can make it look professional using WP’s themes.
 
When you first log into your new WP site, you’ll be presented with the Dashboard, which is the hub of all site-building activities.  By way of overview, the left column will present you with the different tasks you can accomplish, while the right side of your browser will change its view depending on what task you are currently working.  Let’s say that you already had some content for a page about your choir and you wanted to create your first page about them.  By hovering over “Pages”, you are presented with another menu that allows you to add the first webpage.
 
Fig. 1
When entering your content, as seen in Figure 1, you’ll notice that it looks much like typing an email or working with Microsoft Word.  In fact, this is called “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG, pronounced “wissy-wig”).  Unsurprisingly, things look much the same in the editor as they will on the website, especially in terms of where things are placed on a page.  For example, if you place a picture in the center of a page, odds are it will be right there in the finished product.  You may have to tweak a little bit here and there, but I find WP’s editor intuitive.
 
At this point, I would encourage you to approach the development of your website’s content as you would a research paper.  Determine what kind of organization will tie your site together (ex. topical, chronological, etc.), make an outline where each of the Roman numerals of your outline represent pages (ex. I = Home, II = About Us, III = Concert Dates), and lastly fill in that outline with well-written content.  In a word processor, take each Roman numeral and write out verbatim what you want to say on each page.  I find that the design process becomes more fluid when you can just plug in your content by copying it, rather than trying to focus on creating your content and making the presentation look nice.
 
At some point during the content creation process, you will want to start thinking about what your website will look like.  You may already have a few “model” sites in mind, whether it’s the Met Opera or the UPenn Glee Club.  Use these models as a springboard that you can draw ideas from.  A good exercise is to make a short list of adjectives that captures your model’s essence and then pattern your site’s look and feel to match those adjectives.  Do you want your site to feel minimalist and clean, or do you want it to feel old-timey and classic?  In the old days, it used to take quite a bit of effort to create a unified look and feel for the whole website.  Fortunately, WP makes this ordeal a non-event.  The act of changing the look and feel of the entire site is called theming, which is what we will look at next.
WP’s theming is very easy to use.  Themes are bundles of instructions that WP uses to change how your website looks and acts.  Themes can be free, but many of the good ones are not.  Some are as cheap as $5-10, while some can run you quite a bit more.  A good question to ask yourself is what you want your site to look like and how much you are willing to spend.  This is a one-time expense.  For example, I looked at themes for my own website that were between $25 and $75, but I opted for the most expensive theme because it achieved my design objectives and presented my content most efficiently. ThemeForest.net is an excellent resource to use a starting point in this department.  Their site is a marketplace, much like Amazon, for theme developers to showcase their new creations.  They have “live demos” of most of the themes they offer for sale, which will allow you to test drive them before you commit.
 
Once you have a theme ready to install, it will come to you in a ZIP file.  Back in the Dashboard, hover over “Appearance” and then click “Themes”.  At the top of the page, you will see in lightly-colored text, “Install Themes”; once there, simply click the “Upload” button and point it to your ZIP file.  It will then copy and install the theme; the last thing to do is click “Activate” on the next screen to turn on your new theme.
 
At this point, you are just one click away from a good-looking, professional website.  Go back to a page you were creating earlier.  The blue “Publish” button in the right column is what makes your content “go live” on your new site.  If you aren’t quite ready to let the world’s eyes see your page yet, you can always see what it will look like it using the “Preview” button directly above the “Publish” button.
 
I have a few short recommendations for you before you start handing business cards with your new website on them.  First, ask a few colleagues and tech-minded friends to look at your new website and give some honest, constructive feedback.  Jot their thoughts down in a notebook or in a word processing document for review later on.  Sit on their feedback for a few days and then review all their comments in one sitting, noting any common threads that your reviewers’ comments share.  Lastly, after incorporating any changes, proofread all your content several times.  Any mistakes you make will be on display for the whole Internet-using world to see!  Of course, you can fix it later…
 
As we draw this series to a close, I would like to reprise what we’ve learned over the past three articles.  We demonstrated that you can make a website on a limited budget.  In many cases, it can cost you less than the price of two orchestra-level seats at the opera to start your website.  With just some basic point-and-click computer skills, we discovered that you can create a functioning website using WordPress as your site’s backbone.  In addition, WP has a multitude of features and a flexible theming system that allow the new user and the expert designer alike to tweak their website until it is their image of perfection.  Also, because WP is so popular, the Internet is awash with resources and tutorials to assist with most questions; a simple Google search query is often all that’s needed to find an answer.  We finished our series by recommending peer review as a valuable part of the design process.  The input from trusted colleagues and other advisors can provide insight about your site’s look, feel, and content.  Don’t shy away from their help!  Most importantly, the cornerstone of this series has been to create an expert-looking marketing document that draws in talent to audition and attracts patrons to your concerts.  A well-designed website can also increase your ensemble’s visibility regionally and nationally, if it represents you professionally.
 
Speaking of peer review, if you enjoyed this series, I would enjoy hearing your feedback.  Please post your reply below, or send me an email by visiting my website’s contact page at http://www.sethgarrepy.com/contact.