Get Your Own Website

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Article19

Article19 estimates* that out of the many millions of websites out there on the world- wide-web at least 95% of them are complete rubbish! In the blinkered world of dance and particularly contemporary dance there are only three good websites and one that is just about ok. Poor design, shallow content or a complete lack of purpose means a great many websites wondering why they were ever designed in the first place.

Getting a good looking, useful website can cost you a fortune and there are a lot of cowboys around so how do you know what's good and what's bad? In this Q&A guide we have a look at the pitfalls to be avoided and the essential items that can go a long way to giving your company a professional, successful website hopefully without breaking the bank in the process.

Q. Should I build it myself? My friend says it is easy!

A. No, under no circumstances should you create your own website. Unless you are blessed with a background in media or graphic design and typography then web design is something best left to a pro. Designing a website is not like doing up your kitchen or painting the bathroom door.

Websites are basically constructed from computer code that strings together images and text in a very specific way. Although there are a few packages that enable you to create websites without writing any code at all they are not infallible and some degree of knowledge is needed to use them effectively. The internet is littered with terrible designs, broken links and unintelligible gibberish, have a look at Birmingham Royal Ballet to see what we mean and they are a multi million pound ballet company.

[ 2004 Note: BRB's website has been updated since this article was written. It is, however, still very very boring, Ed!]

[ Birmingham Royal Ballet ]

Q. What's the most important thing?

A. Well there are two very important things, first of all have a point and second, good art. A dance company's reason for having a website in the first place is to promote what you do so promote it and promote it well. Do not just put your mission statement online and expect people to care. Readers want well written information about what your company is doing and what you aspire to be. Simply reprinting your funding application blurb will turn your users away faster than England going out of the world cup.

Also try and avoid making your website read like a press release and a well placed bit of humour goes a long way to endearing you to the public. Good art means good images, photos and graphics. This is where the professional design skill comes in that is oh so very, very important. Good photographs come from using good photographers, if you cant afford a good photographer then run along to your local university and get someone from their photography degree to take the pictures for you.

They will probably appreciate the opportunity and you get the photos for next the nothing and their portfolio will be given a boost. Sure it's exploitation but your serving the cause so of you go!

Q. Where do I find a good designer?

A. Well you can pay for one of course which costs money, sometimes a lot of money. We are not going to list a load of design agencies for you because the chances are most dance companies would be unable to afford them. Hold on to your hat because here comes some more exploitation. While you are at the local university begging for a photography student swing by the media dept and pick up a web designer. Most graduate students would kill for a real world project to get their teeth into.

Getting them to work for free may be a tall order but you will certainly be able to persuade them to work for well below commercial rates. They get a good, real world project for their portfolio and you get a top class site. If you really have to pay for the whole thing at a commercial rate then your local arts board will be more than happy to stump up the cash. Just make an application under the Cultural Business Venture scheme and off you go.

Q. So what makes a good design then?

A. Well this is the big question. Of course what makes a design good is a subjective point of view depending on who you are and what your background is. Amazon.com is a good website for selling books but for a dance company it is hopeless. The best thing you can do is look around on the internet itself and find a site design or style that you really like.

Then ask your trusty [almost free of charge] web designer to make you a site in a similar style. It is very important that you look in the right places for good design standards so start with the links below. The sites listed contain thousands of links to some of the best designs on the internet today. Taking your lead from them will serve you well but avoid like the plague looking through other dance company website unless you want to see how not to do it.

[ Linkdup ]
[ Surfstation ]
[ K10k ]

Q. Why do I need video then?

A. Simple, dance is a movement art form so show some movement and that means you need video. Nothing is more infuriating than visiting a dance company's website only to find no material to back up what your beautifully written copy is talking about.

A lot of information about video for dance is included on this site so have a look around. Your trusty web designer will keep you right and armed with the information here you know he/she knows what they are talking about. Broadband or high speed internet access is growing rapidly so putting good quality video on your site will give a large number of people direct access to what your company creates and it can act as a valuable promotion tool for your company or will allow people to watch your work which is after all why your making work in the first place.

Q. Where do I put all of this stuff?

A. What you need is called Web site hosting. This is a specialist company that gives your website a place to live, handles your email and provides statistics about all of the visitors to your site. The good ones also give full technical support and will give you all the information that you need to get your big ideas online and out to the masses.

You must tread carefully though as there are a lot of cowboy's about with poor tech support, rubbish equipment and dreadful reliability. Cheap they may be but in web hosting you get what you pay for. The LabRats recommend Media-Temple a California based company with a strong reputation, excellent technical support and good prices starting from about $19 (US) per month. In web hosting it makes no difference if your host is round the corner on the other side of the planet.

Under no circumstances should you use free space provided by Yahoo, Geocities, Angelfire or any other of the numerous freebie space providers. They are littered with ads, slow service and no technical support. Paying for hosting is worth the small expense involved.

[ Mediatemple ]

Q. Ok, but how do people find us?

A. This is where your domain name comes in. The domain name for this site is www.thelabrats.org.uk this is how you arrive at our lovely little location in cyberspace. If your company has a fairly distinctive name chances are your domain name is ready and waiting for you to register. Registration companies are numerous but some are best avoided [such as UK2.net] as they provide poor service.

If you are buying hosting space for your new site then the hosting company will handle your domain registration for you if you want them to. Don't pay any more than £20 for a 2 year registration no matter what features they may offer you. Media Temple charge about $15(US) for most domains. If you just want do register a domain then UKreg.com charge about £7 for a two year registration on a .co.uk domain name. Finally; try and get a .co.uk, .com, .org.uk or .org domain name as these are the most memorable.

[ UK Reg ]
[ Mediatemple ]

Q. How do we stand out from the crowd?

A. Not easy, but on the internet there is so much drivel and nonsensical garbage making your site stand out means making it have a point and give it some good content. First of all put your company's domain name on everything including your letterhead, emails, flyers, posters, programs and coffee mugs if you have them.

Make sure you pick a domain name that is easy to remember and will stick in people's memory if they only see it briefly. Just ask anybody what Amazon.com does and what they sell and we are sure they will be able to tell you. Search engines pick up your site by certain code included in the page design which your web designer will handle for you.

Another way that your site ranks high on search engines is through other websites linking to yours. Email everybody and anybody who has a website related to dance, including dance agencies, arts boards and local councils, and tell them who and where you are the chances are they will give you a link.

Summing Up

This article covers the fundamentals and what a good site needs. Mostly it is up to you to provide good work and interesting stuff for people to read and watch this is what makes people come back and tell other people about you.

The internet is not going anywhere it will only get bigger and faster and dance is already way behind the game. Essentially your making work for people to see and if your online then you have a potential audience of hundreds of millions, so what are you waiting for? Go grab a web designer before they are all gone!

* this is really a guess but out of the thousands of sites Article19 has seen over the years trust us when we tell you that a lot of them are just wasting your time and ours.

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