Sorry but it has to be said. This was something I was talking about last year around this time but the situation hasn’t improved much. If you go through the list of bands playing at SXSW, you keep seeing the same thing happening: terrible websites where it’s hard to find anything, especially music (which is the point, right?). To be fair, some of them are pretty good but I gotta say that most of them just stink up their virtual real estate.
Instead of picking on any particular band and their site, I’d like to offer up some tips about making a good website for your band.
* Make the music easy to find!
It’s sad that this ain’t more obvious. If a user comes to your site and has to fumble around for a few minutes just to find one of your tunes, you’ve failed. They don’t have the patience to dig around for it and they have plenty of other sites to visit online. Make it ridiculously obvious to them- have a nice big button or graphic that says MUSIC right up front or a music player embedded on the home page, ready to pump out your tunes. Also horrible- a link to ‘music’ that says ‘coming soon’- no one’s coming back to see when you get your act together.
* Make everything else easy to find
Just common sense, right? You can use all kinds of fancy language to say ‘pictures’ or ‘tour dates’ or bio’ but why make people have to guess where that is on your site? They want info so give it to ’em right up front with links on your homepage to all of these things. Going along with that, have links at the top and/or bottom of all of your pages that let users easily get to all the sections of your site. If you make your site user friendly for your web audience, you’ll get rewarded with more interest and web traffic (assuming that you have some good music…).
* Leverage MySpace wisely
If you can’t get any music on your site for some reason (space, bandwidth, lack of knowledge), you have to let peeps hear your music somehow. Have a link to MySpace at least. You’ll want a presence there anyway so the bottom line is that you need a MySpace page along with your own website. But… it’s better to keep people at your website ’cause you have a lot more flexibility about how you can set it up with some nice graphics, photos, links to merchandise, etc.. Nothing wrong with having a presence on the web in more than one place (it helps get your name out) but ideally, you should have your site as a home-base for fans and potential fans.
* Ditch the splash page
Your techie friend talked you into have a cool graphic pop up that takes forever to load, just so someone can enter your site. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It’s annoying as hell and again, your online audience won’t sit through it. Just have a homepage that’s actually a homepage with all the info about your band easily accessible with obvious links to everything.
* Even with high-speed access, don’t pig out on pics
Now that modems are almost a thing of the past, you’d figure that you can load up as many pictures, songs, videos and media on your site as you want, right? Nope. Even on high-speed connections, some web pages are still so bloated with huge pics and media files that they take a while to load. Again, your audience ain’t gonna like that. The ol’ rule of thumb was that if it took more than 15-20 seconds to load your page, your user was gone. That still seems about right and why would you wanna piss ’em off anyway? If you have a lot of media stuff to show off, break it out into different pages with links to everything instead of loading it down all in one place.
* Mailing lists are good to gather fans but don’t get carried away
Have a link on your homepage and everywhere else on your site for anyone to sign up for your mailing list. If you can’t get one going on your own, you can start one up for free at a place like Yahoo Groups without being a techie. Tell ’em about upcoming shows, your album coming out, other appearances, etc.. But don’t get carried away and flood ’em with mail- once or twice a week’s good enough if you’ve got lots of news about the band. Even in down times where nothing’s really happening, maybe send them some holiday greetings or such, just to keep them in the loop.
Sad to say, I can’t help you with advice about licensing, contracts, etc. but hopefully this’ll give you food for thought about your site. So please clean up your act, OK?