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Things You End Up Learning About as an Indie Designer: Websites

This is the first in series of things you end up finding out you need to learn about as an Indie Designer!  If you’re just starting out designing, read this post first.

I’ve gone through and tagged posts I think are of interest to indie designers (beginning and otherwise); click on the category Designer Tools to see more.

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WEBSITES

Even if you don’t want to blog, IMHO you do need a website.

If you’re reading this, you’re used to going to the Internet for information. So are most other folks, especially those who are your customers (assuming you’re selling patterns, um, ONLINE).


You can use your Ravelry designer page or store as a reference for your designs, but I think having your own site allows a bit more flexibility (if not blogging, then at least announcements, updates, newsletter sign ups, etc) and an awesome way to work on branding. Not every knitter is on Ravelry, even though it may seem like it if you are very active on Ravelry! Even if you still end up linking to your Ravelry designer page or store, your customer sees your site as well.

To start with, you need your own domain.

You can use WordPress.com (as opposed to WordPress.org) or any of the other sites out there that let you run a blog, but if you want to really customize your page, you’re probably going to want more flexibility than what those sites offer.

Plus, it looks more professional to have a URL that’s yours, without any blog hosting names appended (i.e. www.sunsetcat.com vs www.sunsetcat.wordpress.com).

You need a place to host it.

You need a platform, such as WordPress.

If you use WordPress, you need a theme.

Once you get your theme, you need to learn how to tweak it to do just what you want it to do.

For better or worse, many of the platforms out there are still geared towards blogging, rather than a site that’s meant to highlight your products (designs, books, etc), let alone sell your products.

Unless you are a website designer in real life, or have the cash to pay a bunch of bucks for a nice website, chances are, as an indie designer (at least one starting out), you’re going to end up designing your own site to make it reflect what you need it to.

The flip side is that probably the most important thing you can do as an Indie Designer is….DESIGN. If I’m not doing as much other designer-related computer work, then I’ll work on my website. I can only sit at the computer so long every day. I also can only knit so long every day.

WHAT I’VE DONE

I have my own domain that I host at Dreamhost. I use WordPress as my platform, and run the Thesis 2.1 for WordPress theme. Dreamhost has an area where you can install all sorts of things into your page, including WordPress. I’m assuming other hosting sites do the same. I don’t have a lot of money to put towards my site, so I’m going the DIY route.

I’ve just upgraded to Thesis 2.1 from 1.8.3. Per this post, it was nearly a year ago that I blogged I was going to do a website overhaul and update.

I finally started, really started, a couple weeks ago.  There’s a huge learning curve between the two versions, and it took me a long time to find resources. (As much as I like Thesis, their support pages aren’t very helpful in learning how to really use Thesis 2.-.)

I finally found an awesome tutorial  here. Currently I’m doing the free 4-week course. If I’m not able to learn all the customization I’m looking to do with that, I’m thinking of continuing with some of Amelia’s other (paid) classes. The pace and level of detail is just right for me. I’m a big fan of Lynda.com, but they didn’t have anything on Thesis.

A good resource for html and css is W3Schools.

Thesis is highly customizable, which is its main selling point. I’m planning on setting up an overall static landing page, pages for each book, and eventually, a store. (That in itself is going to require learning MORE stuff.)

SUMMARY

Do a bit of research. See what sorts of sites you like, what will work with your branding, and so on. Do a search in the Ravelry Designer’s group forum; there have been several discussions.

Note: I’m an affiliate for Thesis; if you click through & buy it I’ll get something. Don’t know how much, but something. I don’t get anything for linking Lynda.com or Amelia Briscoe’s sites.

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