The website should definitely reflect the artist’s music and personality wherever possible – Ross Barber
MM: How did you get your start in design? What’s the story behind Electric Kiwi?
RB: I’ve been designing for years. I started pretty much as soon as we first got a PC and connected to the internet. I was drawn to web design more as a way of connecting with other people around the world than anything else, and taught myself how to use Photoshop, and learned HTML and CSS just by reading a lot of tutorials online!
Electric Kiwi has existed for many years, but in different forms. I started it about 10 years ago… it’s hard to believe it’s been that long though! Initially, it was a personal site/blog but then slowly evolved into a place where I could showcase my music and web design. In 2011, I decided to actually pursue design for musicians and artists as a career, which is when it became solely about web design and social media.
MM: What made you decide to bridge the gap between web design and music?
I was studying Popular Music Performance at university (with the original aim of pursuing a career as a performing musician) and when it came to my final year, all of my research and academic projects tended to feature the internet and social media to some extent.
I guess it was at that point that I really realised how important the internet had become to artists and musicians, and as it was something I was really interested in, that perhaps I should try and work within that field.
For my promotion and marketing class, I created a website and came up with a social media strategy to promote myself as a singer/songwriter. I received one of the highest marks in my year for this class, and I think that was the moment that really proved that it was that direction I wanted to follow.
MM: What are some key elements essential to a great artist website?
[pullquote style=”left” quote=”dark”]I think that for most artists, their website should act not only as a key source of information, but as a hub for all of their social activity[/pullquote]RB: I think it depends on the artist themselves, to be honest. Everyone is different, so will require different things. As a general rule, I think there absolutely has to be some sort of social element in there.
At a bare minimum, there should be links to their social networking platforms. If there are any that they are particularly active or popular on, these should be as visible as possible.
I think that for most artists, their website should act not only as a key source of information, but as a hub for all of their social activity… so that their fans can visit their website and instantly be able to find all of their social networks in one place, without having to search for them.
The website should definitely reflect the artist’s music and personality wherever possible – which is one of the things I think is so great about an artist having their own website. They’re not restricted by the rules or regulations of a social network and they have the freedom to share as much or as little as they want.
MM: What are some of the most common mistakes bands make with their websites?
RB: The mistakes I often come across are usually quite basic things… but a lack of organization is a big one for me.
I find on a lot of sites, particularly those that are built using free services, are disorganized and messy. This is probably just due to a lack of coding/design knowledge, which is not the artist’s fault at all!
Things like not including contact information, having the same templates as hundreds of other bands, no links to where we can buy their music… all of these things are what I would consider to be mistakes…definitely not creating the ideal first impression!
MM: What are the greatest challenges in designing an effective website?
RB: I think the greatest challenge is compromise. When I’m designing a website, I’m always completely open to ideas and suggestions, but there has to be a bit of give and take.
For example, an artist may have such a clear vision, but what they want is out with their budget or just not suitable for their target audience – finding the balance and compromising between an artistic vision and realistic outcome can be a tricky one!
MM: Has the rise of social media lessened the need for a band/artist website?
RB: Some would argue yes, and others would argue no. I would say it hasn’t lessened the need for a website, but it’s changed the landscape a little.
I would say that a website is still important for many reasons. For example, while platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, ReverbNation, etc. are incredibly useful and great, free resources, an artist doesn’t OWN that platform.
They could easily change the terms of service, and start charging them to use them (much like Facebook has started with promoted posts), or could just disappear altogether. I know it’s unlikely, but it’s possible!
A band website shows promoters and managers etc that they are serious, dedicated, and willing to invest in their music. I think it’s also important as there does need to be somewhere that connects all of their social networks in one place.
MM: Do you approach your social media design work differently than when you do websites?
RB: A little differently, yes. I believe that there should be consistency across all areas of an artist’s online presence, so their social networks should carry a similar theme to the website, but at the same time still be individual and adhere to what fans expect of that platform.
I normally find that once the website design is in place, it can act as a good starting or reference point for the social media designs…in most cases, anyway.
MM: What should an artist look for in a great web or graphic designer?
RB: I think that they should look for someone whose work they like, and someone that they feel they can trust. If the work in their portfolio appeals to you, then that’s definitely a good start!
I think it’s important for designers to include testimonials/references from past clients too, so that artists who are researching designers can find out more about the experience of the client.
Some designers may be great at the design side, but might not be too great when it comes to customer service! And it’s all important… you can’t beat a good working relationship – it’s going to be better for the artist and the designer, at the end of the day!
MM: Do you have a site that you’re most proud of? Why?
RB: I would say that I’m probably most proud of http://raytarantino.com because I feel like it was a real collaborative effort. Ray and I worked via Skype, and were always bouncing ideas off each other so that we could create something that he loved. I’d like to think that this shows in the end result too!
Ross Barber is a website and graphic designer based in Glasgow, UK. You can check out his portfolio on the Electric Kiwi website, and be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook for design updates and news.