This post is the second in a series called The Complete Guide to Building Your Own Artist’s Website.
To get your artist’s website online, there are really only three things you need:
- web hosting (where your website is stored)
- a domain name (the address people enter in order to view your site)
- a website platform (the actual building blocks that make up the website.)
For your site to be really effective, you’ll also need a good design that will give your website a professional feel, but we’ll go into that later.
In this post, I’ll show you exactly how you can get your website hosting and domain name set up in no time at all, and with minimal cost.
First things first, your website needs a place to live.
For this, you’ll need to buy some web hosting, which you can think of as renting a small space on the Internet where your website can be permanently displayed and accessed by anyone with an Internet connection.
If it helps you visualise it, you can think of it a bit like renting a small building where you’ll display your artwork to the public.
Next, your website needs an address.
Just as your small building has a name and an address in order for people to find it easily, your website also needs its own unique address, for which you need to buy a domain name.
Your domain name then needs to be connected to your web hosting, so that anyone who types it into their browser will be sent straight to your website.
Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it may seem!
Choosing a web host
There are so many different web hosting providers and so many different types of web hosting to choose from, that it can be quite confusing to the average Internet user.
I’ll make it simple for you, and recommend two web hosting providers that I’ve used before and the packages they offer that will provide you with everything your website needs. Then I’ll walk you through the purchase process.
A note about hosting location
One thing you may want to consider when choosing a web host is where they are based, as this may have some effect on how your website is seen by Google.
For example, if you want to target an audience in the UK, you might consider using a web hosting provider who is based in the UK, as that will mean that your website is likely to load slightly faster for visitors in the UK, and it may also achieve slightly better search engine rankings for people searching from the UK.
On the other hand, if your audience is international, then it probably doesn’t really matter where your website is hosted. If in doubt, I can recommend the following two providers.
TsoHost* is the hosting provider I use for most of my websites. Based in the UK, their basic ‘Lite’ Linux hosting package is the cheapest I know of at just £14.99 per year (at time of writing), and their customer support is really outstanding. Choose the Lite package, which will be adequate for your new artist’s website.
(You can use the coupon code RIGHTBRAIN10 at checkout to get 10% off your hosting from TsoHost)
HostGator* is based in the USA and is generally very highly regarded with great customer support. Their hatchling plan should be sufficient for your artist’s website.
(You can use the coupon code RIGHTBRAIN25 at checkout to get 25% off your hosting from HostGator)
Note: As with many monthly payment plans, you get a better deal if you pay in advance, so if you can afford to, I would recommend paying for 3 years up front to get the cheapest price overall.
Of course, you’re free to choose a different hosting provider if you prefer, but bear in mind that if you do, the rest of the setup process may vary from the one I describe below.
Choosing a domain name
Choosing a domain name for a website can often be a challenge. Fortunately, as an artist, it’s not too difficult. Ideally you will just be able to use your name, possibly followed by ‘art’ or ‘artist’ (e.g. www.joebloggs.com or www.joebloggsart.com)
The problem is, often your name will already be in use by someone else with the same name. You can use a website like www.names.co.uk to find out if your desired domain is available (although I would recommend buying it from the same place you buy your hosting, as I will explain later). If you can’t get your desired domain, you might want to try variations such as (for example) www.artbyjoebloggs.com, www.joebloggsfineart.com etc.
If you specialise in a particular style or medium, you might want to include that in your domain name, e.g. www.joebloggsportraits.com or www.joebloggsphotography.com
Dot com or not dot com?
In general, if your chosen domain is available as a .com address, I would definitely use that, as .com is pretty much a universally recognised domain extension. However, as with your hosting location, if you are specifically targeting an audience in a certain country, then you may want to consider a different domain extension.
For example, if you are only targeting an audience in the UK, then you could get a .co.uk extension, as this may perform better for UK searches, and it can help to identify you as a UK artist.
You could also consider a .co address. These were originally used for websites based in Colombia, but in 2010, they were made available globally, and were hailed as the new global domain. However, I have used a .co domain for my own artist’s website – www.danjohnson.co – and I’ve found that it hasn’t really caught on yet. People tend to be confused when they see the .co domain, sometimes they assume you have missed the ‘m’ off the end, and when I’ve read my email address to people in the past – firstname.lastname@example.org – they have read it back to me with a ‘.uk’ on the end.
If you really want a specific domain name, but the .com is not available, you could always go for a .net or .me or something else, but as a general rule I would try to stick to a .com if possible.
Domain name pitfalls
There are a few things you should try to avoid when choosing a domain name:
Hyphens & underscores – You might think that the next best thing to www.joebloggsart.com would be www.joe-bloggs-art.com or www.joe_bloggs_art.com, but I would avoid this like the plague. It’s not a problem if someone just follows a link to your site, but if someone asks you in person what your website address is, you don’t want to have to say “www dot joe underscore bloggs underscore art dot com”, trust me, I’ve been there, it gets old fast.
Numbers – Anything with numbers in it should be avoided as when you read the address to someone, it will be unclear whether the number symbol should be used, or the numbers should be spelled out as words.
Merged names – Make sure your domain name is easily read as intended, and can’t be confused for anything else which might cause embarrassment. For example the website of a holiday rentals company called IHA Vegas may seem innocent, but read the wrong way it looks like an embarrassing problem – www.IHaveGas.com
Tongue Twisters – Don’t make your domain name too long or difficult to pronounce. www.beautifulpaintingsbyartistjoebloggs.com isn’t exactly memorable, and using technical or foreign language terms in your address is a bad idea as you’ll end up having to spell them out to people.
In a nutshell, you want a short, memorable .com domain name, that’s easy to say and easy to spell. A good test is whether you could read out your domain name to people over the phone and have them remember it without having to spell it out or explain it in any way.
Buying your hosting and domain name together
If you haven’t already bought a domain name, I recommend buying it at the same time (and from the same place) as you buy your hosting. It’s easier to manage and you won’t need to do anything complicated to connect your domain to your hosting.
I’ll walk you through the hosting setup process in HostGator, but it’s pretty similar whichever host you choose. If you get stuck, just click the ‘Live Chat’ image at the top of the page and one of their support technicians will be able to help you out.
Purchasing your hosting and domain
To buy your hosting and domain name from HostGator*, on the home page, click ‘View Web Hosting Plans’, then, in the Hatchling plan box, choose your payment period and click ‘Order Now’.
On the next screen you need to enter your chosen domain name where it says ‘Register a New Domain’, then you can confirm your package type and billing cycle, choose a username and a security pin, then enter your billing information (Don’t forget to enter the RIGHTBRAIN25 coupon code for 25% off). Finally, review your order details, agree to the Terms & Conditions and click ‘Create account’. You’ll receive an email confirming your purchase, which also contains your hosting account details.
Congratulations! You now have a place for your website to live. All you need now is a website to put in it!
Setting up an email address
Before we go ahead with building your website, you’ll probably want an email address to go with your new domain name (e.g. email@example.com)
To set up an email address with your HostGator web hosting, you need to first log into your cPanel, which is like the command centre of your web hosting package. The login details will have been emailed to you after you bought your hosting.
Once you’ve logged into cPanel, you’ll see a ton of different icons. Don’t worry, most of them you will never even need to use, and once you’ve set up your website, chances are you’ll never even need to log into cPanel again.
Under the Mail section, click on Email Accounts. The grey box at the top is where you’ll create your new email address. Enter your desired email address, and choose a password (or click the Password Generator to create a secure password. Make sure you write it down somewhere as you’ll need it to access your email.)
Select Unlimited Mailbox Quota, and click Create Account. You can now see your new email address in the table below.
Now, to send and receive email, you can either use the webmail program provided by cPanel (it’s next to the Email Accounts icon), or you can configure your favourite email software to send and receive email from your new account.
I prefer to use Gmail, so I created a free Gmail account, and then set up Gmail to import all of the mail from my firstname.lastname@example.org email address.
To import mail into your Gmail account, go to your Gmail settings, click on Accounts and Import, and then click Import mail and contacts.
In the window that opens, enter the new email address you created in cPanel (e.g. email@example.com) and click continue.
You then have to enter the password that you chose for your email address. Usually this will be enough for Gmail to start importing your mail, but sometimes you will have to provide further information. The server details which may be required can all be found in cPanel under Client Configuration.
You can also tell Gmail to send mail as your new email address, so that nobody will ever see your Gmail address when you send them mail. To set this up, just click on Add an email address you own under Send mail as: and follow the instructions to confirm that you own the address.
Choosing a Website Platform
Now that you have your hosting and domain name sorted, in the next post I’ll discuss my recommended website platform, which will get your artist’s website up and running, and looking great, in no time at all.
* If a link has a * by it, that means it is an affiliated link which is tracked to this site, so if you visit the link, it can sometimes result in a payment to this site, which helps me pay for my own hosting and domain name. If you prefer not to use them, you can use the following non-affiliate links instead – TsoHost – HostGator