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DIY Website Design

February 4, 2014

I was big into HTML and website design when I was a kid – I might have gotten to be really good if my mom wasn’t always complaining that I spent too much time on the computer. So when my project for Senior Seminar class turned out that I could design my own actor website, I jumped all over that. In retrospect, I wish I had taken pictures of my many, many attempts. Or a picture of my face as I realized that all the HTML I remembered was to change the font and create paragraphs and line breaks.

The domain.

There are a ridiculous number of free website hosting sites out there. There are even more that will sell you your own domain name. I stuck with the free websites which still gave me many choices. I know a lot of my friends like Weebly and can make it look good but I hated using it and switched over to Wix. Weebly and Wix are just two examples: Carbonmade, wordpress, behance – I know actors who made their websites from google sites, tumblr, facebook and IMDB. There are even ‘actor websites’ out there that you sign up for! Whatever works best.

No matter what you use, think about the domain name. Even if it’s a free site, you want to use your name so when people google search you, “Madison Smith the actor” will hopefully what pops up and not ‘Madison Smith’s funeral parlor’.

what to think about.

  • Don’t use Flash. I will beg you. Do. Not. Use. Flash. Welcome to 2014 – we like HTML 5.
  • Link to your social media – facebook, youtube, twitter, IMDB. But only if you use social media as an actor – I don’t want to go to your youtube page and only find videos of your four-year-old niece’s ballet recital.
  • Check to see if there is a mobile version available. I made sure that my website was mobile user-friendly and aligned to fit a tiny screen.
  • If you are like me and are iffy about putting your contact info ‘out there’ – I LOVE Google Voice. It’s connected to my cellphone but it keeps my real cell number safe and private. Plus, I have an email account for professional purposes – no BenedictCumberbitche$4lyf!@hotmail.com

what you should have.

Pages: have a welcome page – include a headshot and recent updates so I know you didn’t make this website in 2009 and forgot about it. Bio page (it doesn’t have to be boring), resume (PDF, downloadable), contact information.

That’s all you need for your vanilla actor website; anything else you include is the cherry and sprinkles on top! You do voice over work? Cool – include a page so I can read (or listen!) about that. Your last show had a fantastic review? Share it. Interested in doing film? Put together an acting reel. Behind the scenes photos, interviews, blogs…there are endless possibilities here. I realized while making my website that I didn’t have ANY production photos from the shows I had performed in over the last few years – oops! But I had some really sweet reviews and you can bet that I put them up on my site. No, I don’t have enough camera footage to make my own reel yet but when I do, I have a space set aside on my website for that.

The design.

This was the part that I struggled with. There are great website designers out there who can create your site for you. I, being a soon-to-graduate and start-paying-back-my-student-loans actor, chose the hard, DIY, free path. Of course, the advantage of DIY is if you want something changed, fixed, updated, you can do that for yourself too without paying or waiting for someone else to get around to it.

Most free website makers that I’ve encountered don’t require HTML know-how – they come with Editors that help you put text, photos, etc. on the page. All of the ones I tried using all came with a required basic template to start with. I tried a lot of different templates. I tested a couple of different font colors to make sure it was readable. I tried and tried and tried again, to get the right look for my website. DIY website design is a lot like the DIY crafts on pinterest – you see awesome examples and you totally want to make it for yourself and sometimes it takes a lot of mistakes and some spilled glitter to accomplish.

The secret to my final, mostly successfully, success was that I looked at other people’s websites. Just based on my class alone – I realized while a stark white or black background worked for some of my classmates and their personality, I needed some texture to mine. So I created my own website background to give it that ‘pop’ of professionally made. Then I discovered a new-found love for the Georgia font. I found the perfect template because a friend of mine used the same template. I saw what they had found important enough to make pages for and how they had written their bios. Heck, I looked at the websites of fellow Green Room bloggers and at other professional actors I admired (Felicia Day!).

And there I have it. One, DIY, still pretty professional (?) looking website for free. Now, how do I make an acting reel?

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. The Enterprising Actor permalink
    February 4, 2014 10:48 am

    I’m a big fan of WordPress and have learned how to bend it to my will over the years I’ve been using it. As someone whose name is shared with a murderess – and one who has had a made-for-TV movie made about her – getting MyName.com was not possible. I recommend that, as people decide what other domain name they might use, consider how easy it is to leave in a phone message, e.g. myname1.com will mean a lifetime of “My name one dot com, that’s the numeral one, m-y-n-a-m-e-1-dot-com…” Also, consider what words pop out that may be unintentional when your domain name is spelled out, particularly off-color words. Great post!

    • The College Theatre Dork permalink
      February 4, 2014 11:40 am

      Thanks for the advice! I have a unique enough name to not worry about someone else using it – but in your case, MyName.com probably wouldn’t be the best idea. MyNameactor.com is one of the better solutions that I’ve heard of though (unless you are Vanessa Williams….not the more famous, Vanessa L. Williams).

  2. February 5, 2014 9:40 am

    Love how savvy you are about this stuff at such a young age. I like to think hanging around us GRBloggers had something to do with that, but I’m guessing you’re just a savvy lady in general 😉

    • The College Theatre Dork permalink
      February 5, 2014 10:08 am

      I’d like to think it has to do with the Green Blog too…I get to see what mistakes everyone else makes and then I go out to make my own mistakes! 🙂 Savvy is a terrific word though. I’d like to be savvy.

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