10 things I hate about your band's site - Part I

Music isn't the only thing I have strong opinions about, I also have some ideas about websites, and what's good and bad about them. Because this is a music oriented weblog in this article I'll focus on websites of bands, and what I don't like about them. I'll try to explain as good as possible why I don't like these things, and why you should fix them.

Why should you listen to me?
Well, I do know a bit about websites. I've been working in the web business for about 7 years now, mainly as programmer, but I did pick up a few things about webdesign and usability. Of course a lot of what I say is just my opinion, so if you think I'm wrong, just ignore me. I promise I won't cry. Not too much anyway.

I assume that your band has a website to reach as many people as possible. One thing to keep in mind is that you want to make sure people that are new to your site can find what they're looking for, preferably as quickly as possible. Another thing is that your website needs to be interesting enough to get people to come back. Some of the issues I'll address can limit you in the number of people you reach.

People visiting websites have certain expectations of how websites work, they're lazy and easily bored. You may think that your website looks spiffy, but if people can't find what they want, they'll be gone in no time, and they'll probably never return.

Most of the points I make apply to all websites, not just band sites. I'll try to add some specific issues for band sites though. To keep it managable I'll handle 2 or 3 points in each article.

1. Overusing flash

Flash is a great tool for showing animations, cool banners or games. It is not a tool for building complete websites. Even just using it for cool animated navigation isn't the best idea in the world.

I'm not the only one that doesn't like Flash-based websites: Google doesn't like 'm too. If you want your site to reach as much people as possible, it needs to be indexed by Google and other search engines. Bots, the programs search engines use to find every page on the web, will ignore Flash. They won't find and follow links, or read any text that's inside a Flash file.

You can have a beautiful website, but because you use Flash navigation Google won't find any page beyond the first page. You can have written a brilliant biography, but Google won't find it, if it's hidden in Flash.
It ain't rocket science: The more bots find, the more pages you'll have in search engines. The more pages you have in search engines, the more people will find your page.

Some people will say you limit your audience by using Flash because not everyone has the right plugins installed. That's not really an issue: 90% of the people using internet in the Netherlands have Flash. Of those people 80% even have the newest version.
So, having the right plugins isn't an issue. Having enough patience is: if I'll have to wait more than a few seconds each time I want to watch your page, I'll probably won't visit it more than once.

My main advice is that everything that can be done in html & css, should NOT be done in Flash. And if you are gonna use Flash, just use small Flash files.

2. .tk domains

Sure .tk domains are free, but if you want people to believe that you're not just some high school kids making noise, get yourself a real domain. Even if you are just some high school kids making noise. Getting a domain isn't that expensive, one or two played gigs and you should be able to afford it. And your site certainly will look more professional to people, if they don't first see the .tk page.

When you do claim a domain, make sure it contains your band name, preferably bandname.nl or bandname.com, but if that's taken you could claim something like bandname-music.com or bandname-band.com. Having your band name in the domain makes it easier to remember. It also helps with getting your page higher in search engines: if someone searches for something, websites that have the search terms in their web address score higher. So if someone searches for "band name", then bandname.com will score higher than members.chello.nl/pietjepuk/.

Try to not just get the domain name, also try to get hosting. If you still have to host your page at the private webspace you get from your internet service provider, and your .nl or .com domain just redirects to your page, or contains your page in a frame, it won't have the search engine benefits I mentioned. Still better than a .tk domain, though.

I'll try and have part 2 up in a few days. Any comments, questions and remarks are more than welcome.

Part II and Part III are up.

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