How to make your website stand out
So you want to make a website, but feel the plethora of actor's sites will drown out your voice? Follow these simple and essential steps to make sure yours is as good as it can be.
1) Make your site Responsive
In the golden age of technology, everybody has a mobile phone and/or tablet. Having a responsive site means that no matter what device your audience is using to view your website, it will look almost identical across platforms. This means no more annoying 'mobile' versions of sites with watered down content. And if they have a huge widescreen monitor, your beautiful face can span the entire thing, as opposed to being constrained to set sizes.
Since a lot of people use mobiles for the majority of their web browsing, it is essential for you to make it straight forward to view. If an Agent of Casting Director has a spare minute on their train commute, they don't want to waste time zooming and scrolling to see the contents of the page.
If you're making your website yourself, research Twitter Bootstrap for guidance on how to make a site responsive. It's fairly straight forward if you have a basic understanding of HTML code. It's made for front-end web design, making it quicker and easier than ever to make a website.
If someone else is making your site, simply ask them to make it responsive and they'll know what you mean. In fact, you shouldn't even need to ask these days, but just to be on the safe side.
2) Keep it simple, stupid
As much as it pains me, we're not in the 90's any more. That means no bells and whistles on your site. Remember those pages that had hundreds of animated .gifs on them? Cool at the time, but hideous now. So don't go adding novelty features because they seem fun. You want to impress people with your acting ability - not your coding skills.
Simple, clean, minimalistic. Your name and, if you have one, logo should go at the head of the page.
The menu bar should have three or four buttons on it - Home, Resume, Contact.
The Home page should be welcoming, and unless you're a huge star, you should write in first person, e.g. "I am an actor."
You're selling yourself, and a great way to do that is by making your personality shine through. Be charming, funny or cool. But don't be pretentious and say "Bob is a fantastic leading actor, taking the world by storm".
Try to make the home page a one-stop shop. Include your showreel and headshot, and in the footer, one way to contact you. This way, if someone is busy, they can get all the essential bits quickly and easily.
Add a button linking to a full-resolution headshot. This means you can have compressed photos for faster loading times, but if a CD or Agent wants to see a better quality of photo, they can click that link.
The Resume page can go into more detail. A small 'About me' section is nice - a quick write up on where you're based, what your interests are (in and outside of the arts), and what your next job is.
You should have both an HTML and PDF version of your CV or Resume. The HTML one can take the form of a table. For example, one table for Film with three columns headed Role, Title, Director. A second table for Theatre, headed similarly, and a final third table for Training, headed with the name of the course and where it's held or who it's run by.
Then add a button to the page saying 'Click here for a PDF version' so that they can easily save it or print it.
At the bottom of the page, offer a gallery of photos of you on-set, backstage or in make-up. This shows not only how you work, but that you're a fun person that gets on well with others.
3) Theme it according to your brand
As an actor, it is essential to know your 'type'. From this, you should theme your website accordingly. First impressions count, and the theme says so much to the unconscious mind.
So, if you're going for the classy look, go all black perhaps with a hint of gold or electric green.
Want to be edgy? Try adding a background texture of brick or concrete.
Cutesy best-friend? Add some pink, and maybe a couple of love heart accents.
Font goes a long way to aiding the style of your site. No longer are we limited to the blandness of Aerial or Times New Roman. With the brilliant creation of Google Fonts, we now have access to a pool of hundreds of fonts to use on our websites without hindering loading times. Head over there and find a font to suit you - but make sure it's readable on small devices, and in chunks of text.
4) Let me hire you!
If they like what they see, CDs and Agents WANT to hire you! So let them.
Footers on every page should include at least your email address.
The Contact page should have an online form so they can contact you directly from your website. If they don't like that, then an email address and phone number.
If you're scared of giving out your email address and phone number to the internet strangers, don't worry. Services such as Skype let you buy a phone number for a few pounds a month. Similarly, most web hosts also offer an email service. A professional looking email will do wonders at making you seem as good as you are. Instead of [email protected], [email protected] is so much more appealing. And for a few pounds a month, there's no excuse to not have one really. But if you are scrimping by because you're a poor actor, a [email protected] will suffice.
5) Don't bore me with load times
There's nothing worse than making someone look at a bare page for a few seconds whilst I wait for it to load.
Imagine I am viewing your site on a mobile, travelling on a train, about to go into a tunnel. We need speed.
So, make sure images are compressed. There's an abundance of sites that offer decent size compression without compromising on quality.
Cut the excess. Do you really need 6 headshots on the homepage when one or two will suffice? Do we really need all 5 versions of your showreel, like comedy snips, drama clips, and a montage reel? No - one main one is perfect. Save the others for your resume page.
6) So you're busy working, huh?
Well done on landing all those roles. Now you might consider adding a blog to your website. Regular updates on what you're doing let people get an idea of how in demand you are.
Don't leave updates for more than a month or two. If you can't update every three or four weeks, you probably shouldn't have a blog. There's nothing worse than getting to your page to see the last update was March 2013 - the first thing I will think is that you haven't worked since then.
7) I'm all about those links
Link to your other stuff. The more the merrier. YouTube page, Spotlight, CastingCall Pro, IMDb - whatever you have, link it on there.
8) Optimise it for Google et al
Again, if you're having the site made for you, this should go without saying.
If you're making the site, consider SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). This is, when I search 'Actor' in Google, how many pages will I scroll through before finding you.
The way to stand out and be found is to add keywords to your text. Make sure you say your name somewhere on the page (obviously!) and where you are based. What kind of acting you do - screen or stage.
The more you can add, the better your results will be. Leading on from the last point, the more links you have pointing to and from your website, the more legitimate Google, Bing or Yahoo! will think you are, again helping page rank.
You can submit your website to Google, Bing, Yahoo! etc. so they know you're online, and begin crawling your site and ranking it. Note: you should never pay for this service. It is always free.
Finally, if you're so inclined, add a robots.txt file (Google it if you've no idea what that is) to help the search engines know which pages they should be crawling.
9) If you're rich...
If you have money to spare, try and buy all the domains that might be relevant to you, and point them at your main chosen URL.
For example, buy John-Smith.com, Johnsmith.com, any .co.uk versions etc. that you see fit. No need to go crazy here, but just to make it convenient for people typing your name.
Only ever give out the cleanest, most memorable URL such as Johnsmith.com
10) Analyse it and improve
Add some Google Analytics code to your pages so you can see how many people view your website, how long they stay for etc. From this, you can also see what devices they use to view your site, so if it's predominantly people on Tablets, you should look into optimising the site specifically for tablets.
Now sit back and enjoy your new site!