7 Helpful Tips: Editing your Written Materials for Web

My blog posts will be answering many of the questions I get, and the helpful hints I’ve gathered from nearly 15 years promoting artists and arts organizations as a web designer.

Artists are an interesting paradox (and I’m allowed to say this as both my husband and I are performing artists!) – we are creative and sometimes driven individuals, but we often lack the objective perspective to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to putting together a promotional package, press kit and website.

KEY THINGS TO REMEMBER
1) Less is more, 2) Quality over quantity and 3) People don’t read.

Here are my top 7 pointers for honing your promotional materials, particularly for websites:

1) Keep it concise – Quality over Quantity

Quality over QuantityIn general, it’s best to keep the most important (ie: impressive) information at the top, so people only have to read the first paragraph to know just how fabulous you are, and entice them to find out more. Try to keep your online bio and list of reviews to under a page (you can always have a downloadable long version if people want more).

Cutting hurts, but if you don’t do it, your best accomplishments will be lost in the torrent of excess verbiage. Figure out exactly how you can highlight the best of your work in 200 words or less. If you can’t do it, hire someone (again the name Liz Parker leaps to mind) to do it for you!

2) Keep it current

Update your bio!!Nix gigs from 10 years ago or more from your bio, unless a) they are very high profile (ie: The Met or Carnegie Hall), or b) you don’t have more recent work to highlight. If b’s the case, keep the gigs, but downplay the dates. If you are lucky enough to have a full schedule, then limit past performances to 5 years and major highlights.

3) Keep your visitors on your site

Nix the no-content landing page (ie: the extra wall between your fans and your content) and keep links out of your site to a minimum. When you link, always link to a new page (so your site stays open), or when possible embed external content into your pages.

Don’t leave pages blank or “Coming soon” – if your content isn’t ready for launch, do not include that page – add it later. Navigating to a blank page just annoys people browsing your site.

And, while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about FLASH. You know, the fancy animated stuff that takes forever to load, won’t display on certain devices, and will mostly annoy your public. Flash has it’s place (it’s handy for streaming audio/video for example), but if it distracts from your content or gets in the way, I say get rid of it. People are not browsing musicians’ websites to see their web designer’s proficiency with FLASH – get to the content, people!! I know at least one “Flashy” singer site that shows a completely blank page when I browse to it with my iPhone… need I say more? (OK, rant completed).

4) Organize and cull

“Why include 25 reviews if they water down the impact of the 5 amazing ones?”

I recommend cutting reviews down to the 10 very best and/or highest profile media for the press page – again you can have a separate archive if you really want to. Again – Quality trumps quantity – why include 25 reviews if they water down the impact of the 5 amazing ones?

In fact, an even better idea – take 5 – 10 words out of certain reviews and highlight those in large text boxes within the text body, as they do in Newspapers (see example at right), or perhaps highlight them in the banner of your site.

5) Nix the resume

No resumeOnline resumes are not really necessary for established artists. A list of your current season’s schedule and a link to a few past seasons is sufficient to establish your stature as a professional. A well organized Repertoire List, sorted by composer, combined perhaps with a list of the organizations or ensembles you have performed with, covers the bases for establishing your performing experience. If you have an extensive list of performance collaborations, consider cutting out some of the lower profile ones. You can always use words like “selected” and “including” to make sure people know it’s a shortlist.

6) Make it scanable: bold or headings for key information

Assume your public won’t read extensive text. Web browsers generally want “in a nutshell” – so give them your very best, and make it easy to scan with clear headers that sort information into digestable chunks. Allow them to click for more if they’re interested.

Use the “teaser” – for a full review or profile, take the very best 5 – 10 words, then a link to “Read full article”. And, in the full review, bold the best phrases so they stand out and can be scanned easily. I often do this for my clients – but if you want to have more control of the process (and I bet you do!) it’s best to do it before you send them to your designer.

No scanned newspapers!

Really, click on this and try to read it. It hurts my eyes!

NB: In my opinion there is no real benefit to posting a scanned paper copy of a newspaper article – they are hard to read, difficult to navigate, often unwieldy to download, and can’t be edited to bold certain phrases. Oh AND, search engines can’t read them to find any phrases or words that might lead people to your site! If anything, you are discouraging your public from reading it by posting this way.

You can usually copy the text body directly from the newspaper’s website – use that, edit out the relevant text (with some kind of a “… [disclaimer]”), add the newspaper’s logo, the reviewer’s name and the date at the top, and post it as a blog post with a link to the original article. You can also ask the Newspaper or Magazine if you can have  PDF copy which can be linked to your post for a view of the actual article.

Finally, always make sure you have the author/owner’s permission to include their content on your site, particularly if you are including a full article or lengthy excerpt.

7) Sound clips

Only post your very best, even if it’s just a couple of clips.  Less is more! If you have an extensive discography, chances are there are MP3 samples on iTunes or other websites selling your recordings, so you do not need to sample every track you’ve ever recorded. If your playing or singing has improved, make the effort to post something recent. Including 3 – 5 contrasting tracks is enough for most musician sites.

If you have any comments or suggestions of other topics you’d like discussed here, please reply below! I’d love to hear from you (if only to know someone out there is reading this!)

– Mary (the Maestra)

2 thoughts on “7 Helpful Tips: Editing your Written Materials for Web”

  1. “Remember: 1) Less is more, 2) Quality over quantity and 3) People don’t read.” That’s beautiful! You should have put it at the top. 🙂 I gave a friend of mine your name — she needs a website.

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