WordPress for artists: An introduction
by Morgan Sully
Modern day artists who use the web to either make their art or promote it often have to use a variety of tools to sustain and grow their ‘making’. With the advent of easier and faster ways to develop content for the web (whether that’s a simple ‘portfolio’ web site or a place to upload pictures), the barrier to artists getting ‘out there’ is becoming easier and easier.
We’ve still got a long way to go, but for now here’s some basics to using one tool (WordPress) to get your art ‘out there’.
WordPress is an open-source blogging platform which acts more and more like a content management system (CMS). A CMS is an online system for managing and displaying different kinds of media and content through a website.
Some different kinds of content and media are:
- pictures (.jpg, .png, .gif etc.)
- videos (.mov, .swf etc.)
- text (.pdf, the actual text you read on a web page/blog post)
- audio (.mp3, .ogg, .wav)
- embeddable videos/audio from things like YouTube, Vimeo or SoundCloud
WordPress provides a graphical user interface for managing these content types. All of these files are hosted on a server (either your own or one provided by WordPress, see below). The locations of these as well as the actual HTML and text that appear in your site are stored in a database. Your website sits ‘between’ this database and a user’s browser, within in your particular ‘install’ ( which is all the PHP files that comprise the WordPress CMS).
Hosted (WordPress.com) vs. self-hosted (download from WordPress.org)
WordPress can also be hosted on your own server space (which you can purchase through something like bluehost.com) OR your WordPress site can be hosted with http://www.wordpress.com.
A self-hosted WordPress site requires downloading it from WordPress.org and following the instructions. Doing this means you can have your own domain name as well as customize your website a lot more (but will need time or a web developer to do it).
A ‘regular’ WordPress site is free, much easier to set up, but you won’t get your own domain name (unless you pay).
Basic WordPress Terminology
Posts are ‘serial’ content that are posted regularly i.e. blog posts, like journal entries. You might use these to embed photos of your latest paintings or art or even upload an mp3 of your latest music. You can even embed HTML code from video/image/audio hosting sites like YouTube, flickr and SoundCloud respectively.
Pages are more ‘static’ content, like an ‘About’ page or a ‘Contact Us’ page. Many artist websites may even have a short ‘Artist Bio’ page and if you need help generating an artist statement for yourself, you can read 5 Articles to Help You Write a Great Artist Bio.
Categories can be thought of like ‘containers’ for your Posts. When you make a new Post, you check which Categories you want your Post associated with. Where ever you see and click a link on your website to one of the Categories, it will bring up a dynamically-generated page which lists all Posts in that Category. As an artist might have Categories on your site like ‘Projects’, ‘Designs’, ‘Exhibitions’, or ‘Gigs’.
Widgets are awesome. They are like little ‘blocks’ that you can place around your site with anything you want in them – RSS feeds, code copied and pasted from other websites, multi-media content. Lots of fun. You might create a widget on your site comprised of all the different Categories on your site to help people easily navigate and find your stuff.
Themes are pre-developed ‘skins’ that you can ‘layer over’ your site. The structure and content of your site stay essentially the same, but the Theme will change things like colors and fonts to give different ‘feels’ for your site. They allow to quickly and easily move between two different ‘looks’ for your site.
Plugins add extra functionality to your site. If you think of your site as a computer, Plugins are like little ‘programs’ that you can install on it to make it do certain things. For instance, if you are a heavily visual artist, you might install something like the NextGEN Gallery plug in to manage your images into photo galleries and albums placed throughout your site.
Where To Learn More
If you need more help installing WordPress, WordPress.tv has excellent video tutorials to teach yourself. If you want to delve more into developing your own WordPress Themes and Plugins – or simply want to hack your current self-hosted WordPress installation – check out the WordPress Codex. My favorite part if the Template Tags page which give you the actual code you can mix, match and paste into your own WordPress PHP files.
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