If you’re serious about your hobby, there’s a good chance you want a website to showcase it. But how do you know which type of website will work best for what you want?
This article is here to help you consider the basics. First of all, do you really need your own website? Because websites cost money, you need to get a host for it, you need to pay for a URL—unless you use a generic one like wordpress.com—and you need to maintain your site. If you don't really have to have your own domain, there are options out there where you can showcase your hobby for free—here are some examples:
- Ravelry.com, for knitting and crochet, including sharing and even selling patterns
- Wattpad.com, for writing and sharing your work
- Flickr.com, for sharing your photography
- Goodreads.com or Librarything.com, for books and book reviews
- Wordpress.com, for just about any hobby if you want to share things easily
Chances are, if you ask around with people who share your hobby, there’ll be a good place you can go to share what you love. The advantage of sites like these is that you don’t have to do any maintenance, membership is often free, and you can easily connect with other people who share your interests.
But is that enough? For many hobbyists, the answer is no: you want something that showcases your own work, and one that fits with your personal aesthetics. You might even have multiple hobbies you want to showcase on the same site. You’ll probably want to tell a story about the work you do, display finished pieces, and possibly even offer a way for people to buy them from you or commission their own unique item. How can you do all of that?
So now you know you want your own website, it’s time to think about what exactly you need. Do you need a photo gallery to show off your creations? Do you need a readable format so people can comfortably read stories, essays and articles? Are you going to blog and allow comments, or is your site mostly a portfolio for people to look at your work?
The answers to each of those questions shape what sort of site you want. If you want a blog, you might consider Wordpress as a platform; if you want your site to be readable for long periods of time, you need to consider accessibility issues like font style, size and contrast. You might want to browse other people’s websites for ideas on how you want your site to look and feel, or even check out who designed them and whether they offer tutorials or a Web design service. Get an idea for your options before you sit down to plan out your site.
The next step is definitely to plan ahead. Reality never works quite like our dreams, but it helps to know what you want to begin with, so grab a pencil (or a tablet and Photoshop, or whatever else you like to use), and just sketch out an idea of how you want your site to look. You might think about whether you want a navigation menu on the side or across the top, what sort of graphics and colors you want to use, and where you want to position banners. You don’t have to think of everything right now: this is just getting an idea of what you want.
Here’s a quick checklist to get you thinking – what features do you want to include?
- Video – Are you going to upload videos on YouTube and just embed them in your site? How do you want it to look?
- Images – Do you want a gallery that people can scroll through, or do you want to highlight individual images? Or are images just a supplement for the rest of your work?
- A blog – This is a great way to engage readers and sharing new work, if you can maintain it with regular updates. If you don’t, it could make your site look out of date.
- Contact details – If this is a portfolio of your work, do you want people to be able to get in touch if they’d like to commission something or ask questions? If so, you should make sure your plan includes a contact form somewhere.
- Links – Creating a network of links with other sites can look untidy if you don’t factor it into your design, but it’s a great way to get people to visit your site and engage with you.
Getting Your Own Unique Look
If you look at other sites, you’ll probably find that after you’ve seen a few, you’ll see themes developing. Certain sites use a lot of images or even videos in the background to catch attention, while others have a very minimalist aesthetic. It’s unlikely that you’re going to be able to come up with a design that no one has thought of before, but you can make sure that nobody mistakes your site for that of a rival, whether that be through the color scheme or a common layout.
One easy way to make sure your look is unique is to design your own graphics, or commission graphics especially for your site. At the same time, don’t be afraid to stick with a simple look—you don’t want your website to be so flashy that it overpowers the content you’re trying to showcase.
So now you have a plan for how you want your website to look, how do you go about making that a reality? There are many ways to go about it, from using tools and templates yourself, to employing someone to do your design for you.
- Don’t have a clue what you’re doing? It’s okay, there are a lot of experts out there who will be willing to help you. Web design is a thriving and competitive industry, and you’re bound to be able to find someone who can help you. Check out people’s portfolios on Freelancer, or look up who designed a favorite site, and reach out to anyone whose work you’re interested in. They’ll help you from there, but the sketched out ideas and thoughts you’ve had will help guide them in creating something perfectly suited to your hobby. When choosing someone to build your site, you might want to consider their past experience: do they normally build sites for photographers, or would this be new for them? Do they make the graphics or commission someone else in turn? Make sure you ask all these questions and cost things out carefully in advance!
- Fancy having a go at it yourself? There are lots of tools out there to help you build your own site, from services like Wix to free Wordpress themes, to programs like Dreamweaver and WebMatrix. These services often have “WYSIWYG” editors, which means “What You See Is What You Get” – whatever you design in the program, your site will look exactly like that online (with some allowances for browser issues, screen resolution, etc). This means you don’t need to learn anything complicated about HTML and CSS, and there are often tools for you to upload these sites without having to jump through hoops. This is a bit more involved than finding someone else to do it for you, but it gives you more control over the outcome. You’re fully in control of your content, and when there are any problems (for example, as HTML becomes deprecated and out of date), you can fix them yourself.
- Ambitious? Create it yourself from scratch. If you’re going to go this route, you need to have a solid knowledge of coding for websites, like HTML, CSS, and probably Java and others as well. It isn’t for the faint of heart, though there are plenty of resources like Code Academy to teach you how to do it, and tons of resources like Stack Overflow where you can ask questions and get help for free. This will definitely take up more of your time, but it could be worth it, as it could help you produce a website that is perfectly suited for your needs. Instead of compromising on any given point, you can create exactly what you want and be free from the limitations of templates and themes created by other people. And if you get enough practice with it, it’s another hobby you can potentially even monetize.
You can start out by hiring a freelancer to design your site or using a pre-existing Wordpress theme for a blog. Then you can branch out from there and create your own style with tweaks and changes. The important thing is to take pride in your hobby. If you think it’s worth showcasing, make sure you really let it shine! Don’t settle for second best.