Why WordPress? We Ask Will Sorrell
From simple portfolio sites to show off your creations to vibrant online spaces where people can discover and interact with each other and the work, it is essential for creatives to be online these days.
Ask any serious author and they will tell you – having a well developed “platform” is just as important to publishers and agents as having a great proposal. In a recent interview with the IACCW, Michelle Pilley, Managing Director of Hay House publishers, described a strong online presence as a “pre-requistite” when explaining the detailed process her team goes through in selecting new works for publication. “One of the first things we look at is an author’s platform”, she says – by which she means the author’s website, email marketing database and use of social media. What they’re looking for is evidence of an already existing, interested and engaged following, a signal that the publisher can then amplify above all of the noise in our information saturated society.
Long story short, it’s no longer enough to be a visionary artist. You need to be a dab hand at marketing too.
The myriad opportunities presented by the digital medium, both as marketing platform and as a potential additional layer to the work, only present themselves after the independent creative has surmounted a number of challenges. Mundane issues of cost, as well as worries about the technical expertise it will require to run and maintain a site, are often high on the list of reasons people give for deferring working on their online presence but, when “platform” is king, can you afford to wait too long to get started?
We spoke to Will Sorrell, director of MOST Productions and helpfulwebhosting client, to find out his view.
“I knew that I had to have something up online. I decided I would do a calling card, a sort of extension of my email address… Because people always look up the second part of an email address.”
“My personal website, WillSorrell.com, is very image based. I wanted to keep it fluid and to show people what I had done before, the sorts of things I had worked on, but because I do a lot of different things I didn’t want to pigeon hole myself. I very deliberately haven’t written anything about me.”
You’re a big advocate of WordPress, why?
“Wordpress is an absolutely perfect platform for someone who wants to learn the basics about how to create your own site. Its main advantage is its complete adaptability. I think in the creative sector, especially if you work in design or with a design savvy audience, you need to be light on your feet and adapting the whole time. By having complete control of your site, it’s very easy to do that.
With WordPress, there’s no brick wall between you and your website. You shouldn’t have a situation where every time you want anything changed, you have to ask someone else to do it. It’s as much time as money. You want to be able to wake up at 2am and realise that you want to update something and be able to do it. You don’t want to have to wait for someone else to wake up.”
How did you find learning WordPress?
“I didn’t find it too bad. You need to spend a couple of days learning it but the basic stuff you can get to grips with easily. I did some one to one learning with helpfulwebhosting, and Ian also showed me that you can Google pretty much anything and find it out quickly. What was nice is that you can start off like that and then slowly you can starting playing around with code – just little bits. There are all sorts that I never thought I’d be bothered to learn how to do, but it drags you in! I’ve used those skills I’ve picked up in other jobs too.”
Do you generally use designers to build a site or do you buy themes off the shelf?
“I’ve done both. WillSorrell.com came from a theme developer, Dessign, and I made a few changes to it myself but nothing major. Other projects I’ve worked on, we bought a theme off the shelf and hired a developer to adapt it quite heavily. When I was developing the MOST website with Tom Dixon, we needed something completely unique so we got someone to develop a bespoke theme for it. In that case it made sense to start from scratch as it would have taken just as much time to try to adapt something to fit.”
“If someone’s a designer, I think they need to be thinking about doing something quite unique. That might be something bespoke or at least a heavily adapted theme. You need to be standing out so you want to be very careful you don’t end up with a site that looks like everyone else. You also have to be absolutely clear with communication. It would be worth someone spending some money upfront at the start of their career or learning how to do it themselves. At the very least you need to have an understanding of how websites work.”
And how about social media?
“I’ve been using Facebook and Twitter for MOST and they’re proving to be really important business tools. Having them integrated into your site is very important – we have the Twitter stream on the front page.
Instagram and Pinterest are also increasingly interesting. They’re both very visual, which is obviously important to people in design and creative sectors. A lot of design companies are now using Pinterest to talk with each other and we find that posts on Facebook and Twitter with photographs attached get a great reception. For example, we’ve used Instagram for a couple of events and it was absolutely amazing. It’s a great way of showing people what’s going on while the event is happening. It really contributed to our Facebook interaction because we were linking through and getting a lot of response.”
Finally, how has it been working with helpfulwebhosting?
“I really rate what you guys do, so you’re welcome to say anything nice you’d like about yourselves! Seriously though, it’s fantastic because it’s such a low cost, easy way for someone to operate a site that you’d never guess in a million years was done by a beginner. Usually people get sucked into paying maybe 10 times more than they should on getting a site up. You provide a fantastic service matched with a fantastic system.”