When doing website reviews at Bandzoogle, a common issue we come across are bands trying to put too much content and too many features on their websites. Because there are so many tools, features, and widgets available to musicians, some feel like they should use all of them. But when it comes to your website, simple really can be better.
Long gone are the days of Geocities, blinking text, dancing babies and glitter (see http://wonder-tonic.com/geocitiesizer if you don't remember). The new trends are for slick, simple, and minimalist designs that let an artist's best content shine.
You should aim to make it easy for people to find the content that they're looking for; be it your fans, media, or industry people. Here are 10 ways that you can remove clutter on your website to make it easier for your visitors to find the content that they're looking for and make your website look and feel better:
1. Remove Some Social Media Icons
Many artists include social media icons along the top or bottom of their website to make it easier for people to be able to connect with them on their social media profiles. There's nothing wrong with this, and you should definitely have some social icons on your site. But, just because you have profiles on every social media site ever created, doesn't mean you should link to them all on your website.
Try and limit it to just the ones that you are most active on, and where your fans are the most active as well. Three to five icons should be enough to cover the most important social media sites, having more will just make it harder for people to find the one they're looking for, and create a visual mess on your site.
And remember, each icon is an exit door from your site, when your goal should be to keep visitors busy on your own pages (and gently nudge them towards the store!). So focus on the ones that are strategic for your goals (build a Twitter following, get more Facebook fans, etc.).
2. Limit Social Media Feeds
Keeping with social media, another thing that can easily make a mess of your website is having too many social feeds. If you already have your latest news and/or a blog, it would be enough to include a simple Like" box for Facebook with no feed, or even just the icon. Same goes for Twitter, if you already have an active Latest News feed or blog on your site, you can simply put the Twitter icon.
If a fan lands on your site and you have an active blog, a Facebook feed, and a Twitter feed, their eyes aren't going to know what to focus on to, and chances are they'll be distracted by the clutter and won't see other important content on your site, like your call-to-action.
3. Focus on 1 Call-To-Action
Speaking of a call-to-action, you should focus on having just one on your Homepage. For example, if you're looking to build up your mailing list (like most emerging artists should be doing), focus people's attention to your mailing list sign-up. If you have a new album, you can put a call-to-action directing people to your online store. Or if you're going out on tour, you use a call-to-action to let people know to check out your calendar dates.
But if you have 4 or 5 calls-to-action on your Homepage telling people to do different things, they might miss what you consider to be the most important part of your site. Or they might just ignore all of them and simply move on to other content, or away from your site altogether.
4. Have 1 Music Player
It can be tempting to show off all of your music at once when people land on your site. We've seen bands embed several music players, including a Bandzoogle sitewide player, individual songs from Soundcloud, a ReverbNation player, songs from Bandcamp, etc. But this can quickly make a mess of your website, and visitors won't know where to click.
Focus on one music play" button that people can click on when they land on your site (and please don't have your music auto-start). You can keep your full catalogue for your Music or Store page, and even then, keep it organized by sticking to one type of player.
5. Organize Videos
Similar issue to having too many music play buttons, if you have too many videos to choose from when people land on your site, they might not click on any of them. Choose your best video to feature on your Homepage and then send people to your Videos section for more.
When on your videos section, an easy way to keep it clean is to embed a YouTube Playlist. If you're going to embed individual videos, make sure it is well organized. Each video should have a 1-line description, as often the YouTube descriptions don't appear on the screenshot, or are incomplete. And if you have more than 4 or 5 videos, create sections like Official Videos, Live Videos, and Promo Videos to make it easy for people to find the kind of video they want to watch.
6. Have Only 1 Sign-up Form
Most artists have a mailing list (and if you don't, you really should), but some also have e-teams, and members-only sections where fans have to sign-up to gain access. These days, it might not be necessary to have all three.
Generally speaking, e-teams (and street teams) were very popular 5-10 years ago, but unless you have very specific tasks and exclusive rewards for e-team members, you can simply continue to engage with fans on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube (and more), asking them to share your content, help spread the word about your shows, etc.
For your website, you should prioritize your mailing list sign-up, which you can then use to let people know about your members-only features on your website, in a separate section. Fans love having access to exclusive content, and that can even be part of your crowdfunding strategy. But don't let your visitors get confused between the mailing list sign-up and website members sign-up.
7. Remove Search Boxes
We see this most often with free WordPress or Blogger themes that are often built for blogs and not necessarily band websites. Most bands don't need to have a search box appear on every page of their website. It takes up space that can be used for more relevant content, and chances are, your fans aren't using it anyway. So if you have search boxes on your site, it would be safe to remove them so you can use that space for other content.
8. Remove Guestbooks
Oh, guestbooks. There was a time when they were a popular feature for websites. But that time has come and gone. Blogs and social networks really took the place of guestbooks, as they allow for more of a back and forth discussion. So if you have a guestbook on your site, consider replacing it with a blog where you post regular updates and have conversations with your fans.
You should especially remove a guestbook that nobody uses. If there hasn't been a comment in months, or even years, it can really leave a negative impression for visitors to your site. If you don't want to start a blog, leave a contact form where fans can send you a comment instead, and link to your social network pages.
9. Remove Inactive Forums
Are forums dead? There is actually still some debate about that. When it comes to your own website, you really need to ask yourself: are my fans using the forums? If you have an active community of fans who are using your forums on a regular basis, then by all means, keep it on your website. But if nobody has posted in the forums in years, or if you're still early in building an engaged fanbase, it's time to remove it from your site.
10. Remove Hit Counters
And last, but not least, if you have a hit counter on your website, please consider removing it. Just like guestbooks, their time has long past as a useful feature for websites. They're actually incredibly unreliable, as they can be easily hacked to make it look like a site has had many more visitors than in reality. Plus, if you don't have a high number, it can look bad, and why would you want to broadcast that to everyone who visits your site?
Use Google Analytics to get much more detailed statistics about people visiting your site. Hit counters just take up space on your site that can be used for content that is much more useful and relevant for your fans.
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