You’ve decided it’s time get your name out there as a playwright and you’re planning to get your own website. This can be a somewhat intimidating task, but fear not. This article and its companion comprise a beginner’s guide to getting yourself a website. While it is not a technical how-to, this guide will point you in the right direction of selecting a website service with a nice-looking template into which you insert content.
Where to start?
Before investigating any website technology or brainstorming the visual design of your website, it’s a good idea to start by thinking about the content of your website. When we talk about content, we are referring to all the goodies you put on your site—written copy, photographs, videos, files, and the like.
Here are a few goals you will want your content to accomplish:
- Tell us about yourself. As a playwright, you are marketing yourself just as much as you are marketing your plays. Write a bio that briefly explains your journey as a playwright, the successes you’ve had, and the things that fascinate you about the world. Rather than a list of productions—which could also have a place somewhere on your site—write a bio that captures your voice. There’s no rule about whether it should be first- or third-person (though the latter might be easier for theaters who want to copy and paste your bio), but you should choose a point of view that is consistent throughout the site. Check out this toolkit piece on how to write a bio.
- Share your plays. Put your plays center stage. Include enticing descriptions, cast sizes and other production information, and images if you have them. Ten- or fifteen-page downloadable script samples are a great way to promote your work, but we would discourage providing full-length copies of your scripts. Including your resume alongside a page displaying your plays is also an option.
- Get some high quality images. The photos should be large enough so that they aren’t pixelated, but not so large that they take a long time to load. Free online apps such as Pixlr Editor can be really handy for cropping or touching-up photos if you don’t have access to Photoshop or other photo editors. Of course, with photographs of rehearsal or productions, make sure you have permission from the photographer and artists represented in the shot (both actors and designers), and that you properly credit them.
If you are looking to use images that are not your own, here are a few online resources for finding royalty free images. (Note: you should still credit the photographer on your website.)
- New Old Stock. Royalty stock images from public archives.
- Unsplash. Free, high-resolution images.
- Jay Mantri. Seven new photos every week.
- Make sure people know how to contact you. Provide users with a clear path to getting in touch with you. Sharing your personal email address on your website can be an invitation for spam, so many templates will have a built-in contact form—just make sure you test it out so you know how messages will arrive. Links to your Facebook page, Twitter account, and other social networks are also nice. If you have an agent, a Contact Page is a great place to list that information as well.
- Keep it simple. The last thing you want people to experience when coming to your website is information overload. Stick to the highlights of your career and your writing. For instance, the 10-minute play that you won an award for in junior high might be brilliant, but its inclusion on your website might actually dilute the other more recent work you are sharing. Less is often more. Don’t feel like you have to pad your resume with everything you’ve ever written; feature your best work and the plays that are most indicative of your talent.
- Choose a focus. In the interest of engaging your visitors, you should make sure your content has a very clear focus. Since many playwrights take on a lot of different roles both inside and outside of theater, it can be tempting to mention all of them on your website. But a theater company looking to commission you to write a play is going to do so based on the quality of your writing, not because you are also a good director, actor, or lighting designer. Now, you might decide to promote yourself as a multi-disciplinary theater artist, in which case that focus should be apparent throughout your website.
Overall, remember the number one goal of your website: to introduce theaters and audiences to you and your work through an efficient, enjoyable digital experience.
Now, you should gather all of the content for your website, whether it’s in an old notebook or a folder of Word documents on the desktop of your computer. Once you have all your content at your disposal, you can begin to think about how you should organize it all—which leads us to our next topic.
The structure of your website is crucial. Think about all the bad websites you’ve ever visited. The websites where you can’t find the information you need. The websites where you click along through pages and pages of extremely dense information.
In order to not become one of those websites, here is a simple way to organize all of your content into a cohesive, easy to navigate, enjoyable website:
- Homepage. The landing page of your site—your best chance to capture a visitor’s interest. Consider including a short bio, a list of your plays with links to detailed pages, and your contact information.
- Plays. Probably the most important thing on your site. A page that lists all of your plays, hopefully with solid images to accompany them.
- Contact. Provide your phone number if you’d like, but definitely give some way to communicate online. If available, a contact form like we mentioned earlier will do the trick. Otherwise, list your email.
- Bio. If you choose not to include your bio on your homepage, you should have a dedicated page for it. It doesn’t have to be extremely long—just enough to let the reader know about yourself and your work.
- Media. A folder of individual web pages for photos, videos, and resumes.
- Photos & Videos. Slideshows or grids of images are usually a good way to go. You can also share links to YouTube and Vimeo video clips.
- Resume. If you wish to provide a resume, you should either have a page on your site that hosts it or a link to a downloadable file.
Things to consider when choosing a theme or template
When picking out a theme or template from services covered in our soon-to-be-published companion article, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Your theme should be responsive, meaning it looks good on all devices—smartphones, tablets, laptops, all the way up to large monitors. How do you know if a template is responsive? Look at it on phone, or make the browser window really narrow, and the layout should shift and change size so that it still looks good with the lesser width. More than half of all web traffic is on mobile or tablet, so it’s very important that your website looks good on these devices.
- Your theme should be able to handle the different types of content you need to include. Do you have photos to share of productions of your plays? Make sure you pick a template that allows for photo galleries. Do you have video or audio that you want to sure? Make sure the template will be able to display this type of content. Most themes provide a feature list where you can confirm that it will do all the things you’re hoping to accomplish.
- Your theme should be a reflection of your personality and the personality of your work, but it should also be tidy. In terms of aesthetics, this is generally one of the most important rules of thumb. Just like meeting someone in person, you want your website to make a good first impression. That means it’s taken a shower, brushed its teeth, and put on some decent clothes. Or, your website is clean, organized, and dressed in a theme that reflects your personality. When in doubt, keep it simple. That way, all of the reader’s focus can be directed towards your content.
Sample Playwright Websites
Will all that said, let’s take a look at some PWC members’ websites.
- Content. The content on Christina’s site is just as it should be: concise, informative, and engaging. She includes information about her plays, a well-formed bio, and a helpful contact form.
- Structure. This site very closely follows the structural suggestions mentioned in this article. There aren’t too many pages, and everything is in a neat order, separated into concise folders.
- Design. Christina’s site employs a standard Squarespace template but customizes it with a unique color scheme as well as whimsical illustrations. Nothing is too loud; instead, the design complements the content and puts Christina’s work at the forefront. In concert, these elements provide visitors with a fun, memorable experience of not only the playwright’s work, but also the writer herself.
- Content. The content on Emma’s website is straight-forward and effective. She includes brief synopses with her play titles, along with intriguing slideshows of production stills. At the bottom of the site, she even has the option for visitors to sign up for a newsletter to keep abreast of her writing adventures.
- Structure. This site is beautifully structured. The main navigation is simple, including an About page that functions as a homepage, Full-Length Plays, Other Plays, Honors, and a Contact page. Additionally, all of Emma’s content is on a single page, a unique structural and design choice that keeps the reader’s eye moving.
- Design. Utilizing a responsive Squarespace template, Emma’s website is a sleek, stylish, thoughtfully precise introduction to her work. A neutral color scheme allows space for pops of cyan to highlight important blocks of information, adding a bit of whimsy to an otherwise formal design. The typography of the site runs from a casual sans-serif to an elegant serif, creating a cohesive and easy-to-read style. Overall, Emma’s site reflects her humor and professionalism while successfully engaging its visitors.
- Content. Sam’s content provides not only pertinent information about his work, but also gives us a taste of his sense of humor and friendliness. His homepage provides a rundown of his upcoming and previous play productions. A blog page also connects visitors to articles and other pieces Sam has written.
- Structure. Here, simplicity is key. Sam’s navigation bar clearly outlines the content included on the site and allows visitors to find the information they need quickly and efficiently.
- Design. Sam’s site was built with WordPress and showcases a neat and clean design. A neutral color scheme allows red accents to pop, drawing the eye to images associated with Sam’s plays. The site’s design also utilizes a clean sans-serif font for headers and a formal yet playful serifed font for body content. Overall, the site is clean and formally pleasing, allowing Sam’s voice to become apparent through the content he has written.
Hopefully this information will help you begin to gather the content you need to begin to build your website. Next step: Website Building for Playwrights (Web-hosting & Services).
Flatlay image courtesy of Unsplash user Galymzhan Abdugalimov.