Do You Need A Web Site?

By Shira

It seems as though everybody is talking about the Internet. People now exchange their "web site" and "e-mail" addresses as casually as they once did telephone numbers. Even your friends are building their own web sites. You almost feel as though you need a web site, just to keep up. Do you, really?

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Ask "Why"?

First ask yourself what you hope to accomplish with a web site, and whom you hope will look at it. This will determine whether you need one and what you would put on it.

The vast majority of web sites fall into one of two categories: 1) "Commercial" sites that advertise something that someone wants to sell, and 2) "Personal" sites that feature someone’s family, hobbies, and interests. Somewhere in between are the ones we all love to visit that actually give useful information or entertain us. Most Oriental dancers’ sites are of the commercial variety to advertise their classes, promote their performing careers, or sell merchandise. These are all legitimate objectives. But you might want to use a web site to share what you know about a topic you enjoy, give yourself a creative outlet, add web site design to your list of employable skills, or entertain your family and friends. These are just as valid as the aims behind the commercial sites, and often result in sites that are much more fun to visit.

In general, there are four basic things that a web site seeks to accomplish:

  1. Persuade/Sell
  2. Inform
  3. Educate
  4. Entertain

Persuade means influencing someone to form an opinion or take an action you want her to take. This could include choosing your dance classes instead of those taught by someone else in your area, or it could include purchasing merchandise that you are selling on your site. Content on a site that attempts to "persuade" could include your dance credentials, quotes from satisfied customers, and advertising copy about what makes your merchandise or teaching style unique.

Inform means imparting factual information that someone needs to have in order to act. Content on a site that attempts to "inform" could include when and where your classes meet, directions on how to get to your studio, a calendar of your upcoming appearances, or a list of which credit cards you accept.

Educate means teaching the visitor something that will enrich her life even if she is not prepared to engage in a commercial relationship with you. These are the sites we all love to find, but they are rare because they don’t have an obvious moneymaking payoff to their creators. The best commercial sites include an educational article or two to attract and hold your attention long enough to get you interested in their products or services. Content on a site that attempts to "educate" could be history of the dance, instructions on how to make a costume, or reviews of videos.

Entertain means giving someone reason to chuckle, smile, or otherwise respond on an emotional level to your site. Web sites that entertain are a pleasure to visit, and they are much too rare. Content on a site that attempts to "entertain" could include quizzes, cartoons, jokes, opinion polls, or poetry.

So, what does this mean to you? For starters, ask yourself what you would use it for if you did have a web site. Do you want to attract local students and performing opportunities? Do you have something to sell? Do you want to promote yourself on a broader regional, national, or global level as a traveling workshop instructor? Do you just want to be able to brag that your name and your picture are on the World Wide Web? If you don’t have a clear picture of what you want to accomplish with your web site, then maybe it’s not worth the time, effort, and cost of creating one.

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Examples Of Good Self-Promotion Sites

If you do make the decision to proceed, take the time before designing your own site to visit a large number of sites created by other dancers. Decide what you like and don’t like about theirs, then let that influence you when you design your own.

Most people reading this are probably contemplating web sites that would promote themselves and their work. So, here are some examples of high-quality self-promotion sites. Perhaps they can serve as models in helping you decide how to structure yours:

Morocco’s Meanderings. Featuring Morocco in New York City. Morocco is involved in many commercial activities, but has managed to organize her site in a way that makes it easy to find what you’re looking for. Her site offers several articles she has written that lend credibility to her reputation as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the dance traditions of the Middle East and North Africa. Even if you don’t currently plan to do business with her, these articles increase the likelihood that you’ll tell your friends about her site and perhaps come back periodically yourself to see what’s new. As a result, you'll keep remembering who she is, and then when you are in a position buy the type of products or services that she offers, you'll remember to take a look at what she has to offer.

Desert Dance Festival Web Site. Featuring Dunia in the San Jose, California area. Although this site is named for the annual event that Dunia sponsors, it also promotes her classes and other projects. There’s some good content that’s definitely worth reading, and her calendar of upcoming regional events is a nice touch—it gives the people who live in her area an ongoing reason to visit her web site regularly. This means they’ll get multiple exposures to her promotional information while cheerfully coming back for more.

There’s obviously not room in a single article to list all the home pages that may be worth visiting in your quest to see what other dancers are doing to promote themselves through their web sites. So try mine:

Are any of the web sites you have visited representative of the type of thing you want to do with your own site? Which ones struck you as doing a particularly good job of promoting whatever they were supposed to promote? Which ones make you want to have further contact with the site owners? Once you see what other people are doing on the Internet, you'll get a better picture of whether you want to do something similar for yourself. If you find yourself saying, "Hey, that's something I want to do!" then you'll know that maybe it is a good idea for you to put up a web site of your own!

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In Summary

Having your own web site can be an effective tool for promoting yourself and your dance activities, but it does take time, effort, and money to create one. Give some thought to what you really hope to accomplish with your site. If you don't know what you would use it for, then you're probably not ready to have one. Look at other people's sites to see what they are doing with theirs--that may give you some ideas on how you might use a site of your own.

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