Composer website blueprint: navigability

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I am very excited to start this new series aimed at helping composers build beautiful websites that effectively capture the attention of the desired target audience. In this first part we are going to talk about how to tweak navigability in order to maximise our chances to lead our potential customers to the next stage of the marketing funnel. So here are the key features to keep in mind:

A clear message

You’d be surprised with how many websites fail to deliver a clear message right from the top. If upon loading your page one can’t undoubtedly answer the question: “what does this person do?” then something is wrong and needs fixing.

Foreground message

Don’t be afraid of presenting your audience with a tag line going something like: “prolific film composer”, or “game composer extraordinaire”… This will help your audience feel they are in the right place without the need to double-checking.

Duncan Murray’s website does a very good job explaining what it offers clearly and in a few words.

Background message

Aside from the essential “foreground message” every website also conveys a “background message” wether it is intended or not. In the case of a creative website this is basically the answer to the questions “what is it like to work with this person?”. By choosing what informations to display, and how to communicate them (wording, tone, grammar/orthography) you are saying a lot about yourself.

Furthermore through choices that might appear purely aesthetical (color palette, fonts, pictures) you have the power tell a story. Much like what you do when scoring a picture. Use this power to your advantage.

Edith Mudge presents the audience with a very clean interface. A photo of herself along with a mostly white navigation help give a feeling of professionalism and easy-to-collaborate-with.

You might want to learn more about these concepts, as well as getting familiar with the levels of communication and common alarm signals.

Focus it on your audience

navigability and audience

When designing your website your should always keep in mind what your target audience is.

As a media composer you might for example want your website to serve as a tool to convince prospective filmmakers to hire you. Or you might want to use it as a storefront for your music, in which case you’d be talking to fans hoping to make them become customers. These are two very different scenarios and two very different audiences.

But what if you were interested in both? Trying to design a website that serves well one and the other might prove very difficult and produce less than satisfying results with either. Instead why don’t you concentrate on the most important one and then create a mini-site/secondary page for the other?

I keep my portfolio website (left) and my music storefront (right) as two separate entities. The latter being managed exclusively through Bandcamp.

8 seconds

The attention span of the average visitor is 8 seconds, according to Wix. Whether this is accurate or not it tells us something critically important, we need to get to the point quickly!

First things first

Use call-to-action-style buttons that stand out to lead your audience to what most matters to you (showreel? playlist? credit-list?). Alternatively consider directly putting the most important content first and foremost. There is nothing wrong with a nice big play button right under your name and tag line!

David Kayser embedded his demo reel right on the top of his website; a very effective way to make sure no one misses it.

Single-page vs. multi-page

Similarly we can argue that single page websites might be advantageous over multi-page ones since they have a better chance to focus the user’s attention on the right information by design. Furthermore it allows to have greater control over the user journey thus adding to the concept of “telling a story”. However if you are also try to boost your site SEO then multi-page might be better.

navigability of single page websites
Maxime Hurtado brings the audience on a journey through his most recent projects that feels natural and compelling at the same time.

Help your audience help you

If you haven’t thought about this yet now is a good time: what is the ultimate goal of your website? Once you find an answer to this question help your audience get there quickly.

Do you want to be contacted by filmmakers in search for a composer? Make your contact form/details prominent. Do you want to sell music? Make it clear how to purchase it, maybe embed a button from the digital media store right below the player.

Charles Gaskell made it very easy for his audience to stay in touch. Along with a contact form and contact info his website presents a chat widget too.

Mobile friendly

If you are reading this article your website’s most likely target audience is directors/producers. Have you ever seen one of them browsing the web with a desktop computer? Chances are they sometimes do, but a mobile experience is much more in line with their on-the-go kind of profession. Keep this in mind and make sure your page looks great on mobile as it does on desktop.

Web-design platforms have nice mobile previews, very useful when designing. I’d suggest to test your website on actual devices once satisfied with the design to see if there is any inconsistency.

navigability accessibility
John Theodore’s website clearly translate the desktop version (left) to the mobile version (right), keeping the navigability functional with screens of any size.

Tips from FMF

When interviewing guests on the podcast Filmmaker Feedback, I ask filmmakers questions about composer websites, do’s and don’ts if you will. I’ll conclude every chapter of this series with some insight from these talks.

Both A. Bodin Saphir and Fraser Brown have expressed a dislike for music autoplaying when the page loads. It feels a bit imposed and you should leave it to the visitor to start a track when in the right listening conditions.

Ongoing research

This series is possible thanks to the help of our readers, who—through our interactive LABS—helped us get a sense of what are the most common trends in web design for composers nowadays. You can see some of the participant’s websites on this and the following chapters in the series. Please consider participating in the ongoing research yourself if you haven’t yet done so by filling the following form:

https://form.jotformeu.com/91112615444348

I am looking forward to see what your next website will look like!

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Giovanni Rotondo

Editor in Chief of Film Scoring Tips. Giovanni Rotondo is an experienced film and television composer based in London. He has scored many award winning feature films (Elijah and the Rock Creature, Orphans & Kingdoms), TV movies (Il Giudice Meschino, Il Confine), documentaries (Ilaria Alpi - L'Ultimo Viaggio) and video games (Thunderbird: The Legend Begins). More info here: giovannirotondo.com

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