Music videos are so 80s/90s, right? They belong with the era when MTV screened wall-to-wall vids instead of 'reality' TV? Try telling that to the millions who bought Gangnam Style; were they really simply loving the music? 1.6bn (and still climbing) have viewed the video on YT, not to mention the many re-makes (school eg, eg2), viral ads + celeb link-ups (even political protest in Seoul) - and it doesn't matter how legit it is, this nightmare for daydream Beliebers is making a lot of money, even from the parodies + dislikes. All this for a simple dance track that wouldn't have sounded out of place in 1990 ... but had a fun vid. This meme itself was soon displaced by the Harlem Shake. Music vids even cause diseases it seems!
This blog explores every aspect of this most postmodern of media formats, including other print-based promo tools used by the industry, its fast-changing nature, + how fans/audiences create/interact. Posts are primarily written with Media students/educators in mind. Please acknowledge the blog author if using any resources from this blog - Mr Dave Burrowes

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

WEBSITE The steps involved in producing yours

IN THIS POST: A breakdown of how to research websites, what to look for, and an example of an overall 16-step process, plus a list of some features to consider.

Like every Media production, before you get to the editing stage you have considerable background work to undertake; I'll break this down into pre-production, production and post-production phases. There is considerable scope to delegate primary responsibility within a group for website work.

A faux-personal mode of address; using existing media content to enrich your own site; social media deeply integrated: just 3 ideas you could glean from an analysis of Gaga's UK website
You need to research the conventions of a range of mixed, general (not from the same era or genre) official music act websites, compare and summarise your findings with 1 or 2 others in a vodcast, then research the artist chosen for your video: their official website (if there is one), 2+ comparable (genre/era) acts' websites, 1+ fan site, and produce a fresh vodcast outlining any distinctive conventions for the artist/genre/era.

Initial lists of main and sub- pages, and content you will need (unique images, video etc); website features (e-commerce, social media integration etc); social media sites to set up and maintain; key aspects of style or design across the entire site.
Show your knowledge of changing industry practice by including a merchandise 'shop'; as well as a main top links list on every page, sub-pages will make your site neater. Think of the mobile browser: the less they have to scroll the better.





Look closely at Evaluation questions and compile relevant resources for this. Seek an audience for your site (and social media) and blog on this process. Evaluate what you've done, incorporating final audience feedback, and specific details of anything, in retrospect, you would do differently.

Blog on several examples of band websites. Always look at general examples first (ie, not focussed on one act/era/genre) and sum up what you now consider to be the general codes and conventions of websites.

The small detail is crucially important, as is your ability to accurately denote what you see, using appropriate terminology to do so, and illustrating with plentiful screenshots. Take time to sort these into folders with helpful file names - you'll want to re-use many of these for your Evaluation responses, but also to create vodcasts summarising your findings (which, in turn, you can later re-edit to compare the conventions you found to what you actually did).

If as detailed as my example posts, you can initially scrutinise as few as two websites, then team up in pairs or threes to compare notes so you've more examples to back up your list of conventions in your summary post/vodcast )sum up what you now consider to be common conventions of band websites). 

Once you've settled on an artist and track for your music video you need to analyse their official website, and should also look at both some fan sites and some other comparable band sites from within the same genre/era. You would then create a new, updated summary more specifcally focussed on your act and what you now consider to be important and appropriate to include in the website you will create - a checklist backed up with examples of real practice.
Social media should be well integrated - this example shows how poorly Gaga's UK site is tended to: MySpace?!?!

Of course, you do not have to stick to common practice; you're free to produce something which is in some or most aspects unconventional - but still need to justify your choices in terms of target audience appeal and prove your detailed awareness of conventions.

A SHORTER VERSION: I wrote this with the assumption that all would work in groups, and you could thus share research findings of multiple sites. make sure you look at a reasonable range of sites, including the artist's own if they have one (you also need to closely examine their social media for branding, mode of address... what sort of pictures do they post, how in/formal are their posts/captions, are there any competitions, do they integrate UGC...and are you seeking to change the existing brand?

You need to examine at least 2 sites in significant, well-illustrated detail. List what you then consider to be common features (codes and conventions: the media language of a music artist website), and examine several more sites until you have built up a range of examples for any feature you want to claim is a convention. You will need this research again for your Evaluation.

Clearly highlight features and design/content ideas that may influence your work. Equally, highlight anything you specifically wish to avoid! Creating vodcasts for your summary posts would be a smart move.

Use pen and paper to sketch out/list your website's design/layout/content. Clearly list the main pages and note any planned sub-sections within each. Planning from there can be a mix of a page/section at a time and content creation to feature in multiple pages/sections (social media, photographs, video, Vines, even games - there are lots of sites/apps that enable you to create distinctive content quickly and cheaply/free!)

(1) Pick out two official music artist websites covering acts from different genres and eras.

(2) Confirm that no classmate has also picked any of these - if they have, one of you needs to make a different choice (this widens the knowledge base or frame of reference later on).

(3) In separate posts [WEBSITE EG1: Artist Name etc] blog on what you see in detail - use my example posts to see how to approach and layout this work (Doors, Gaga, Antics). See 'SUGGESTED THEMES' below for more help with what to look out for.

(4) Create a links list: WEBSITE CONVENTIONS RESEARCH (dependent on how many posts you later add, you may also have links lists for Website Technologies Used/Drafts/Feedback).

(5) Team up with at least 1 other classmate and agree a final list of common conventions of official music act websites, making sure you've each got details noted of the examples you've found and are using to back up each point. Its always a good idea to additionally note some possible influences (ideas you might use) and even unconventional examples which stand out from the norm.

(6) Communicate your findings as a vodcast. The quickest way to do this is to number your conventions and take it in turns to talk through these and the examples you found. You could film yourselves in a mock talkshow setup (sofa, glasses of water ...), simply record your voices or try something more creative; whatever way you record your voices, the key visual content will be the screenshots (or recordings) of the examples you found, plus titles to clearly denote each main convention.

The next steps come once you have formed production groups and picked an artist/track.
It may well be that someone is delegated within a group to take primary responsibility for website production.
At this stage you will have set out a target audience, both primary/core and secondary, and you need to make frequent reference to this when discussing and justifying your choices. Seeking audience feedback is one part of that - this may include the artist themself/ves!
(7) Scrutinise and blog on your artist's official website (if there is one) in detail.
Look at two or more comparable official websites (similar genre/era) and at least one fan site, again blogging in detail.

(8) Create a second vodcast, in which you sum up any additional/different (to your earlier list of general conventions) conventions or design aspects you think are relevant to (expected by audiences) your act/genre.

(9) Start initial planning of the site's look: the top frame with main page links (band logo, image, font/s); colour theme; any recurrent background image across all/some pages; font/s.
List what main pages your website will feature, and sub-sections within these.

(10) Pick a Wix template, blogging on why you chose this over the available alternatives. Take screenshots of the raw template's pages to help show later just how much you have customised the website.

(11) Now list: (1) features to add (eg sign-up, social media feeds, e-commerce) and (2) content to produce: roughly how many unique images you will need, with initial basic denotation of what these might be; logos/existing images; social media sites to set up (updating these should be shared across the group); written text (eg bios) to be produced; video content (much of which may not be available until you near completion, but list types of video content); audio content; 'fan-made' content (UGC)?; any other content types.

(12) This will be fed into the group's production schedule - I highly recommend setting up and maintaining a group Google calendar for this purpose.

(13) Produce one or more rough drafts of your home page to reflect the main design, seek feedback and blog on your final design decisions. When seeking audience feedback, aim to provide clear but brief guidance as to what you most want opinion on. Avoid questionnaires, but an online poll may be useful. Filming small 'focus group' discussion is probably the best approach. Try to get some feedback from both within and beyond your group's stated target audience. [You can optionally add a 'landing page' later - here's the Wix how-to guide!]

(14) Finalise your homepage and set your own timetable for a page by page drafting process. You need to plan social media profiles (and updates/posting) as part of this. Blog on technologies you use as you go, as well as audience feedback and your response, and keep updating/adding links lists.

(15) Whilst establishing or attracting an audience might be considered post-production, as you are likely to integrate social media profiles with your website, make sure you blog on steps taken to build traffic and create followers!

(16) As you near completion, look carefully at the Evaluation questions and compile resources/points for use with these which can be shared across the group (this includes clearly named files [eg images, videos] and folders). A post now in which you evaluate the work on your website (what you've learned, including technologies employed [not least social media], through the process; how well the group functioned on this; outline of drafting and major changes; how well it does/n't integrate with the wider promo package; summary of impact of audience feedback [this may include the artist or 'client' themselves]; final reflection on suitability for target audience, and any aspects/choices you would in retrospect change). This will help considerably with your formal Evaluation response.

Just a few suggestions; it always helps to use clear sub-headings when blogging. Feel free to use your own - as you begin to look into this you should find some themes will stand out for you. Don't worry about some repetition, even if it means virtually copy/pasting - whatever makes it easiest for both you and the examiner/teacher to follow and find your points.

BRANDING [this could be a useful overall summary (if so, put it to the top once done); could be used together with key features, the next suggestion]


LIKELY TARGET AUDIENCE/S; MODE OF ADDRESS [again, could be part of above 'themes'. If you think you can deduce the likely primary target audience (and maybe some evidence for a secondary audience too), be clear in why you think this] Mode of address is always useful to consider, and something you can link to audience theories such as the uses and gratifications model: do you get faux-'personal' touches like a signature, or even a direct video greeting?; is slang (or abbreviations) used (eg gigs instead of concerts as a top link)?; is there content which only a fan could 'read' (requiring knowledge)?; is there any sense of a we or an us and them: are the audience implied to be of a certain age, attitude, gender etc? (if you're feeling ambitious, you could try applying some discourse analysis [Wiki], popularised by the academic Norman Fairclough)

LANDING PAGE [aka SPLASH/CLICK-TO-ENTER PAGE]? [denote key features if so, including small detail - how exactly is visitor instructed to enter: 'click to enter' message? Where does that come? Do you have to scroll down to see this (generally very annoying!)] See Wix guide.


TOP FRAME/BANNER [various elements, some of which are worth separately detailing: image/s (opacity or other distortion/SFX? consider framing too - specifically with name/logo), shape, position, size, page links?, name/logo]

NAME/LOGO [where/how does it appear: position, size, colour/s...]

PAGES/TOP LINKS LIST [note specific pages listed, but also note if sub-pages are visible/clickable through hovering. Note font/s here or in a main fonts section]

AUTO-SCROLLING GALLERIES? [this can apply to social media feeds, highlighting different posts, as well as images and video]

PAGE TYPE: MERCHANDISE/SHOP [ie, you could look at the features, layout, language of specific page types; this will help speed up your own decision-making process]

E-COMMERCE [overlaps with multiple 'pages' potentially]

PRESENCE OF MUSIC [some bands' sites obscure the actual music beneath other content; detail where and how the music is accessible. What website/s are used to embed music (Spotify, SoundCloud?)? Is it downloadable (which format/s? Do you know the difference between AAC, MP3, FLAC?), streamable (perhaps just samples/snippets?), available for purchase as physical media?] 



PERSONAL INFORMATION? [this can be dull and overdone, though also useful for newcomers; for your site you could invent talkshow appearances, magazine/ezine/radio interviews and the likes!]

CONTACTS/ACT LINKS? [is a form used for contacting?]

ARCHIVE? [any use of clickable calendars?]

GAMES? [quite rare at the moment, likely to become more common?]

RANGE/TYPE OF IMAGE [wider topic than just gallery: does the site repeat the same image/s or use a wide range? Are there themes or common features to these? Thoughts on the pose or content of these?] 

LANGUAGE: DISCOURSE/MODE OF ADDRESS [informal, maybe even 'sweary'? Brief text, long passages, a mix? Direct address to fans? Are written pieces 'signed'? Use of humour/puns? Intertextuality - one signifier of a postmodern approach, and frequently used as a strategy to widen audience appeal beyond a core fanbase demographic]


VIDEO/VINES [just on a video page? what sort of video? just youTube or other sites too? Vines is just one of many emerging video types/platforms. GIFs are worth noting too]

SOCIAL MEDIA [lots of points you could further break down: specific sites; live feeds; sign-up/follow buttons/links; use of icons. Are there means by which a particular social media, eg Facebook, is always signified - perhaps colour, use of icon...?]

OTHER EXTERNAL AGENCIES [record company? management? website designer/platform (eg Wix!)? Always look closely at the very bottom of web pages...] 

FONTS + FONT VARIATION [consider how size + colour contribute to design. Is logo font used? Any pattern to font use - used to denote certain content/layout types/elements?]

BEST + WORST FEATURES [can be useful to look for general points such as this. Critical notes are especially useful if you're creating a website for an act that already has one!]

FAULTY/OUT-DATED CONTENT? [actually quite common as artists try to cope with curating multiple online platforms; see both the Doors and Gaga website reviews! MySpace is a good giveaway!] 

IDEAS/FEATURES I MIGHT USE [acknowledging possible influences is good practice]

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