A Guide to Going Online
by W. Logan Fry
The author in his weaving and web-design studio.
Irvin Mayfield, the founder and director of the Institute
of Jazz Culture at Dillard University in New Orleans, explained
in an interview one of the reasons he set up the institute:
"Culture is about definition, and if you're not involved
in the process of defining yourself, somebody else will; and
perhaps they will define you to the point where they don't
think you need to exist" (The
Tavis Smiley Show, National Public Radio: November
The issue of definition is not an insubstantial one. It was
strong enough to induce the American Craft Museum to change
its name to the Museum
of Arts & Design and move from its West 53rd Street
home to 2 Columbus Circle. Not a popular move in some quarters,
but clearly a mighty response to the issue of self-definition.
As individual textile artists, or individuals interested
in textile art, how do we go about the process of self-definition?
The usual ways are tested and true: weaving, quilting, surface
design; exhibiting; writing; curating exhibits; forming groups
and coalitions. And in this process, we also frequently take
matters into our own hands. We secure space and put up our
own shows. We write about our own work, and we write about
the work of our colleagues.
An increasingly popular niche for textile artists for showing
and writing about their work is in the virtual space of the
World Wide Web.
This is an article about putting your work online, where
it can be seen as easily in Oslo and Omsk as in Oshkosh. As
a largely self-taught weaver and Web designer, I have found
that an individual doesn't need a degree in art to be an artist
or a degree in media arts to set up a website. Art is one
of those great professions and avocations that exist largely
Surveying the Field
A place to start in creating a website is to visit with people
who have their own sites, explore the reasons they have undertaken
them, and review the different layouts and designs they used.
Let's stay in the United States, but scan from coast to coast.
Beth Surdut lives on Cape Cod, but you can visit her, together
with the mermaids that share her inspiration, at www.bethsurdut.com.
Carol Ventura is an associate professor of art at Tennessee
Technological University. Her website, plato.ess.tntech.edu/cventura,
is clearly directed at education and cultural interchange
and bringing artists together from around the world. From
her website, you can visit a batik artist in Cameroon and
foot-loom weavers in central Mexico, among others.
Roberta Lavadour of Pendleton, Oregon, makes extraordinary
paper and books from her beautiful home and studio, housed
in a building that was once the mission school of the Umatilla
Indian Reservation. The studio lies at the foothills of the
Blue Mountains near the original Oregon Trail, while Roberta's
cyberspace studio can be found at www.missioncreekpress.com.
Finally, far to the north in Anchorage, Alaska, Helga Berry
weaves gorgeous tapestries on large Tue Lervad looms from
Denmark. Trained at the Manufactures Nationales des Gobelins
in Paris, she travels widely. I caught her in cyberspace,
as she wrote to me first from Cairo, Egypt, then Munich, Germany.
You can see her studio and work at www.alaska.net/~fibercom.
All these artists and teachers have designed their own websites,
and all are conversant with the requisites of good website
design. They taught me an unexpected—then quite obvious—lesson.
Having a website transcends issues of self-definition. It's
a business necessity for those who pursue their life's work
as a business, beyond the pure joy of working with
fiber. Beth Surdut says it best: "You cannot thrive in
the business world today without a website. Even if it is
nothing more than a single page with examples of work and
contact information, you must maintain a Web presence to survive."
A Simple Start
The easiest way to design your own website is to use the
options available through your Internet access provider. The
pages offered will give you a chance to show a few images
and include text. But you will often be severely limited by
narrow options. The easiest way may not be the best way.
Instead, many artists create webpages with drag-and-drop,
menu-oriented software. Dreamweaver, FrontPage, and Microsoft
Publisher are used by the artists we visit in this article.
I use Adobe PageMill 3.0 for the Mac. All have yielded good
Figure 1C shows a completed webpage created with PageMill.
The steps were simple. Before starting, I sketched with pencil
and paper a rough idea of how I wanted my page to look. The
planned page would have a caption at the top, an image of
a weaving below at the left, and information about the weaving
to the right.
Producing the webpage was then a straightforward process
of gathering images and putting them in a folder (Figure 1A),
laying out a page structure with the design program (Figure
1B), dragging the images into the top and lower left block
of the page (or using the menu options to bring the pieces
in), typing text directly into the lower right block of the
page, and changing the background to black.
HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is simply the set of instructions
behind Web-design software. It is also called "source
code" or just plain "code"; it tells the computer
how to display information for the World Wide Web and on your
monitor. Learning HTML itself broadens your abilities to create
webpages. The code that implements the webpage shown in Figure
1 is shown in Figure 2 below.
Note that "BGCOLOR" and "FONT COLOR"
are boxed. The numerical (hexadecimal) color equivalencies
are given within the quotes; that is, "BGCOLOR=#000000"
yields a black background. You can easily darken, lighten,
or change background and font colors by changing these numbers.
Moreover, you can analyze attractive color combinations you
see during your Web surfing (by analyzing source code) and
adapt them for your own webpages, being careful not to copy
the tone or composition of the pages you have studied, or
you can insert colors directly from hexadecimal color tables.
Instead of a solid background, you could directly add another
extra snippet of code, to read <BODY BACKGROUND="background.gif"
BGCOLOR="#000000">. That will "tile"
a small, predesigned image across the webpage, often to spectacular
effect. Roberta Lavadour uses a simple "back.gif"
taken from an image of a paper sample to create a very sumptuous
paper texture for her website. (You can also accomplish this
with a pull-down menu in most design programs.).
Caution: If you create a tile named "back.gif"
in your image program, e.g. Adobe Photoshop, you need to spell
it exactly the same in your HTML code, including adherence
to upper- and lowercase. Spelling it as "Back.Gif"
in your HTML will generally not work, and even if it does,
it won't on someone else's computer.
you may encounter, even if your design program does not provide
for it directly. You might copy nonproprietary code you see
on a gallery website to achieve pop-up images of artwork for
your own website. Again, however, avoid copying entire pages
of someone else's code.
One of the best ways to master HTML is to take a class in
an adult or vocational education program. It may sound intimidating,
but if you can learn the weaver's drafts in Marguerite Porter
Davison's A Handweaver's Pattern Book, you can learn
Nevertheless, you will find few artists who actually work
directly with code. The design programs are generally good
enough. Roberta Lavadour adds, emphatically: "My contention
is that if a person only had a very limited amount of time
to devote to learning how to create a website, [they should]
study typography and layout instead of HTML."
But again, those who do become familiar with code enjoy an
enhanced ability to tweak their pages and to analyze the good
features of other websites they encounter during their journeys
through the web.
Working with Digital Images
Working with digital images is a skill that fiber artists
need to develop even if they do not have their own websites.
Editors, publishers, and website creators will be able to
work with images more easily if those images are prepared
First, a word on image size. Image dimension and image size
are very different, although closely interrelated. Image
dimension relates most directly to the size an image will
appear when printed on a page. Image size is the amount
of disk space an image uses. Image size is tied to the concept
of resolution, that is, how finely an image is stored digitally
and rendered for printing or photo reproduction. Good printing
requires a minimum of 300 dpi (dots per inch). Higher resolution
leads to better printed or developed images. Computer monitors
have historically been produced with a screen resolution of
72 dpi for Macs and up to about 96 dpi for PCs. Images with
smaller dimensions and lower resolutions load faster, which
helps people who are viewing your website using dial-up connections
Understanding how a monitor displays images helps to predict
results. If you have a 1- by 1-inch image set at 72 dpi on
a typical Mac screen set at 800 by 600 dpi, the image will
appear to be 1 by 1 inch on the monitor. If you change the
specs to a 1- by 1-inch image saved at 144 dpi, on a typical
Mac screen set at 800 by 600 dpi the image will enlarge to
2 by 2 inches on the monitor. Change the screen to 1024 by
768 dpi, and the image will appear smaller.
This is the reason that screen grabs (copies) of computer
sites generally look a bit fuzzy in print--they are not displayed
online at print resolutions. This is good news for the artist,
however. One of the recurring threats confronted by the artist
going online is image theft. It's not too bad if someone is
just grabbing your images to create personal screen savers
or bulletin-board art, but it is bad if someone wants to bootleg
prints of your artwork. The salvation? Even a 10- by 10-inch
image at 72 dpi does not provide enough information to create
a good print, just a really fuzzy one.
There are several ways to obtain digital images for your
website. If images you have provided for an exhibition or
article have already been converted from film to digital format,
you may be able to harvest those images. But don't use the
image without permission if it has been significantly edited,
altered, or blended with images of other artwork.
Scanning slides or transparencies yourself is another great
way to get digital images of your work. When scanning slides
with a scanner, set the resolution very high, perhaps as high
as 1800 dpi. Then, when manipulating the image for the Web
in Photoshop, for example, you may increase image dimensions,
while keeping image size (in megabytes) the same. A 1.28-
by .58-inch image at 1800 dpi becomes a 7.68- by 3.48-inch
image at 300 dpi (good for print purposes) or a 32- by 14.5-inch
image at 72 dpi. And while a 32- by 14.5-inch image may seem
dimensionally large for the typical monitor, a crisp 5- by
5-inch detail from it might be very good to have.
The digital camera, of course, has enhanced the ability of
all artists to obtain images of their work. That option is
also nice because you get instant feedback on image qualityand
avoid wasting film.
Web designers use both GIF and JPEG images for websites,
but images that are more than 250 KB (some would say smaller)
are too large for many computers and hookups. Large images
may take so long to load that the viewer may abandon the effort.
In the first room of Helga Berry's Gallery, for example, the
largest image is about 245 KB; the next largest is down to
100 KB. Similarly, Carol Ventura has more than fifty images
on her opening page, but they are generally in the range of
45 to 50 KB. In both cases, these sizes are more than enough
to ensure good color and clarity for the pictures.
Thumbnails—small images, often presented with the option
of viewing a larger version—are a neat and effective way
of organizing images. Avoiding full-size images in the first
phase of a visit or search saves time for the viewer.
Links and File Structure
In the example in Figure 1, there was almost no file structure.
A single folder contained a single HTML page and two images.
If you have more artworks, however, you may want a separate
page for each.
In addition, you may want an "info" or "about"
page with overall information about your fiber work, studio,
and home; an exhibitions page listing where your work has
been shown; a résumé page; a contact page showing
your address, phone and fax numbers, and e-mail address; and,
if the work is for sale, an address or art gallery at which
orders can be placed. Such options as a visitor feedback page,
a gallery of friends' work, and a family photo page can also
be added. The four websites featured in this article illustrate
the variety one can achieve.
For many websites, all these pages can be, and generally
are, arranged in a single folder, and each page in this folder
can provide a link to every other page. There can also be
links to other websites anywhere on the Web. The resulting
sets of pages are more like an interlinked mesh than pages
in a book, which are arranged in tight, linear fashion.
As websites become more complicated (more than ten or twelve
pages), multiple folders are useful, and good folder construction
becomes critical for success. A good folder system will help
you break down the process of web design into manageable subprojects.
It will also allow you to make modifications to your website
by simply slipping out an old folder containing a number of
subfolders and HTML documents and slipping in the new, rather
than deleting and adding each of the individual pages separately.
An example of an extensive file structure using folders can
be found in the exhibit Layers of Meaning: the Evolution of
Pick-up Double Weave at the Digital
Museum of Modern Art, my museum project. The goal was
to make the exhibit more nearly worldwide, so it was presented
in five languages: English, Dutch, German, Norwegian, and
The site shows the actual exhibition at the Flaten Art Museum;
recites the statements of the exhibit curator and museum director;
presents the exhibition catalog in .pdf format (pdf is an
acronym for "portable document format," a file type
created by Adobe Systems); and displays most of the work in
the exhibition arranged in five virtual galleries.
This single online exhibit consists of 51 folders, 216 web
pages, 342 images, and 22 pdfs. The project would have been
unmanageable if it had been undertaken in one giant folder.
This then is the first reason for developing a good folder
system: dividing the work into manageable segments that can
be worked on sequentially or in parallel, as discrete work
The folders themselves needed to be in a hierarchical order,
even though when viewed, they will preserve the organization
of a network. A primary structural feature of the project
was dividing the exhibition into sets of folders based on
language: all the Dutch pages in one set of folders, all of
the Norwegian in another.
Images, on the other hand, were placed into folders separate
from the related HTML pages, and also fully outside of the
separate sets of folders organized by language. The goal was
to use a single set of images for the entire exhibition. When
you view an image of Marie Westerman's work in the English
galleries, for example, you are seeing the same image you
would see if you were in the German galleries. Books cannot
Some of the text images, primarily the signs and buttons,
however, were unique to individual translations. The title
of the exhibition "Layers of Meaning: The Evolution of
Pick-up Double Weave'' appears in the exhibition lobby of
each separate translation of the exhibition. It reads: "Schichten
des Sinnes: Die Entwicklung der Doppelgewebe'' in German.
A separate image was created for that caption, and for each
sign or button unique to that translation. The functional
signs were given the exact same name in the code from one
translation to the next, however. The button may read "Hovedinngang"
in Norwegian, but the image name in code is "main_lobby_1.jpeg."
These language-specific images were put in separate folders
for each of the translations.
Structured in this manner, I could easily add a Latvian version.
It would simply require the duplication of the HTML pages
(copy the entire "en" folder, for example, while
changing the name to "lv"); creation of a new set
of signs in PhotoDeluxe for the internal links of the translation
(e.g., lobby, catalog, curator's statement, etc., all replacing
the English signs in the "images" folder); and inserting
Latvian translations of the statements. I would also create
a sign indicating the "Latvian'' translation for the
"exhibitions" page in the "exhibitions"
folder, and create a link to the "lv" folder.
The new "lv" folder could then easily be slipped
into the "layers_of_meaning" folder on the server
as a single, quick operation at the same time as the "exhibitions"
page is modified in the "exhibitions" folder.
A lot of media options can be added to a website: music,
digital movies, Flash animation, virtual reality activities,
and more. These features go beyond the scope of the basics
presented here. It's best to get a good website up and running
before you try to add all the bells and whistles. Keep in
mind that the fancier features may be frustratingly slow to
access for visitors with dial-up modems.
Test, Test, Test
After you have a really nice website, but before you actually
go online, test it in a variety of browsers. My version of
PageMill allows me to open the pages in both Netscape Communicator
and Internet Explorer to see how those browsers respond. Run
your site through AOL, too (even if you are not a subscriber,
you can still maintain the software on your hard drive).
When you try it out, you will find all manner of weird changes
that were not evident as you were working in your design program.
You may need to reposition images, alter spacing, or change
font sizes. The effort will give you a far better and more
universally usable site.
Remember that you can create a good website completely on
the platform of your own computer. Indeed, some people do
so to catalog images or create a visual database, with no
desire to actually go online. But if going online is the goal,
then there are good ways and less good ways to do it.
The worst way, in my opinion, is to post an opening page
with numerous links to pages "Under Construction."
My view is that such pages should be banished from the Web.
On the other hand, some advocate the practice as "a promise
of things to come." My advice, nonetheless, is to get
the website together first, even if it takes three years to
do it. Don't go online until you're ready.
What you don't have to wait for, however, is your URL. This
is the unique name that identifies your website to the world.
You can order a URL from the server that will host your site,
but if you have not chosen a site host yet, do this: Go to
Network Solutions (www.networksolutions.com)
and enter your desired URL in the search box.
If your name is Jane Smith and you find that www.jane.com
is taken, try www.janesmith.com. Keep trying until you hit
an available name. Maybe your success will come with www.jane-smith-quilter.com.
Then register the name, preferably for at least three years,
so you won't need to worry about it for a while. By taking
this step, you eliminate the worry of another Jane Smith who
is also a quilter taking the name first.
Once you do get your URL, protect it. Don't let it lapse,
or someone else may be able to purchase it.
Finding an ISP
Most people bringing a small site online use the services
of an Internet service provider (ISP). Think of an ISP as
a special service that has connections to the web, stores
your site, and makes it available to the public twenty-four
hours a day. A primary piece of equipment is the server, a
specially configured computer that performs these tasks.
The variance in prices for server space is almost beyond
belief. I first looked at some local companies but was dissuaded
by price. Then I found a cheap ISP online; for $7.95 a month,
it provides 800 MB of disk space and 30 GB of cumulative transfer,
which is defined as the sum of the inbound and outbound data
moving in and out of the website (from visitors viewing pages
and downloading any images, music, or little movies you have
on your site). Thirty gigabytes is more than adequate for
all but large, institutional users.
Finally, you need a program to actually move the website
from your computer to the server on which the website is maintained.
Both PageMill and Dreamweaver have the capability to transfer
files, but if your Web development program can't do it, WS_FTP
is useful for PC users and Fetch Softworks (www.fetchsoftworks.com)
for Mac users.
Asking for Feedback
After you get your website online, send its URL to a few
friends and family members and have them review your site
and give you feedback. This is called usability testing,
and it can highlight confusing or misleading areas in your
layout, design, navigation, and content. You may be surprised
to find out that what's obvious to you isn't always as easily
understood by others. Fix any significant problems as soon
as possible, especially if you're attempting to sell your
work onlinemost people will leave your site quickly if
they can't easily make a purchase. For more information about
usability, visit www.useit.com
(a website run by Jakob Nielsen, one of the foremost authorities
Once your site is working well, there are a variety of techniques
for getting it into the public eye. The first and easiest
way is to send e-mails to friends and colleagues and just
announce that it's up. You can ask your friends to tell their
friends as well. And remember to put your website address
on your business cards, letterhead, and e-mail messages.
It's also good to send a press release to local newspapers
and magazines. News outlets that have an online presence will
often give links in stories, and such coverage is one of the
best ways to generate an ongoing Web presence.
Trade links with other artists. Sometimes links are provided
throughout a page, as Carol Ventura does on her website, and
sometimes they are found on separate "Links" pages.
Links pointing in to your site are even more important. Don't
hesitate to ask friends and associates to trade links if you
think the work is complementary.
Greater appreciation of the necessity of exchanging links
can be attained by reading Linked
by Albert-László Barabási (New York:
Plume, 2003). Barabási says the Web is composed of
four basic structural components. First is a central core,
a group of highly interconnected websites forming a tight
lacework of actively energized sites and links. Those are
the sites with traffic.
A second region can be reached via links from the central
core, but it lacks links back to the central core. These sites
are not highly interconnected, but at least they are visible.
A third region suffers the opposite fate; it has links to
the central core, but no links back. If you have a website
that is rarely visited, but which provides links to museums,
art schools, well-known artists, etc., you may be in that
lonely region. Few will ever reach you.
Finally, a fourth region has scant links to or from the central
core. This group is truly isolated. Isolation can be a good
thing if the website is devoted to family photographs and
journals; or to esoteric political and cultural pursuits.
It is not good if you have art or ideas you want to share.
Barabási generalizes: "... the location of
a Webpage on the Web has little to do with the page's content;
rather it is mostly determined by its relationship, via incoming
and outgoing links, to other documents." He adds: "If
your Webpage is on an island [no incoming or outgoing links]
the search engines will never discover it, unless you submit
your URL to them."
It is thus the presence of linksboth to and from your websitethat
will position it in the central core and help ensure that
it will be noticed.
Search engines facilitate finding information on the web.
Google, at www.google.com,
now stands out above the rest. Website owners vie for listing
and position on Google; optimal is a listing on the first
page or two of results from a Google search. One of the best
resources for learning how Google generates its search lists
is Google Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools
by Tara Calishain & Rael Dornfest (Sebastopol, California:
O'Reilly & Associates, Inc., 2003).
In Chapter 8, the authors make a number of suggestions on
getting noticed. Some may not be feasible, such as having
a website containing more than 100 pages of "real content."
Other hints may be more useful for someone with a small Web
presence. Foremost among these: Keep the website easy to navigate.
Most of the work of indexing webpages is accomplished by "spiders"
that creep through cyberspace to search out information. Difficult
pages can impede their progress. If you have easy links among
the pages of the site, the spiders can efficiently crawl through
your site and extract necessary information. It sounds almost
too weird, but it's true.
Use of "metatags" is another device for attracting attention
to a website. Metatags are key words and phrases placed in
the source code to facilitate indexing by search engines.
In some design programs, they can be inserted by pulling down
the appropriate menu item. Carol Ventura, on the other hand,
inserts them directly into the source code.
Roberta Lavadour also uses metatags effectively. One of her
pages, for example, includes the following metatags (among
others): "Mission Creek Press, books and handmade paper,
custom books, book arts, custom invitations, bookbinding,
handmade books, business cards, artistic techniques, Gallery
of artist, unique."
For indexing images, the "alt" phrase, which is designed
to stand in for the image if it cannot be displayed, may be
very useful for search engines. For those familiar with HTML,
note the following in Beth Surdut's code: <img src="images/jpegs/macaws.jpg"
alt="Macaws and Mangoes, silk painting by Beth Surdut"
WIDTH="288" HEIGHT="345">. Using this
phrase, a search for ''macaws and mangoes'' returns two images
on Google. Note that Beth did not run the words together in
her image description but rather retained the spaces between
them. If she had run the words together, as in "macawsandmangoes,"
the search would not have returned a link to her site.
A last bit of advice: Don't pay for a facilitator. Most search
engines provide a way to submit websites at no charge. Paying
someone else to do it for you, on the pretext of getting an
expedited or better position in search results, is probably
a waste of resources. If you follow the steps above, search
engines will probably find you without a facilitator.
Because each of the artists discussed here has created her
own website, the cost they report is quite reasonable—generally
in the range of $200 to $500. But those were strictly costs
such as purchasing a Web-design program, registering a website
name, and paying ISP fees. It did not include the cost of
a computer and equipment (digital cameras, scanners, printers),
and there are ongoing costs to maintain the URL and ISP. Importantly,
these figures do not include the cost of the artists' time—time
spent developing the site and time spent maintaining it. That
cost, they agree, would be incalculable. Yet all would gladly
do it again.
So engage in a little self-definition and create a website.
It can be a single page or a hundred. And regardless of whether
your efforts at Web design are successful in generating traffic,
producing sales, making contacts, or gaining invitations,
it will clearly be a way to share your ideas and art with
W. Logan Fry weaves and writes in rural Richfield, Ohio.
His website, the Digital Museum of Modern Art, can be seen