It can prove something of a surprise these days when an artist doesn’t have a website. The Internet is the printing press of our day, a game-changer that has completely overhauled the way we experience and communicate with the world - so to neglect it seems like a significant oversight for anybody whose career is essentially concerned with proposing and disseminating ideas. Self-publishing online has upset traditional art-world networks and enabled people to seek new interactions and new audiences, but an individual website can often be lost in the cacophony of words and pictures uploaded into the ether every day. As the Internet becomes ubiquitous the question of how to present oneself successfully online is a key one. Unsurprisingly as the number of individuals and companies going online increases, so too have the platforms available to host them.
Squarespace is one such web publishing programme, aimed specifically at creative professionals for whom a well designed and visually successful website is something of a necessity. It offers a range of templates for blogs, portfolios or businesses, all of them elegant frameworks that place a strong emphasis on images without sacrificing space for text. I opted for the Montauk template for my trial run, and after a bit of time tinkering with logos, images, sub-headings and links, I had the makings of a personal writing portfolio, (albeit one that inadvertently mimics this is tomorrow’s aesthetic), with large banner images acting as eye-catching introductions to the texts below them.
Although some aspects were slightly unintuitive at first encounter, it was possible to work my way through, even before consulting the extensive user support systems available, which include online demos, FAQs and (unusually) a 24 hour hotline. Squarespace’s templates are designed to be easy to use and easy to personalise by people whose expertise lie outside the web. There’s no need to know html or web design; instead, whole website templates are packaged up into boxes and sections that can be edited and moved around within the established framework. All the user has to do is bring the all-important content, add some home touches and shuffle the furniture around. The site can easily accommodate photo galleries and video content as well as static images, it’s possible to switch templates, and to upload and edit content remotely - all of which provides a degree of flexibility for users whose content and working environments change regularly.
Squarespace isn’t a free service; after a two-week trial, you have to sign up to retain your site. The company’s decision to charge risks driving some of its likely customers (recent graduates, early-career freelancers, start-up gallerists) to free services elsewhere, but it does ensure an advert free service answerable to the users rather than third parties, and a professional edge in an online world saturated with personal albums and pages.
Until relatively recently (though it seems like an age ago) Internet pages acted primarily as screensaver sign poststo ‘real places’ – galleries, studios, newsprint – rather than destinations in and of themselves. That is no longer the case. Art is increasingly relocating itself online, with artists opting to operate projects almost exclusively in the cloud. As growing numbers of people look for ways to be visible online, the necessity for venues and spaces that can accommodate them is becoming more apparent. Essentially, what Squarespace is doing is building the online equivalent of a set of Internet white cubes: slick, clean gallery backdrops for the all-important content, which nonetheless have the power to transform the images on the wall.