Here are some easy to follow tips that are 100% necessary when reviewing your current website or building a new one so that you can remain relevant and professional:
Technical Rules for Building a Proper Actor Website
1. It must load fast: for both humans and Google.
Casting directors and industry professionals are literally sorting through hundreds of great actors everyday. Do not keep your audience waiting, when they visit your site it must load fast. Every millisecond counts. Do not gut check the speed of your website, test your website speed with speed tools to get an accurate idea of the speed. Why? Because when gut checking, you may not be recognizing that website browsers “cache” a.k.a save portions of your website locally to speed things up after a website loads for the first time. So when you visit a website in the future, it loads faster. However with your audience, they are going to experience your website as a first time load…which could be dramatically slower. Two free tools for testing: GTMetrix and Google’s Page Speed Insights. GTmetrix gives a Google Page Speed Score (using a dated google algorithm because google stopped publishing the algorithm) and it gives a more human feel loading speed in more plain and easy to understand english. Google’s Pagespeed Insights gives the official Page Speed Score and a more technical explanation of what needs to change to improve the score. Simply go to their websites and test. Anything less than B is unacceptable.
2. HTTPS is now a requirement.
When a website is using https, its using a secure layer on top of normal http indicating that each “behind the scenes” download of data to your computer is encrypted between your computer and the computer in the cloud (the webserver). When using https, if some bad guy is monitoring the data in between your computer on the server, that bad guy will not know what it is. This isn’t very important for casual reading data, but if you are submitting data in a contact form, you want that data to be private. The Google gods want https to be the standard. As a result, Google has pushed https to be an indication that you have a more modern and recent website from both the perspective of vanity and technical seo results. How are they pushing this? From a vanity standpoint, if a website is not using https in the Google Chrome Browser, Chrome will display “Not Secure” which is ugly and doesn’t provide confidence to your audience. From an SEO technical point of view, https will be used as part of their behind the scenes SEO algorithm of results.
Setting up https can be a hassle, but given how prolific google results are and how many people use the Google Chrome browser, it is a necessity. People not in the know might say from a technical point of view, if you don’t submit data (ie don’t have contact form) then the idea of https is a waste of time…but they are wrong and uninformed. This was true maybe a few years ago, but since then Google has announced that from a vanity standpoint (which matters) that they will be showing a scary message on sites that don’t have https and from a technical point of view and has stated that they will be prioritizing https site in the page speed score, it is the internet law for success. So the bottom line is: make sure your site has https.
3. Responsive design is now expected.
People will be viewing your website on both desktop computers and mobile phones, so it’s very important that your website is prepared to look its very best in both of these viewing environments. The idea of a website being able to adapt to different types of sizes of screens is called responsive design. Possible example of responsive design theory: maybe your columns will stack instead of being side by side so that things are more readable instead of shrinking. To make this happen is extra work/thought/testing to ensure your site looks great on multiple platforms, but it is a must. Do not expect your site to automatically be responsive…test, test, and test.
4. Do not use flash on your website, no exceptions.
If you are using flash on your website…it’s time for a new website. If you or your current web designer says that your users can download a plugin to view your website…Newsflash..they won’t. Flash stopped being automatically installed on computers many many years ago. Do not expect anybody to install anything on their computer in order to view your website. They will simply close your website and never return.
5. Do not redirect your domain to another website.
If you have a domain name and then redirect the domain to your instagram… you are missing the point of how to market yourself. A website serves as your foundation of your marketing… not your instagram. You have full control to put yourself in the best possible light and the link out to these other platform to provide further support for who you are. Make a strong website and have links to your instagram, IMDB, and actors access profile (if it is up to date)
Make sure you know how to keep your website updated.
If you are less tech savvy and getting a friend to help you, make sure that friend shows you how to make updates to the site.
Actor Website Content Guidelines
1. You must keep keep your content recent or feel recent.
The pictures must feel recent, its okay to have historical archive style pictures from back in the day…but the site is a tool for you to control the narrative and showcase yourself so that an entertainment professional can easily decide you are the one. Have recent photos, and news of things you are working on or doing in the industry so that they know this is not an after-school activity, this is something you are all in on.
2. Your website must look professionally built.
Your website must have that professional build look, it can’t be looking like a website built from 5 years ago. Fonts, colors and layout must look like they have been built recently. With services like ActorGear there is no excuse not to have your site looking modern and built professionally.
3. Your audience should see what matters when your page loads without scrolling.
When entertainment professionals visit your site, you should immediately present them with the information that matters in this order: recent video of what you have worked on, recent pictures, recent news, navigation for them to dig further into your body of work info about you. All of this information should be immediate and in that order.
Do not make people guess how to find more videos, pictures, bio or contact information, the navigation should be immediate and at the top of the site when the site loads.
5. Do not have a single sound or video autoplay when people first visit your website.
Many people are viewing your website in an office situation, do not make them spill their coffee as they jump out of their chair to find where to mute the sound button is on their computer when your theme song starts blasting…before finding the mute button…they will just close the window on your website and move on to the next actor.
Don’t make people search other platforms, make your website the cornerstone of everything necessary to know about you. In today’s world, you having some sort of audience in your instagram audience can be helpful (because you will be helping to promote your projects) so list it. Your IMDB link can be important for validation, so list it. Your actors access page can be important in the even that they are using that system for casting, so list it. If you have a large subscriber base on youtube, list it.
Understanding who your audience is and catering to your audience is important.
Ultimately, your website’s goal is to help an entertainment professional see your value which includes your talent, see that you are organized and professional, and see that you can help give extra promotion to any project you are working on.
About the Author
Ben Miskie holds a degree in Computer Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, is the son of two midwest design professors, and is the founder of ActorGear building websites for actors and small businesses for over 15 years.