Everybody and their dog has been linking to a blog post entitled “five mistakes that band and label sites make”.
There are some good suggestions listed. Making sure that MP3s have complete metadata is certainly a good tip. It’s also a no-brainer that there should be a clearly visible contact link (although this also applies to just about any website).
Mind you, some of the advice (“Too artsy, too fartsy”,”Search”) makes me think that the whole usability thing can sometimes be taken to extremes. Art-related websites (for bands, movies, etc.) are not necessarily all about swift access to information.
Don’t get me wrong: I certainly believe that the important questions - “WHERE are you playing?”, “WHAT do you sound like?”, “HOW can I get in touch?” - should be clearly visible and accessible from anywhere on a band’s site. But when it comes to the more nebulous questions - “WHERE are you coming from?”, “WHAT are your influences?” - I don’t believe that a bullet pointed mission statement is necessarily the best way of answering them. Often it’s more important that an atmosphere is conveyed. A good website should provide visitors with a feeling for the band and its music instead of just stating cold hard facts.
Matt Haughey lists out some of his favourite band websites that avoid all five of the aforementioned mistakes. But all of the sites he links to have a very standardised, bloggy kind of feel to them. They provide quick and easy access to information (good) but they convey all the personality of a corporate website (bad).
When it came to building the Salter Cane website, I tried hard to get the balance right. You can judge for yourself whether or not I succeeded.
The most timely information - concert dates, etc. - is listed right on the front page of the site. The most important links - MP3 downloads, a contact form - appear on every page of the site.
The heart of the site is Flash-based. There are images of band members, a slideshow of random lyrics and streaming songs. But none of that is vital information. It exists purely to complement the feeling of the music. You can get concert information, download MP3s and get in touch with the band without ever seeing the Flash stuff. But if you explore the Flash area you’ll have a better idea of what the band is about.
I can certainly see the need to take it easy on the Flash. This quote is great:
“Use Flash like you would cilantro - sparingly and for a single high-impact effect. Nobody wants to eat a whole bowl of cilantro.”
At the same time, I wouldn’t want Jakob Nielsen to be in charge of designing my band’s website.
Now what I really need to do is provide an RSS feed of Salter Cane news. It’s the killer app, don’chya know?