If you’ve made it to this article, then you already know how important it is to have a website these days. Especially for visual artists, the web opens a huge window of opportunity to put more eyes on your work. Galleries are no longer the only way to sell. In fact over 90% of them have online sales content themselves.
That said, the internet is a loud, complicated place. Creating a website that stands out from the crowd while doing all you need it to do is no any easy task. This post will attempt to break down the process, demystify the technical mumbo jumbo, and give you a few inspiring examples for your own website.
Follow the next six steps to an amazing visual artist website.
1.) DIY or Hire a Professional
Before you can put any of your unique work online, you’ll need to decide how to get it there. You can either build the website yourself or hire a professional(s).
The “best” method depends on what you want and what you have.
Begin by determining what exactly your site needs to do for you
As an artist, there are certain things you’ll absolutely require from your site. Features like an online portfolio and a place for contact information. But what about contact forms? A shopping cart so visitors can purchase pieces online? Email addresses associated with your site (like myName@MyArtWebsite.com)?
If you want to start out with a simple portfolio and contact website, you can probably get away with creating the website yourself using a website builder (Check out this resource for website builders).
However, if you want to see more functionality, a larger site and/or ecommerce ability, the technical level may require a pro.
Figure out how much time and effort you want to put into learning how to build your website in order to decide which option is right for you.
Time is money: Pick which one you’d like to spend
Building a website is expensive, no matter if you do it yourself or hire someone else. Doing it yourself will save you on the costs of a web designer, but will require a lot of time and learning on your part.
On the flip side, web designers are not cheap. A good web team that will give your project the time and attention it needs will rarely be less than $2000, and usually over $5000. Many, including ourselves, offer payment plans, but it is not always the right option.
Balance your needs and resources to find the perfect solution. Plenty of time and not too much to ask? A website builder will probably serve your needs (check out this list of resources if you decide to build your website yourself). Not enough time and a big vision? You may find hiring a web team is your better bet.
2.) Determine the Technical Stuff
Now that you know how you’re going to make your website happen, it’s time to consider where it will live. Websites require two things to appear online: A domain name and a hosting plan.
Your domain name is simply the name of your site, and what you would type in the address bar. Google’s domain name is: google.com. Ours is evokadesigns.com. Yours should be something short, difficult to misspell and relevant to you or your work.
Check out this resource for naming and buying tips.
To purchase a domain name (or to check if it’s available) we recommend using https://www.godaddy.com/ as it is the industry standard for all domain names and tends to be fairly inexpensive. Other places to buy domain names include http://www.enom.com/ and some web builders.
“Hosting” refers to where your website is going to live on the internet. Budget providers are usually around $10-$15 per month and do just that: provide your website a place on the internet. Full service providers like ours often include many other features such as security, maintenance and email capability. These can run from $25 and up per month.
Most website builders and all professional web designers should have recommendations to get both of these technical aspects squared away and ready to go.
3.) Collect All Your Assets
Now we start getting into the fun part. It’s time to collect all of the pictures, text and links that you want to connect to your site. Gathering these first will help you decide how to group information and present it to your visitors in a logical, easy to understand way.
Photographs & Video
Live viewing is almost always better than seeing a piece of artwork online. However technology hasn’t quite figured out how to transport full-sensory experiences over the internet. Given that, high quality photography of your work becomes the next best thing most important part of your website.
Especially if you create three dimensional works, stunning photography of your pieces is what will keep the online rendition as true to the original as possible.
Take some time or hire a photographer to get the highest quality assets you can. Your works are what people will remember, after all!
Testimonials, Reviews and Awards
If anyone has ever said anything nice about your work, now is the time to show it off. Whether you have competed in competitions, been showcased in galleries or even received reviews on google, all of it should show up on your website.
Social validation is the phenomenon that describes how much a visitor trusts a site online. Anyone can make a website, so people have developed judgement systems to determine if a website is credible. Adding proof of your achievements not only proves your ability, but it also proves to the viewer that others value your talent as well.
If you’re just starting out or if your preferred mediums don’t support traditional competitions, feel free to use any other kind of testimonial: Character referrals, who has bought from you in past, etc.
Though not applicable to everyone, if you have a schedule of gallery showings or events you’re participating in, your website is a good place to promote them. Collect whatever you have and make sure everything has a location and description.
Whether through painting, sculpture, web design or novels, everyone wants to see a story. We strongly recommend compiling your notes for all of your largest/most significant pieces to motivate the reasoning behind them.
What inspired you to create the piece? What is it made from? What processes or techniques did you use? Share anything you are willing to that will be engaging, informational or entertaining.
4.) Create the Design: Art-Centric Tips
Website design is art married with functionality. For a visual artist’s website, the images and layouts are the hook. The ease of use makes them stay.
This rule is a standard to follow when setting up your website pages. 80% of them should be images of your work, 20% text and explanations. The reasoning being that one of the main goals for visitors to your site is to see your art. Make this easy. Don’t bog it down with paragraph after paragraph of description. Check out this, this and this website for examples and inspiration.
As the vast majority of people begin switching to using their mobile phones for everything from email to dating, Google has been updated to serve them. When someone googles “bronze sculpture Denver,” 90% will only click on the first three results. Websites that do not look good and work well on mobile devices are much more likely to drop down in this ranking. Translation? Less traffic to your site and less eyes on your work.
Therefore take time to design something that is “mobile responsive.” Many website builders have built in mobile customizations, and it should be outlined in the scope of work with your designer.
While I touched on this concept earlier, user experience is important enough to deserve its own section. User experience or UI/UX describes how a visitor experiences using your website. Is it easy to get around? Can they figure out where they are on the site and where the want to go? What about getting contact information? Is it clear?
The best way to improve user experience is pretty simple. Ask the user! Be sure to use global navigation (a menu bar that follows along as the user scrolls), clear page names, and plenty of clues about how to contact you.
If you decide to sell prints or other works through your website, you will need to have shopping cart functionality. These can be massively complicated (think amazon) or relatively simple. It all depends on what you need and how you do it.
Getting into the nitty gritty is out of the scope for this article. Check out this article for more information about what they are, how they work and how to get one.
5.) Include Everything Your Visitors Need
Now that you have a design, you can begin to consider what exactly you will put on your website. Of course, most artists will want a home page, portfolio page and contact details. But what else?
Who You Are, Why Your Art Matters
We all know it: competition on the internet is fierce. Many artists have taken advantage of the open opportunity to put their best foot forward. Viewing & buying art online is no longer simply a matter of “do I like how it looks.” Consumers must also love where it comes from and how it came to be.
Bernadette Jiwa phrases it succinctly, “Instead of leading with descriptions and listing the features of your product or service, imagine the customer using the product. Now retell that story. What is he doing? What does he want to do, but can’t? How is your product helping? How is he feeling as a result?”
This one is a given, but requires a little more detail to explain. Decide how you want people to contact you. Through phone? Email? Social media? In person? Any of the above? Include all pertinent information in as many places as you can without getting too repetitive.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: visitors should never have to click more than once to access your contact details.
A Note About Email: The internet is constantly filling with spam bots: automated programs that crawl webpages trying to pick up your information. Email addresses are especially vulnerable. If you’d like people to email you, consider using a link rather than writing out the full email, here is an example (click it and see what happens):
Simple code to plug into your website:
<a href=”mailto:PASTE YOUR EMAIL ADRESS HERE”> Email Me</a>
Lastly, make sure you state somewhere on your site how a visitor can go about buying from you. Make sure to be crystal clear and include anything else that might be relevant like:
- Prices (If you want them to be seen online)
- Return/Refund Policy
6.) Ensure All the Technical Pieces are Playing Nicely
Congratulations! If you’ve followed the steps above you have a dynamic, well designed, interesting website put together and ready to go! But don’t go out for pizza and karaoke yet. There are a few last things to work on to get the most out of your site.
Double check that every link, every button and every image goes where it should. Things can get moved around and renamed during the design and development phase. This is an often overlooked step, but can do wonders for both your user experience and search engine rankings
Search Engine Optimization, popularly known as “SEO” is the final technical thing you will want to deal with. As mentioned above, search engines rank your page based on a wide array of website attributes. SEO is its own professional field, with a steep learning curve and deep understanding of both marketing and technical concepts.
Luckily the internet gurus have plenty of useful guides and explanation blogs to help you get started. Check out Hubspot and Entrepreneur for more info and guides.
Note: Make sure to avoid “black hat” SEO tactics. These strategies are meant to trick search engines into thinking your site is more popular than it is. However as search engines improve more and more rapidly, companies using these tactics rank more poorly than if they hadn’t. Do some research to avoid these possible mistakes.
Finally, it’s a good idea to make sure your website is running smoothly and quickly. If not, visitors are not likely to stick around. Luckily there are plenty of free online tools to check how fast your website loads.
We recommend: https://tools.pingdom.com/
Just type in your website domain name and watch it go. It will give you a lot of information, but what matters most is the Performance Insights. These let you know what went wrong and what you can do to fix it.
Get Back to What You Love
The real secret to a fantastic visual artist website is to pack it with fantastic content. Your work is what will draw visitors and keep them coming back. Keep it up and you will be just fine.
Therefore, following these six steps will lead you to a website that works well, looks amazing and can be found by humans and search engines alike.
If you need some inspiration, we are particularly impressed by James Turrell’s website and Wim Delvoye’s website.
Interested in building your visual artist website with us? Click here to learn more about how we bring art online.
On the flip side if you already have a website but aren’t sure how well it matches up, schedule a free website analysis for a list of potential problem areas and what you can do about them.
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