The do’s and don’ts of artist websites
What is the aim of your artist website? Establishing a goal for your online portfolio will help guard against many of the common mistakes individuals make when building an online platform to promote their artwork; sites that are cluttered and disorganised where the art itself is being overshadowed by long, unreadable chunks of text, fancy effects and backgrounds, or, at the other end of the scale, bare and disinteresting web pages that give little or no information about the art or the artist.
You may find chapter 1 from our free tutorial series helpful: Go to Chapter 1: Establishing your objectives.
But a clear mission statement isn’t always enough to keep you on track. Let’s take a look at some suggestions for best practises on your website and also some of the pitfalls you’ll want to avoid.
DO keep your artist website fast, simple, easy to navigate and well organised
These are the basics; people visiting your site for the first time should know within 30 seconds who you are, what your art looks like and how to move around your site.
- If your site takes a long time to load you’ll lose visitors in their droves; click here for a few simple things you can do to speed up your site.
- On your main site pages (like your home, about and gallery pages) keep the text focused and concise and don’t overwhelm visitors with hundreds of images; you can always add links to deeper pages for people who want to know or see more.
- Most artist websites only need 4 or 5 top-level pages; click here for more about planning pages.
- If you are implementing a blog on your website make sure your posts are well categorised; check out our guide to using categories on WordPress.
DON’T use free web hosting
Ironically, free hosting comes at a price. Your site will scream ‘unprofessional’ and your art may be overshadowed by distracting banner ads and obtrusive graphics.
You’re also giving potential buyers the impression you can’t afford your own website, or worse, you just don’t care enough!
Paid hosting gives you the advantage of your own dedicated domain name and great support if things go wrong. It also doesn’t cost the earth; services like Bluehost offer domain name registration and hosting for as little as $4.95 a month (around £3).
DO make sure your website functions properly on multiple platforms and across all major browsers
According to Pew over 63% of people who own mobile phones use them to browse the internet, so it’s essential that your site displays well on smart phones; this applies doubly to tablet devices. There are plenty of free services online that mimic these platforms, like MobileTest.me and iPadPeek.com.
It’s also important to make sure your site works across all the major browsers, so use a service like Browserling.com to see how your online portfolio looks in Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox; there may be subtle differences that need addressing.
DON’T use third party ads on your site
Unless there’s a very good reason, like the products your are promoting are directly related in some way to your artwork and fit in with your values and message, avoid the temptation to make a few extra bucks on the side. Adverts are designed to grab attention and will only serve to distract visitors from the main focus of your site; your artwork!
DO link to all your social media platforms
Nowadays, this is a must. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+, to name a few, are great ways to drive traffic to your website. It may seem counter-intuitive to add social media buttons encouraging visitors to leave your main site to go and ‘like’ your profile on Facebook, but it will pay dividends. Think about it – are people more likely to visit your artist website or Facebook on a daily basis? It keeps you connected with potential buyers and lets them see what you’re up to.
Don’t forget to include a link on all of your social media that leads back to your website too!
DON’T confuse visitors
Keep technical jargon to a minimum and give explanations for unusual, art-specific terminology. This way you avoid alienating people who love to look at art but don’t necessarily understand the techniques and methods involved in its creation.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk about your process; on the contrary, people love to discover how a piece was made, but assume those people know absolutely nothing about you, your work or even art in general.
DO keep the navigation super-simple
A clear navigation bar at the top of your site or in the left-hand side bar are what people are used to and should be a permanent fixture on all pages of your site.
All too often artist websites have gallery pages that lead the visitor down dead-end paths. Images should link to a larger pop-up of the same image if anything at all.
Make sure any sub-pages link back to the major pages of your site, like the Homepage; don’t force people to use the back-button on their browser.
DON’T use images that are too large
Of course it’s essential that your art is represented as faithfully as possible by the images on your website. But remember, the higher the quality of the images (i.e. The larger they are both in pixel size and resolution), the longer the page will take to load; many visitors won’t have the patience to wait and will simply leave your site instead.
Try saving the JPEGs of your art at around the 80% quality range and stick with images that are no larger than 200 KB.
DO keep text concise
Aim for around 300-400 words at most on your main website pages (this doesn’t include blog posts which can be much longer).
The text should tell the story of what is unique or unusual about you and your art. To an extent though, let your images do the talking. You can always include a ‘Read more’ link to an in-depth piece of writing on any given subject, but large blocks of text on your key web pages can be off-putting.
DON’T over-use plugins, special effects or audio
Unless they truly enhance your art in any way (like a stylish Gallery plugin), plugins can really slow down a site and are often unnecessary. Remember that bells and whistles are distracting; visitors are there to discover more about you and your art, not to be impressed by how flashy your website is.
Be brutally honest with yourself; can you strip back what’s happening on your site?
DO provide exhaustive contact information
The more accessible you are, the more trustworthy and professional you will seem. Including an email address is good. A phone number is even better.
Invite questions and inquiries; potential buyers are more likely to take the plunge if they can find out as much as possible from the artist.
DON’T show every piece of art you’ve ever created
If you have a large body of work, don’t be tempted to include full images and details of every piece you’ve ever created. This will create a cluttered, unwelcoming environment that is overwhelming for your visitors.
Be selective and organise your galleries well; create various sections or collections of work.
DO offer explanations
When labelling your work in an online gallery environment, you should at least state its dimensions, materials used and the year it was created.
You might also offer a couple of sentences to deepen the visitor’s understanding of the work; What was your inspiration? What techniques were used?
Including a price can be useful; it promotes transparency and encourages trust from your visitors.
DON’T overuse colours and fonts
Modern bricks and mortar galleries usually have white walls. The reason? Art looks great against a neutral backdrop. Artist websites usually work well with a very muted background, dark text, and a limited palette of colours for page headings, sub-headings and links.
Likewise using a range of fancy fonts can be distracting; the simpler and more readable, the better.
DO offer a way for visitors to be kept up to date
Hopefully your art will make an impact. Offering a way for people to be kept in the loop is a great way of deepening connections with potential buyers. It can be as simple as a button to subscribe to your blog, but a monthly newsletter is often the most effective way of sharing your news.
Do you have any tips to share? What’s been working well on your artist website? Let us know in the comments below.