By Carolyn Edlund
Be honest. Is your website something you’re really proud of? Or maybe – not so much. Do you know exactly what needs to be improved, or are you not really sure where to start?
I asked art coaches, mentors, and bloggers, who look at artist websites all the time, for a sentence or two on what bugs them the most. Their responses:
I’m not a fan of splash pages. They often have flash or animation, and you have to wait or click to avoid the intro.
Having to search for price and size information. Do NOT make me send you an e-mail. I will be gone to the next artist’s site in less time than that takes, let alone wait for your reply.
Music playing – I like playing my own music when I am on the Internet. I may not like your choice and am irritated to have to look for a mute button.
Poor navigation – Don’t make me dig around on your site to find out what you have to offer. I may miss it or get bored or frustrated looking and quit only to never return.
No Prices – I want to see prices. If I have to contact you be email or phone to learn what your prices are, it’s a near mortal lock I won’t bother.
Miranda Aschenbrenner, Artist and Author, Learn to Art blog:
As for my pet peeve on artists’ websites: I don’t like websites that require a lot of clicking to access overly categorized artwork images; ideally, I like to be able to quickly click through all the works without having to hit the back button.
Alyson Stanfield, Coach and Author of Art Biz Blog
1: When artists don’t have their names on tops of the pages. This happens all of the time! It’s often the result of artists doing their sites themselves.
2: When there are no credit lines with the images. Artists worry about people “stealing” their images, yet they’re often the worst offenders of posting work online without credit.
An artists name should be their URL rather than a clever phrase. It’s easier for people to find you online if your name leads them to your website. Don’t make me work too hard to find you online, because I don’t have that kind of time!
Common errors like broken links, misspellings and bad grammar are obvious annoyances on any website or blog. However, I find that many talented artists give little or no thought in creating an aesthetically and artistically pleasing blog post. Deep, unbroken paragraphs are boring and labor intensive to read, no matter how good the content might be. Keep your readers happy and make it visually pleasing with images, easy to skim, and try using sub-topics and bullets points.”
Visitors are checking out your website because they want to have a good experience seeing your work. How can you make this happen, especially when you are on a limited budget? I asked yet another expert, John R. Math, guest blogger who wrote “Art Website Basics – What Every Artist Should Know!” to comment on how to create a balanced, easy-to-use website that avoids many of these problems.
The experts who commented on this article brought to attention some common art website issues that they see throughout the art industry. Overall, it seems that if you waste your website visitor’s time or make it difficult to purchase your art, you will lose them! We will comment on how these website problems can be fixed with a little attention from the art website owner.
A common problem is a lack of, or not being able to find the proper information on the website quickly. First, a visitor wants to see your artwork. Have your portfolio (or readily available links to) on the home page. A visitor, especially a professional in the business, does not have the time to waste trying to locate your artwork. These people want to see your art in order to see if there is any interest on their part to go further in their evaluation.
Secondly, if those visitors are interested in your art, they will then want to know the price of the art. A common problem is the lack of, or hard to find pricing information. An ideal solution is to have the price along with the image of the artwork and if that is not possible, then make that pricing information easy for your visitor to find. In addition to the art and the price, a visitor will want to know what materials and media that you used for that particular piece of art. Many art websites lack this type of information.
A “Click Intensive” website will lose traffic quickly. What do we mean by click intensive? It means that a visitor has to click around and click the back button to navigate your website. In this busy world, where we are bombarded with information, people will not take the time find what they are after. Make your website as basic and easy to navigate as you can. Remember, the point of your website is to show your art and then to hopefully get people to take further action in the selling process.
The experts discussed the Flash problem, whereby it slows the visitor from getting to see what they want to see . . . your art. If your website is slow in loading, a visitor will not wait. You will lose them.
Make your website easy to find, easy to navigate and make it go fast! Remember, a lot of visitors may have old computers, with old software and their computer’s memory cannot handle a flash website! In addition, if your website is slow in loading, Google will subsequently mark your page rank down when your site is indexed by them, as they do measure and rate how long it takes to have your website load.
Another common problem is the lack of artist contact information on the website. There are many artist websites that DO NOT have contact information. You should have as many ways as possible for the visitor to reach you. Have a physical address, telephone, email, text, IM, Skype etc. Have a contact form for your visitors or better yet, have an entire page devoted to helping people reach you (Google likes that too when they index the site).
Make it a point every month to “become” the visitor to your website. Go through each page, each internal link and each external link. Pages, text, sidebars and graphics all do strange things on a website. It is surprising what you will find that is not working. While you are there, use spell check or get someone to proof read your website for you, then make subsequent changes and improvements to your copy.
Remember, the purpose of your website is to help you sell yourself and your art, or at least for the website visitor to make contact with you to go further in the selling process. Your website cannot really make the sale for you, but a poorly designed and functioning website can lose the sale for you.
Check out another great article that John wrote with even more details.