Guest blogger Jennifer Rapp Peterson is the founder of IndieMade, and an expert on artist websites. She shares insights from years of advising artist clients on website building.
We all know how important it is for an artist to have your own artist website: an artist who sells work or services for money is a business, and every business needs a website. It is often the only “real estate” an artist owns, after all, and often serves as an introduction to a new audience. Getting an awesome website is easy — as long as you avoid these common mistakes artists make:
1. They don’t set a goal.
To deem any project a success, it’s imperative to have a clear definition of “success.” What are your goals for yourself? What is the goal of your website? Is it to showcase your work? To find or grow an audience? To sell your work from your website? If so, to what end? Keep asking why until you can’t anymore.
2. They skimp on (or skip) the research.
Investing in a website is like investing in anything else. It is best done with research. Just because Joe down the street used _________ to build his website, doesn’t mean it will be right for you.
Having a grasp of what components go into building a website will save you from the “gotchas”:
I see many artists deciding to move forward only to find out later that a certain feature is only offered as an add-on at additional cost.
If you’ve identified the software features you need now (and in the future) will save you headaches down the road. For instance, in order for search engines to drive an audience to your website, you need to regularly add fresh, SEO-friendly content on your website. So along with image portfolios, or a store, you might want to include a blog and/or calendar too.
To learn about building an artist website, please check out this handy e-book.
3. They don’t use a CMS (Content Management System*)
I am still surprised that so many still design and code their own websites from scratch. No one needs to learn how to code to get a website done affordably these days. It is a waste of money to hire software developers to program a website from scratch.
4.They haven’t considered their audience.
A good website caters to its target audience. It’s also important to have your target audience in mind when planning your website’s design and architecture. Who buys your artwork now? Who might buy your artwork? Why do they buy your artwork? What are the demographics? What are the most important factors when designing a website for them to use?
5. They make information difficult to find.
Visitors shouldn’t have to hunt to find what they’re looking for. Your work and contact information should be easy to find, and you should have a working contact form. Be sure to edit yourself! Having too much information on your site makes what’s relevant more difficult to find. Not having consistent navigation will hurt you too. When it’s hard to move from section to section or image to image, it decreases the amount of time a visitor stays on your website.
6. They don’t put all of their content on their website.
Using multiple websites to do the work of one well built website is a losing proposition. Separating your blog from your store from you online portfolio is confusing to both visitors and search engines. Your content is easy to find if it’s on one website.
7. They overdesign.
Your website is not your artwork (unless it is what you do). Your website is a well-designed tool to market your artwork. Keep it simple! Using too much color and flashy graphics can completely distract a buyer and overpower the artwork on your website. Neutral but elegant websites allow artwork to stand out. Be sure to have some real content on your website, especially your images, before making any final design decisions. And please don’t force people to listen to audio. It is quite possibly the quickest way to turn people off – especially those browsing in a quiet, public space.
8. They haven’t invested in photography.
Sure, you know what your work looks like — but your visitors don’t. Don’t let them fill in the blanks on their own. It is quite simply imperative to have good photography of your art. Whether you hire a professional or learn enough to do it yourself, your images must stand out.
9. They are unfriendly to search engines.
Having very little to no text on a website is a big no-no these days. Even websites of visual artists need text. Search engines still work mostly in text, so pay attention to it on your site. Include alt tags or captions for all of your images so search engines can “read” your images. Be sure your website’s architecture is optimized for search. Your search engine rankings will increase with a regular injection of fresh, relevant content.
10. They think they’re done after the website launches.
Just as static gardens die without attention, so do static websites. Contrary to what you might see in advertising, websites require work to attract and keep an audience. Once you understand how to edit and add content to your website, develop a plan for regularly adding relevant content. Promote your content through on social networks. (And, of course, continue to market your business offline too.)
Your website should be as energetic as a living breathing thing. There will always be something to add, change or remove. With enough attention, you can turn your website into a marketing machine. To learn how, check out the Resources on IndieMade.