by: Kevin Chung
If you want to be a creative artist today, having a website for your art is an absolute MUST. This includes artists who sell most of their work through art fairs or in galleries.
Websites let you share your art with an audience beyond the confines of where you live. They also allow you to share your thoughts on your art. Most importantly, they give you a way to keep in touch with your customers and potential customers.
Since creating a website is such an important part of being an artist today, it is crucial that you know how to get started. Below are ten questions you might have about building a website for your art.
Why do you want to create a website?
There are many reasons to build a website for your art. You can use it to show off your work, to talk about your art, or to create a place where people can learn about you. There are so many things you can do with your website. It can become overwhelming. What are you supposed to do?
The first thing you should do before creating or working on your website is determining what the main purpose of your site is. Is your primary goal to sell more art, to keep in touch with your fans, or to tell people about your upcoming shows or events? This will give you a single thing to concentrate on. Once this is set up, you can move on to the next thing on your list. If you try to do too many things at once, none of them will get done.
What platform should I use to create my site?
Now that you know what you want out of your site, it is time to decide where you should host it. There are tons of options out there, and it can be difficult to choose which site to use.
How do you know what option to choose? The best choice for you depends on what features you think are most important. The two most popular options for building an art website are WordPress and Shopify.
Shopify is great if your primary goal is to create a store to sell your art. They make it easy to set up and customize your store to sell whatever you need. With Shopify, you don’t have to worry about setting up a shopping cart or payment system for selling your work. The downside is blogs and creating content are secondary to the store.
(One major distinction to make before you choose WordPress is using WordPress.org, not WordPress.com. WordPress.org is very flexible while WordPress.com is limited by design. One thing to note is, if you are choosing to go with WordPress.org, you need to host the files on your own. There are many guides out there for installing WordPress. Check each web host and choose one that makes WordPress installation simple.)
WordPress is great if you are looking for a system that allows you to blog about your art and create art galleries to display them. You don’t need to know how to code, and they made it simple so anyone can learn to use it. The downside to having a WordPress site is, it doesn’t come with a shopping cart or payment system built in. Although, you can still get a shopping system working on your site if you want to.
Which platform you use depends on your needs. Both sites have their ups and downs. If you can’t decide, Shopify has a free trial to start. You can also play around with WordPress.com to see how you like using the system before you install it on your own site.
How do I choose a design for my site?
One of the most important things artists ignore when creating a website is the design. You can have the most beautiful art in the world, but if your site is hard to navigate, people will leave.
The online attention span of humans is 8 seconds. If you can’t capture someone’s attention when they first get to your site, you will lose them forever. That is why it is important to design your site, so it is easy to navigate and easy on the eyes.
How do you create a great looking, easy to use, website? That’s simple. Use a theme. Themes are built so anyone can use them without having to worry about the design themselves. The theme you choose will depend on which platform you chose from the step above. Although there are some general rules, you should follow.
Your site should load quickly, it should be easy to navigate, and it should go well with your artwork. A bonus is if you can find a theme that has a responsive design (one that works well on all devices). If you want to learn more, see my do’s and don’ts of an artist website.
Choosing the right theme can have an enormous impact on what people think of your website, so don’t rush it. Make sure you don’t pick the first one that looks okay. Your website will often be people’s first impression of you and your work.
What is the best way to display my art?
Although you can use your website for many things, the most important thing to remember is promoting the art itself. Sometimes artists get so wrapped up in all the things they can do with their website that they stop focusing on the art.
People are coming to your website so they can view your work and learn more about you. Don’t get sidetracked by all the bells and whistles and ignore your art.
Here are a few tips to consider when displaying art on your site:
Make sure you list the prices next to your work
This is one of the most common mistakes an artist can make on their website. If you want to sell art on your website, putting the price next to your work is an absolute must. You don’t want people to have to work in order to find out how much your art costs. If people want to buy your art, but can’t locate the price, they will end up leaving instead. You want to make buying your art as easy as possible. The first step to achieving this is by clearly listing your prices.
Take high-quality photos of your art
One of the greatest injustices you can do to your art is taking bad pictures of it. Your art deserves to be presented in it’s best, most accurate, form. Some things to consider are using proper lighting, taking high-resolution shots, and taking your photo from a good angle. If you want people to buy your art, make it look as good as possible.
Give your art a story
One thing that can separate your art from other artists is telling its story. Every piece we create, whether we know it or not, has a story to tell. Here are some questions to get you started on creating a story for your art:
- What inspired you to create this piece?
- Do you use unique processes or materials in your work? Why?
- What emotion or feelings do you want the viewers of your art to experience?
- Who do you want your art to connect with? Why?
These are just a few of the questions you can ask yourself to tell the story of your art. The most important thing to remember is, you want to connect with the viewer on a personal level. You should answer these questions in a way that moves the reader and makes them want to buy your art. You want them to connect with your art.
How do I get people interested in me?
A common mistake artists make on their websites is their “About page.” Most artists will just use their artist statement in place of writing something entirely new. This is a big mistake.
People who come to your website probably aren’t interested in reading a fluffed up statement explaining your work. Artist statements are for galleries and other artists. No one else cares. They want to hear in ordinary terms what you are all about.
This doesn’t mean you should disregard your artist statement. You can put it at the bottom of the page if need be. Unless you are catering your site entirely to galleries, you don’t need to put your statement front and center.
Use this space to tell your story and reach your core audience instead. The important thing to remember is to cater your message to a specific audience. Who cares if your statement doesn’t speak to everyone who reads it. They weren’t going to buy your art anyways. Your “about page” should explain why you create the art you do and make the reader feel something.
Explain how your art has touched other people. Use words that evoke emotions in your readers. Find out why people buy your art and cater your “about page” statement to them. Don’t go on and on about yourself. People are interested in themselves, so give them what they want to hear.
What should I write about?
Every artist has a story to tell. You’ve already learned what you should do on your about page, but that is not enough. If you want people to connect with you on a personal level, you have to talk about your work.
The first obvious place to do this is on each individual piece of art you’ve created. When I say talk about your work, I don’t mean boring people with technical details. Things like “Painted on canvas with acrylic” won’t cut it. People want to feel something when reading about your work.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself when explaining your piece:
- What inspired you to create it?
- What emotions were you feeling?
- What makes this art different from other art?
- Did you use any special materials or use unique methods to create it?
- Were there any artists that inspired your style? Who are they? What elements did they help bring into the piece?
- What emotions do you want the viewer to feel? How can you make them feel that way without saying it directly?
Those are just a few ideas you can use to build a story around your art. Including these details with your art makes it much more intriguing to the viewers.
If you want to stand out, you should blog about your art. One of the most difficult things about blogging is knowing what to talk about. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are some topics you can use to form your blog posts:
Everyday life can become a great topic of conversation on your blog. Did you encounter an obstacle during your day? Can you relate it back to working on your art? Every moment in life has parallels in other parts of your life. Use that in your writing.
Progress of Your Art
Talking about the work in progress can be an interesting topic for people to read about. Have you encountered any struggles while creating it? Are you having second thoughts about something you did? What else are you planning to do before your work is finished? Instead of keeping these thoughts to yourself, let other people know what you are thinking.
Do you have a series of pieces that are related? Is there an underlying theme to the work you’ve created? Themes are a great way to talk about and present your work. Find the underlying meaning of why you created this common thread throughout your art.
Writing about your work may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. As an artist, you are filled with thoughts about the world and things around you. You just need to bring those things out for others to read. At the very least, you should talk about any work you’ve posted to your site. This can be the difference between someone buying your art or leaving your site.
Writing for a blog is both tedious and gratifying. On one hand, you have to be consistent and intentional with your writing. On the other hand, there is nothing better than getting messages telling you how much someone appreciates your writing. Every response I get fuels me to write more.
How do people stay up to date with my blog?
You might be wondering how you’re supposed to get each blog post out to your fans. There are so many options to choose from: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google +, and Instagram are among an endless number of sites available.
Back when Twitter was just starting out, you might have been one of the only artists using the platform. Now, everyone has an account. Twitter has become an endless stream of tweets. Each tweet is just a drop in the stream.
Likewise, Facebook used to be a wonderful platform for marketing your art. When Facebook first created Pages, you could reach much of your audience with every post. Now, you’d be lucky to reach 10% of your fans. They’ve trapped people into their platform who use Facebook Pages as a free marketing tool. Now, unless you pay for an ad, your post won’t get seen.
Every other social media site is just as unpredictable. So, which platform are you supposed to use?
The answer is email.
Email? Really? Yes really. Believe me. I used to think the same thing. You hear so many stories of people having success on social media. These are the outliers, not the norm. Email has proven itself to be the most successful platform for sharing your work.
Emails I send out for my site reach on average 40% of subscribers. That would be unheard of on social media. Why is this? For one thing, email is sent right to you via your inbox. This means every email you send will get to your subscribers.
Also, when people sign up for email updates, they found value in something they read on your site. Email inboxes are still considered sacred. No one wants to receive junk they didn’t sign up for. That intentionality is what makes email great.
The key takeaway here is you need a way for people to sign up for your newsletter or updates. There are many great companies that let you do this. I use Mailchimp because they make designing newsletters easy and fun. If you don’t have an email newsletter, you are missing out on the best way to reach your fans.
Why are people leaving my site?
There are many reasons someone might leave your site. They may not like your work. They might have randomly stumbled on your site, or they might not be interested in buying yet. But there are also people who like your creative work and still leave. The good news is, you can convert some of these people into customers. You just have to figure out what you are doing wrong and learn how you can fix it.
Difficult to use navigation
This is one of the easiest problems to correct. When you create a website for your art, you don’t need to make a statement by using unconventional navigation. You don’t want to confuse users by trying to reinvent the wheel. Make sure your site’s navigation follows the standards already established on the internet. This means, put your links where everyone else does (on the top or left sides of your site). If people can’t find what they’re looking for, they will leave in a heartbeat. Don’t give them that opportunity.
People looking to buy your art want to know that you are trustworthy. If someone comes to your site and they see an unorganized, distracting, or ugly design, they will leave. Buying on the internet has become much more common than it used to be, but people must trust you before they will give you money. Creating a site with a clean and professional look is the first step in building trust. No one wants to buy something if they think its a scam.
There is no way to buy your art easily
If I am a customer looking to buy your art, you should make it as easy as possible to do so. Here are some things you can do to make buying your art easier:
- Create a gallery page of all the art you want to sell
- List prices on this page, so people have an idea of how much they have to pay
- Create a page dedicated to any piece you want to sell
- Write a compelling description of each piece to entice people to buy
- Include shipping details, frequently asked questions, and a description of how your art will be shipped to potential buyers
- Put a secure shopping cart or a Paypal option on your site for easy payment
- Put contact information on your site so people can ask you questions they might have
What else should I put on my website?
Now that we’ve covered the most essential pages of your website, we can look at other important pages. These pages will help build your credibility and show people you are a real person not just an image gallery.
The contact page is one of the most important pages on your site. Getting in touch with you should be straightforward and clear. No one wants to spend time digging around your site looking for a way to contact you. Your contact page should have at least one easy method to send you a message.
You can use the contact form that is built into your site or a link to your email. Once you have that covered, include any social media accounts you use and respond to. Don’t include profiles you don’t check regularly. People shouldn’t have to wait around for you to respond.
People love reading about the accomplishments of artists. It adds both credibility and a sense of accomplishment to you and your work. That doesn’t mean you should act like a pompous jerk. It’s just a way for people to see any recognition you’ve received for your work.
Use this page to display awards you’ve received from shows, fellowships, or galleries. You can also link to any blogs or news articles that have featured you or your work. These things all add credibility to you as an artist.
This is your chance to meet your fans and customers face to face. There is only so much you can learn about someone online. This meeting is the perfect opportunity for you to build a personal connection with your fans.
Use this page to list any art events you will be attending. This includes art shows, critiques, fairs, or any other place where you will be present and selling your art.
How do I know what people are doing on my site?
The answer to this question is a little more advanced than the other sections. There are a few ways to track the stats of your website, but they can be complicated if you don’t know what you’re looking at. If this sounds intimidating, skip this section and come back later.
Google Analytics helps you keep track of the overall statics of your site. You can use it to see what browser your users use, where your users came from, and what pages on your site are the most popular. It is a powerful free tool for website owners. Just be careful not to fall into the trap of constantly checking your stats. It is a great tool for an overview of your site’s visitors, but it shouldn’t be used without purpose and intention.
SumoMe has tools that help your users share and interact with the content on your site. They offer amazing tools to make your site’s experience much more interactive. The best part is, it also keeps stats on all of these tools. You can see heat maps that show how far down the page your readers go, what links people click on, and how many social shares your page has among many other things. It is a wonderful all in one tool for any website.
Jetpack is a tool for WordPress sites that gives you a much more simplified version of your stats than Analytics. You can see the number of visits, top referrers, top pages, search terms, and clicks for the current day and day before. It also has a bunch of other tools you can use to enhance your site.
This is just a small sampling of the tools you can use to see user interaction on your site. These tools can be very powerful if you know what you are looking for. Before diving into these tools, learn what each one can do and be intentional about how you use them.
Your website is one of the most important marketing tools you have for your art. It can be just as useful as having your art in galleries or shows if you know how to do it properly.
If you want to sell your art, you need to take high-quality photos, list a price, and have an easy way to buy it online. You also need to be able to talk about yourself and your art in a way that moves people.
This post is just the tip of the iceberg as far as creating a successful art business online. Use it as a stepping stone towards creating a site you can be proud of and sell your art on.
I’m a web developer of 18 years (who is also an artist,) and I approve of this article. :-)
Seriously, although you will encounter many more challenges, this article covers the highlights very well. The only thing I’d add is that un-maximizing your browser window and rubber-banding the corner of it to change visible size is The. Most. Horrible. Way. to gauge the “responsiveness” of a web site. You have to actually look it up on your device. Any device. Turn the device sideways, see what happens. Try enlarging pages, reducing them. If you’re an iPhone person, ask your Android friends to punch it in, and vice versa.
“Responsiveness” is not defined by viewport size (what you see from your desktop computer browser.) “Responsiveness” is an **environment** of which viewport size is only a small part.