It’s so important to have a good website these days. It makes us look professional, gives us more opportunities to connect with art lovers, and can even create a way to sell art to people on the other side of the world!
But most artists struggle to make an attractive and effective website.
So here I am to tell you the non-negotiable things that make an artist’s website work well. These will revolutionize the effectiveness of your website… and probably catapult your revenue too.
This is first place because without it, your site looks amateur and no one will trust you to do business the way you’ve said you will. They’ll assume your art sucks and/or you won’t actually send it out when they purchase it. You’ll lose all trust.
Branding is a complicated topic that I can’t cover within this one blog post, but I will say that it all starts with knowing the common threads in your art, your personality, and your target market.
2. Good Interactive Design
“Interactive Design” just means the way people use your website. Can they figure out where to go to find what they need? Is it easy for them? The best way to make this successful is to abandon the cutesy or thought-provoking names for the pages on your website. While it’s fun to call your blog “thoughts”, your potential customers don’t know what “thoughts” is going to be and they’re unlikely to click on it – and on top of that, when they’re confused, you lose some of their trust. Make everything very clear and simple. Have your navigation visible and easily legible. And make sure any other links to further pages on your site are always clearly labeled so people always, ALWAYS know where they’ll end up when they click.
3. Prominent Artwork
This one seems obvious, but I look at A LOT of artist’s websites. And more often than you would think, their art isn’t on their homepage or only one piece is. And one piece doesn’t give new website visitors a very good idea of your artistic perspective. Much better to have a slider (where one image actually scrolls into another and another and as many as you like) or to have multiple images in a grid. This can give someone a sense of your style and the spirit of your art.
4. An About Page
Most artists have one of these, but rarely are they done well. Decide on the purpose of your site. If it’s going to see more gallerist-eyes than normal consumer-eyes, then your about page should be a little more formal and you should include a formal artist statement as well as your CV. If it’s all about reaching your target market, then it should be a bio written from your own point of view (1st person is powerful!) and feeling like your brand, which is probably at least a little bit friendly (ie – not cold and distant like most artist statements).
The other big about page mistake I see is not having a professional headshot. Seriously, if you want to make money from your art, this is one thing that puts you in business. This is one thing that gives you credibility and solidifies that you’re really trying to make a career in art. You can hire a local photographer for a short session for under $100 depending on your local market, and a little extra for the digital copies of the images you like. All you need is one good photo, so feel free to book as little as 15 minutes with your photographer, though if you’re a nervous subject a longer session gives you more time to relax.
5. A Shop
This one is controversial in the art world. People think that this makes you look less professional. But when you walk into a gallery, there are tags next to every piece. And the tags give the title of the piece, the artist, usually the medium, and the price. Always the price or the words “not for sale”. Because people can’t buy from you if they don’t know how much it costs. A gallerist knows that if they don’t put prices on the art, the customers will assume it’s too expensive and won’t ask. Psychological studies have been done about this. Most people are more likely to buy if the number is displayed clearly for them. Sure, you’ll drive away people who can’t afford it… but you would have driven them away later when they found out the price anyway. Your job is not to try to catch the people who aren’t likely to buy, but to retain the people who are.
So hopefully I’ve convinced you to put prices on your site, but you also need to have the ability to purchase. This takes some extra work to set up, but it’s necessary. Consumers don’t like to do extra work. To the point of conversions skyrocketing when you eliminate ONE CLICK of the mouse from the purchase process. Again, studies have been done.
People are LAZY.
So if you force someone to call you up or write you an email to ask about buying a particular piece, you’re putting obstacles in their way. You’re making it harder for them to just give you their money and get a beautiful piece of art in return. You don’t look more professional. You look like you don’t have the budget to create an online store (but, hint hint, you can do it for just the small fee of credit card processing – everything else free!). And that looks unprofessional. Ugh! If you’re not techy, it’s super simple to get started with a “hosted platform” like Etsy, Big Cartel, Shopify, etc etc. And you can just link one of the navigation buttons on your site to the “hosted platform” shop. Not the most smooth and high tech, but easy if you’re scared. There are plenty of other options. I like using PayPal buttons because of the customizability and the simplicity.
Back to the shop. This can be rolled into your Gallery too. In fact, I think customers are less confused when your shop and gallery are on the same page, but pieces that have already sold just aren’t able to be purchased or say SOLD in the price field. When you have both a gallery and a shop, your website visitors have too many places to look. And they’re confused when they find a piece in your gallery but have to go hunting through your whole shop to find the price and to buy it. Make it easy on them. Remember they’re lazy. Just have one big “gallery” that includes buttons to purchase each available piece.
6. Contact Info
Preferably this is it’s own page on your website, but if it’s in the footer at the bottom of your site or on your about page, that works too. This is where you MUST have your headshot again and your email address, minimum. I think it’s also best if you have a phone number and looks more professional if you also have your address or at least your city. My phone number on my website is just a free Google Voice number that forwards to my phone so I can’t get spammed. I can always switch that number out for another free Google Voice number if I start getting telemarketers.
This is also the perfect place to have social media links if you’re on Facebook or Pinterest or any other social media site, or to link to your presence on other art sites like Fine Art America, Society6, Flickr, etc.
This is not toward the bottom because of its importance, but rather because I want to end with something that absolutely can’t be forgotten. Your email list is the biggest asset if you’re building a presence online. Even bigger than a website. Seriously.
And you want to keep every last person who visits your site and likes your work, every last one of them, interested and remembering you. That’s why you want them on your email list. Because you can remind them you exist and keep them interested in what you’re doing as an artist.
So you want to place opt-in forms, plural, on your site. I recommend they just ask for a first name and an email address. And I recommend there’s one on your homepage, your about page, your contact page, and on your blog if you have one.