Your website. Before you made the decision to become a full-time, working artist it’s entirely possible that these are words you never imagined you’d put together. Let alone put in practice. These days though, in order for a profession of almost any kind to be taken seriously, it’s vital to have a website. This is a landing strip for your audience as well as a launch pad for your own ideas and of course a gallery of your art. Here you can show off your work, tell folks what you’re up to, and just generally stay in contact with the people who make your financial world go around. There are some caveats when making a website though, common mistakes made by many artists at this for the first time or even mid-career artists. Let’s unpack a few and talk about why they matter.
Have you ever clicked on a website only to find that it is so cluttered upon arrival, you couldn’t really distinguish any particular message? Some sites have far too much going on, whether flashy banner ads junking up every available side bar or just too much content. This is a definite risk for you as an artist eager to display your work for the online community. Sure you’ve done nearly two decades of intense art making and sure you want to make certain the world understands where you’ve come from and how you got to where you are today. But before you go ahead and upload your entire archive, think about those cluttered websites and ask yourself whether you want to overwhelm your visitors.
It may seem impossible to pick and choose, but your website should be nothing more than a snapshot of the work you are doing now. While it’s OK to have an archives page (we will discuss pages in just a little bit) in general, your site should house a just few quality images that are representative of your larger body of work.
Pages and pages and pages
Similar to not scaring off potential site traffic with too many images, you also don’t want your website to be so dense your audience doesn’t know where to begin or where it all ends. You don’t need many pages on your website, a few will get the point across quite nicely. Generally speaking, you should have a Home Page where your audience lands when they click the link for your website. You should also have an About page where you offer up a concise biography of you as an artist. This should be kept short and to the point, aim for no more than 150 words and stay on topic. If it isn’t relevant to you as an artist, it has no business in the bio no matter how interesting a tale. A bio also shouldn’t be a C.V. though it is OK to include a page for just this. You’ll want to have a Contact page where site visitors can send you an email or glean any other contact details you wish to divulge. And of course, a Blog because, as I have said before and will surely say again, blogging is absolutely one of your best tools when it comes to keeping your audience in the loop. Finally, as I said before if putting up older work is very important to you consider a dedicated archives page.
Speaking of Staying in Touch…
Another element every website must have is someplace where your guests can sign up for your email list. What is an email list, you ask? I will go in depth in a future post discussing the basics of an email list and some platforms to use, but for now, in brief, an email list is a great way to reach out to your visitors on a regular basis and keep them engaged in what you’re up to. A natural spot for this is on the Contact page, though it is reasonable to consider putting a place for this on your Home Page just for ease of access. Remember, attention spans are short. You’ve got literally seconds to make an impression and give your audience a way to stay in touch. Use them wisely.
Your website is a snapshot. Of you, your work, where you’ve been and where you’re headed. It should represent these things but it doesn’t need to tell your entire story in full depth. When designing your site, don’t be afraid to take a look at other sites you visit frequently. Notice what they’re doing that works and notice what they’re doing that doesn’t. Be mindful of audience attention spans as well as the danger of trying to cram too much in a small space. Let a few of your favorite pieces represent the rest, rotate your stock if you want to display more than seems workable at any given time. This way you ensure that your work gets the spotlight it deserves rather than being packed in like artistic sardines grappling for attention. Less is definitely more when it comes to designing your artist website.
Which platform to use?
You are reading this on a wordpress self-hosted site, which is a popular choice but not the most user friendly. If you have a site that you need a webmaster to update, it’s time to pick one that you can easily manage. Squarespace is one such platform that is elegant, responsive (meaning it looks great on a phone or tablet or anywhere) and it is easy to use and set up. There are many other platforms as well, like Wix, OtherPeoplesPixels and more, but the mist important aspect is that you have total control over the site and can update it yourself. More to come on email list programs!