This post is the first in a series called The Complete Guide to Building Your Own Artist’s Website.
We’ll get down to the process of actually getting your artist’s website set up very soon, but first I want to go over some of the key benefits of having your own website, as well as the essential ingredients of any artist’s website.
Why Every Artist Should Have Their Own Website
As an artist in the information age, your website is the cornerstone of your online world, but you may be wondering what exactly is my website for? Here are some of the things your own website can do for you.
Showcase Your Artwork
Your artist’s website is your own personal online art gallery, with only your work on display. Think of it like a permanent exhibition devoted solely to your art. If someone wants to view your work, they know that they can visit your site and browse your artwork to their heart’s content, without getting distracted by the work of other artists.
Should you decide you want to display your art in physical galleries, then you can show your website to the gallery owners so that they can decide whether or not they want to display your work.
At its core, your website represents your online identity as an artist.
Your website, if set up properly, should be able to provide a direct connection to the people who love your art, allowing you to build relationships with your fans and potential customers.
You can give people a way to connect with you personally, so that they feel like they know you and trust you, which is much more likely to make them connect with your work.
If you want to sell your art, your website is one of the very best ways to introduce new people to your work.
As we shall see in a later post, this step will require a bit of work on your part, to spread the word and make people aware of your website. We’ll cover a variety of techniques you can use to build traffic to your site, and keep people coming back for more.
Sell Your Work
Yes, it’s actually possible to sell your own artwork directly from your website, as I will discuss in more detail in a later post. And you don’t need any advanced technical knowledge or programming ability to get it set up.
You can also use your website as a way to capture the contact details of people who might be interested in buying your work at a later date.
Essential Ingredients of an Artist’s Website
There are certain things an artist’s website needs in order to be successful. However you go about getting your website online, you should make sure that these essential ingredients are included:
This goes without saying really. If you’re putting your artwork online, you need some sort of gallery in which to display it.
However, not all image galleries are created equal. You need to make sure the gallery you use is well structured and user friendly, so that it’s easy and enjoyable for visitors to browse your images, and so your art is portrayed in its best light.
Ideally, each image in your gallery should have its very own page on your site, on which you can write a bit about the artwork, and allow people to leave feedback (see what I wrote earlier about forming relationships).
If you can include multiple images on a single image page, that is even better, as you can include close-ups of detail, pictures of the creation process, or photos of happy customers with your artwork.
Social Media Integration
If you’re not using social media to promote your artwork, where have you been? People spend a huge amount of time on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest these days, and the opportunity for increasing your exposure via these sites is massive.
The first thing you should do is make sure each of your image pages has social media sharing buttons on it, so that people can easily share your art among their social networks with a single click.
Facebook and Twitter buttons are a must, and you could also consider adding Google+, Pinterest, Instgram, and StumbleUpon buttons. Try not to include too many though, as people given too many options tend to choose none.
You should also integrate your own social media profiles into your site, so that people can keep up to date with you via their favourite social network. It’s not difficult to add a Facebook like box, and a Twitter feed to your site.
Writing a blog is probably the single best (and most underused) way to attract visitors to your site, and turn them into loyal fans. People who like your artwork will love to read more about you, whether you choose to blog about how you create your art, your inspiration, your techniques, whatever. People love to feel like they know you a bit better, and a blog is a great way of building those relationships.
Also, since an art portfolio site is largely based on images, which are difficult for search engines to properly understand, a blog is a great way to build up more relevant text content that Google can index.
A mailing list is a fantastic marketing tool, which a lot of people overlook.
Having people visit your site and look at your artwork is one thing, but having them give you their email address, so that you can send content straight to their inbox, is so much better, as it prevents people from forgetting about you, and you can regularly get back in touch with them and remind them to take action.
As well as sending emails to your list, informing them of new artworks, upcoming exhibitions, and general newsworthy content, most good mailing list services also allow you to send your new blog posts directly to your subscribers’ inboxes, so that you can provide a good mix of promotional and non-promotional content (too much selling will just make people unsubscribe).
Your website visitors need some way to get in touch with you, whether it’s to purchase an artwork, enquire about commissions, or just to send you a nice comment.
You should have a dedicated contact page, where people can send you an email through a contact form (you can also provide your email address if you wish, as some people don’t like using forms.)
On this page, you can also list all the other ways people can get in touch with you (telephone, Twitter, Facebook etc.)
This isn’t an essential ingredient for every site, as you may prefer to sell your art offline, or through sites like Etsy or Ebay, but it’s definitely worth considering giving people the ability to buy your art directly from your site.
If you are selling online, every image page on your site should have clear details of the size, medium and price of the artwork, as well as shipping information, with either a buy now button, or a link to buy it on your Etsy shop (or wherever you sell your art.)
Things to Avoid
As well as looking out for all of the essential ingredients I mentioned above, you should also be aware of several potential pitfalls which you need to avoid.
Definitely avoid galleries built with Flash. They may look impressive, but they won’t do you any favours, as Flash content cannot currently be indexed properly by Google, making it much harder for people to find your images.
Flash websites are generally to be avoided if you want people to find your site through search engines (which you do!)
A lot of artists use big, ugly watermarks on their images, in an attempt to prevent copyright infringement. I wrote an article about why I think this is a bad idea – Why You Need to Stop Worrying About People Stealing Your Images
Not Asking People to Take Action
If you want people to buy your artwork from your site, make it easy for them. Tell them how much the artwork is, and give them a simple way to buy it.
They shouldn’t have to search high and low for a way to contact you so that they can enquire about prices.
Also, if a work is not for sale, make that clear, to avoid any confusion.
What about hosted sites?
You may have seen certain services that provide ready-made artists websites, where you just have to upload your artwork and the rest is done for you. So you might be wondering why bother building my own site when I can just get a ready-made one?
I’ve seen a lot of these sites. Some of them are ok, but I’ve yet to find one that contains all the essential ingredients I’ve mentioned above, and some of them are just plain awful, with poor design, no search engine optimization (more on that later), and more often than not, they simply make you and your artwork look bad.
That’s why I would always recommend building your own website, so you have complete control over the content and design, and you know that you’ve got everything you need for a successful artist’s website.
Ok, that’s the introduction out of the way. If you’ve read this far I’m sure you must be convinced that building your own website is the way forward, so in the next post, we’ll get started with the first step, setting up your web hosting and domain name.
If you have any questions about why you need an artist’s website, or what makes a good artist’s website, please feel free to leave a comment below.