This is the first in a new series of posts on websites for artists. To help kick the series off in style, Jason Horejs, owner of Xanadu Gallery, and I will co-present a free podcast appropriately titled, Websites for Artists.
Podcast replay now available at: http://barneydavey.com/podcasts
Your website is the hub of your digital identity.
Your website serves as a your online hub, marketing tool and sales platform. Everything else you do online, your e-commerce, social media activity, blogging and email marketing revolve around your website. It’s critical your site be a great reflection of you and your work.
The debate is over.
Artists and other small business people should be no longer be debating whether having a website is required. Today, when greater than 75% of the U.S. population has Internet access, having a website is not an option.
You need to be onboard and represented online. Moreover, you need a digital identity.
Like it or not, the Internet has caused all manner of artists to rethink how they get the fruit of their creation to market. The old ways of doing business strictly through galleries and dealers have faded into a blend of still selling through traditional means while also selling direct and online.
Some established old-timers continue to work the traditional means, but their numbers are fewer with passing years. Today, you must have a website if you actually want to compete for the attention of new buyers, collectors and patrons, and keep current ones updated and connected.
The right domain name is a key component.
Your website is your hub of all your other online activities. It should include your name in your domain name. See this Domain Names for Artists article for more insights on how to choose a domain name.
Websites for Artists Choices
When you start your investigating, you will find numerous options for getting a website for your art business. Here are the most common options:
- Generic Do-It-Yourself (DIY) site builder programs that use built-in templates and color schemes provided by the hosting company.
- Template and semi-custom websites created specifically for artists.
- Websites built by you, or by someone you know, using Dreamweaver or some other Web building software.
- Custom websites built by a Web developer or Web development company.
- Content Management Systems (CMS), including popular freeware programs such as WordPress, Joomla and Drupal.
Creating Websites for Artists with Free Services – You Get What You Pay For
There are many “free” options available for newbies to get started. In my opinion, most look amateurish and send the wrong message about how serious you take your career. You can find free sites from your ISP and other sources, but you get what you pay for.
When something is free, you usually have to put up with ads and banners on your site that are not related to your product, or from which you derive no income. It is a tacky way to display your artwork and you as a professional. Do not succumb to the temptation to cut corners on investing in your career; avoid them.
Template Site Builders Have Limitations
Although there are real improvements, I find the generic site-builder programs are too limiting for most artists. As such, I generally do not recommend using them. It is difficult to make them work, specifically for creating galleries in which to showcase your work properly. Moreover, the idea is to do the work yourself, which can lead to erratic or unpolished results. Worse, you cannot download your files and folders from your template-based site builder website with the intent to use them with a new provider.
Your website is your most valuable marketing tool.
Hiring help to create a website makes sense because it is likely you do not have the skill or experience to get the best Web design. This is too serious and too long range for you to shortchange yourself by getting in over your head on when doing your own design and implementation. All of your other online activities should drive traffic to your website. This includes Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other social media.
Seek the Websites for Artists Specialists for Great Results
There are a number of Web developer companies that focus on visual artists. Use your favorite search engine to query for the search term “websites for artists” to find a suitable representation. You should look at as many as necessary for you to understand what options are available and what you must have.
While you may find other providers, I recommend you include in your search Fine Art Studios Online [www.faso.com] and Folio Twist [www.foliotwist.com]. The former is helmed by Clint Watson, a longtime gallery owner and artist advocate. The latter comes from Dan Durhkoop, a painter and creator of the painter’s friend Empty Easel Website [www.emptyeasel.com]. I commend both the Empty Easel site and Clint’s Fine Art Views blog [www.fineartviews.com/blog], to you with high praise. See this fine art business resources directory for more links from this category.
You should take the time to compare the sites for services and pricing. It is easy to see examples of their actual work. It is easy enough to learn how long a site has been hosted by a particular provider.
Take Your Time to Make the Right Choice
Together with the information you glean from inspecting your potential provider’s websites, this should be sufficient in helping you decide which provider to choose. Of course, word-of-mouth is still one of the most trustworthy sources for suggestions on any services you seek to use.
Custom Sites Can Yield Great Results – At a Cost in Time, Learning and Money
Your other options are to build a site yourself using Dreamweaver or some similar site building software, or to have a site built for you by a developer. The drawback to the first option is you have to take the time to learn how to build a site, and you may not have any training on website design or graphic design. You may also need to learn html or php languages to be able to accomplish all your goals.
The upside to building your own website from scratch is that you have complete control over the entire process. You make all the decisions, from layout, navigation, color schemes, to fonts and more. You will know how your site works, and you can make your own changes. This frees you from being dependent on a third party to help you with your website.
WordPress Is Very Popular and Growing
Rather than building from scratch, you may wish to use a CMS type of software. The most common are WordPress, Joomla and Drupal, although more are available. These open source programs allow you to build a website using different components and plug-ins, which means you do not have to know how to code everything to pull your site together. These programs have free and commercially available themes you can use to hang your site on. The themes typically allow for a high degree of customization.
There is so much more to the subject of websites for artists, it cannot be addressed adequately in a single post. Look for future posts covering the various aspects to consider when building or redoing your art business website. Some include how to use free sites from online art community providers such as FineArtAmerica.com. It recently announced a new web address for its artists members: pixels.com. On it, artists can sell cool stuff such as iPhone cases, calendars, puzzles, etc. To augment your own website, I suggest taking advantage of these free services such as these to gain more links, sales and visibility for your digital identity.