As the world continues its march toward online communications, shopping, education and more, you can’t go without a website for your art business. Your website serves a foundational role in the marketing and sales of your art, so it should be given the attention it deserves.
But, you say, you have artwork on several online art websites—Artful Home, Saatchi, etc.—so why do you need your own website?
Why you need your own website
- When people visit Google, Yelp or Facebook before they shop, it is important for you to make a good first impression. A strong, well-designed website shows potential customers that you are a professional and not just a hobbyist.
- Without a website, you are losing sales.
- When you have your own website, you can make sure that awareness and visibility you receive from stories in the media, advertising, exhibitions, and more can be turned into potential buyers by adding them to your sales funnel. Third-party sites can definitely help you find new buyers, but these people are Artful Home or Saatchi’s audience, not yours.
You absolutely need a website for your art business, but a bad website is almost worse than no website at all. With that in mind, below are 8 things you can do to make sure you have a great website that will support your business:
1 | Build your website on a flexible, robust platform
I understand the challenge of having little or no budget to hire a web developer combined with a personal lack of technical knowledge, but don’t set up a bare bones site on Google Sites or WordPress.com.
If you set your website up using one of these tools, you’ll very quickly be looking to move it to a better platform (like when you add an online store). Put in a little extra effort up front and you’ll be glad you did.
As far as website platforms go, the gold standard for most businesses is WordPress.org—it’s what I use for my website—but it can have a pretty steep learning curve. The website builders I typically recommend for someone setting up their own site are Squarespace (great, simple templates and an easier to understand platform) and Art Storefronts, which provides you with access to print-on-demand services and more.
2 | Use simple, clear main navigation
Your website’s main navigation should be simple yet thorough. You should have at least the following main navigation menu items: ABOUT/BIO, PORTFOLIO, CONTACT, BLOG, SHOP, PRESS. Most additional content can fit within these main categories.
For any content that you add to your site, you should ask whether it could fit within any of these primary categories or if it truly deserves its own main navigation link. One example of this is if you teach or participate in a lot of events; that would warrant another navigation item of CLASSES, EVENTS, or CALENDAR.
3 | Install Google Analytics tracking code
The only way to know how well your marketing work is performing is to measure progress. Without a means to track your progress, you could easily feel like you’re running on the proverbial (marketing) hamster wheel forever.
To avoid the aforementioned hamster wheel and to be able to keep an eye on how your marketing is working (of which your website data should be indicative), install Google Analytics on your site now. Well, you don’t have to do it right now, but put it on your to-do list or send it over to your web guru.
Information you can glean from Google Analytics includes:
- How much traffic you’re receiving to your website
- What content is most popular on your site
- What online marketing activities bring you the most traffic and sales
- Where your best customers are located
- What your best- and worst-performing pages are
- How well your social and email campaigns are performing
If you’re reasonably technically inclined, you should be able to create the tracking code yourself and install it on your website. You could also send this to your web developer and have it done in 15 minutes.
Here are some quick links for you:
4 | List title, size, and availability on all of your work
You want to create a sales-friendly website, which means that you want to give visitors as much important information about each piece as possible, including title, size, and availability (both available and sold).
Did I just hear you just ask, “why would I list artwork on my website that is already sold?” The reason you want to do this is to create a sense of urgency and credibility around your work. You want visitors to see that you are a successful artist making sales.
Of course, you don’t want too many of the pieces on your website listed as sold. 1/4 to 1/3 of the total images on your website showing as SOLD is a good amount.
5 | Make sure every available work has a “buy now” button next to it
Don’t miss out on online sales because you miss this small—but very important—piece of the puzzle.
If your gallery (or a gallery representing you) allowed a visitor who was expressing an interest in a piece of your work leave without asking for the sale, you would be rightfully upset. So don’t let people visit your digital place of business without being asked to purchase something in which they’re showing an interest.
6 | Share your most relevant and recent work (not everything you’ve ever produced)
Your website shouldn’t have ALL the artwork you’ve ever created. Don’t overwhelm your visitor with too many pages of images to look at; focus on your current series, most recent work, and past work that is still relevant.
When posting work on your website, make sure that you organize it in a way that makes sense to your visitor, which is not necessarily what makes sense to you.
Do you promote your work heavily to interior designers? Then organizing your work by color might be a good idea. If you have several themes within your work or types of work you produce—landscape, abstract, floral, etc.—that’s also a good way to organize.
There isn’t one answer to this question that fits for every artist, so make sure you think of your buyers and potential buyers when you organize (or re-organize) your online portfolio.
7 | Make sure your website looks professional and appeals to your ideal customer
Here are some things you can keep an eye on that can take you from hobbyist to professional on your website:
- Choose 1-2 fonts and use them exclusively throughout your site. Don’t mix and match fonts differently from page to page.
- Use a white background to make is easier for your art to stand out and to make text easier to read. Although a darker background can be striking, it takes a lot of design skill to make sure the color isn’t overwhelming.
- Make sure your font styles and sizes are easy to read.
- Choose 2-3 colors for your website and carry those through the design. Inconsistency with color and fonts are two things that can make you look less than professional.
- Integrate your style throughout the website if it makes sense, but be careful not to go overboard.
- Make sure the design of your site appeals to your ideal customer. Think about the lifestyle, interests, style and technical abilities of your best customer (target market), then look at your website through that lens. If you’re seeking to appeal to a high-end customer, make sure your website looks equally high-end. If your audience is looking for your fun, quirky, colorful works, make sure your website reflects the fun and color they are seeking.
If you are not inclined toward design and aren’t sure how to make all of these things work well together on your site, bringing in a web designer to help is a good idea.
8 | Design your homepage to promote the most important actions on your site
What are the 3-4 most important things you want visitors to do on your site?
My guess is that the list includes visiting your online store, looking at your artwork, joining your email list, and reading your most recent blog post.
Take a few minutes to think about your list of most important website actions and write them down. Now, go back to your homepage and ask yourself, “Do those things stand out on my homepage?”
Missing important information on your homepage is like having a new visitor to your studio and not offering to help them find what they’re looking for, not asking for the sale, and letting them leave without asking for their contact information.
Although you can do all of those things, you most certainly won’t be selling much work.
If your homepage doesn’t highlight the 3-4 most important actions on your website, you should redesign it. You might just need a link to your online store or to add a visible email subscription form on your homepage … or you might need to completely rework the page. Whether it is a quick, easy fix or a bigger project, take the time to make this change.
I hope these tips and the associated Artist’s Website Self-Review Checklist give you some insight into ways to improve your website. Since a website is a constantly-changing marketing tool (or it should be, if you’re keeping it updated), you might consider doing this self-review with some regularity—maybe once or twice a year—just to make sure you’re keeping things moving in the right direction.
Are you struggling with your website right now? Or maybe you are super proud of your new site? Share your wins and struggles in the comments below and I’m happy to provide you with a virtual high-five or some feedback.