Tuesday, November 24, 2009

10 questions for Art Society websites

I'm currently building up the links to all the various local art societies in the UK in my new resource site Art Societies in the UK - Resources for Artists. In doing so, I'm having to first find and then my find my way around a number of art society websites - and it's proving to be a fascinating - and in some instances slightly tortuous - experience!

One of the things my resource site does is provide a mini description of each and every local art society listed to go with the link to the website. I thought it might be useful to provide a checklist of what I'm looking for when I'm searching a website.

You might then care to check it out against your art society website to see if you can find the answers quickly. I'm certainly not finding it easy to find answers to a lot of them!
  • What area does your art society cover? It's amazing how many local art societies are unclear on this point.
  • When was your art society founded? I like to try and include a date if it's important to the society. It's a small point but it says something about how well established it might be - and possibly something about how set in its ways it might be too! ;) How the rest of the website reads says something about how open and confident the society is or how inclusive or cliquey it might be. Websites which talk more about the past rather than the present tell you a lot.
  • Does your art society exclude any art media or activity? Does the society website say is the scope of art society media and what if anything it excludes? For example a number of art societies specificially mention that they exclude photography.
  • What does your art society actually do? A number are very good at providing short succinct descriptions of what they do. They seem to be the more active ones. The ones that don't say what they do give an impression of inactivity. The best ones have really good menus which point to all the different activities.
  • How many members does your art society have? This can be an indication of size and how healthy and active your organisation is for people wondering about whether to apply for membership. It's also helpful to make clear if there are different categories of membership.
  • Do you limit membership in any way? If so, how - in simple terms? Quite often membership is limited but the criteria for membership is sometimes not spelt out clearly. A number of art societies provide no information whatsoever on their websites about how to become a member!
  • Do members need to live in the area? It's interesting to see that some art societies offer temporary memberships for artists visiting an area.
  • What's the subscription? Not a point I need to know for my website - but it's noticeable that some websites are better than others in telling first-time visitors how much it costs to become a member.
  • Is your website set up properly?
    • Does it have a unique and easy to remember URL? Most art societies have gone to the trouble of obtaining a unique and accurate domain name for their art society website. Those that have seem to go with ones which is distinctive and easy to remember. Some however are still being hosted on sites which generate URLs which are a mile long and complete gobbledygook!
    • Does it have a short and succinct website description for search engines? The webmaster of any website should set it up so that you determine the succinct short description of your society which then gets generated automatically in any search engine when the site gets listed in response to a search. If an art society does this and it's good I leave it alone. If they don't or if it's inadequate as a description I start looking for more information (hence why I'm writing this post!)
On that last point, you'd be amazed at how many large organisations don't seem to be able to get that one right - including major museums which generate their menu list instead of a description!

The image on the right comes from Bournemouth Arts Club which was nominated by artist Felicity House.

I have to say I wish more art society websites looked like this one. It features:
  • a clean contemporary look
  • a very easy to understand website menu along the top which guides you quickly and easily to what you want to know - including links to exhibitions and member artists' websites.
  • succinct text which says enough and no more.
  • Finally it's also got some really great artwork - which tells you a lot about the calibre of the members!
You can get a link to your art society website in Art Societies in the UK - Resources for Artists by leaving a comment in the feedback section on the site or as a comment on this post.



  1. Great Comments Katherine, i have just completed my local society's website and found i asked many of those questions when joining the society myself its definitely not often clear !

  2. Wonderfully informative. Thank you for all you do.

  3. Excellent comments and information Katherine. I will share this with Art Socties I know.Very well written and a " must read".

    Jean Haines ASWA
    Society for Women Artists


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