Friday, May 15, 2015

Brand new website raises design standard for art societies

Has your art society updated its website to cope with mobile devices and changes in the way Google ranks websites?

Is it thinking about the need to make a change?

If your art society has not changed the basic template and design for some time then it's almost certainly now out of date.

This post is about a brand new website - by the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour (who have a brand new URL as well ). In my opinion it raises the benchmark for the design of websites for art societies.

The new website as viewed on my 27" iMac screen

The need for a change

I spend a lot of time looking at the websites of artists and art societies. I'm afraid to say that a lot of art society websites could do with major improvements. (I wrote about the content aspects back in 2009 - see 10 questions for Art Society websites)

Technological Change - the rise and rise of the mobile device

The most important recent changes have been all technologically oriented. Hence we have:
  • a huge increase in browsing via mobile devices and hence the need to ensure all websites can be seen and read easily using a tablet or smartphone as well as a desktop computer.
  • the introduction and adoption of responsive templates which mean that templates can now automatically convert to suit the size of screen they are being viewed through
  • the change in the Google algorithm for ranking websites viewed via mobile devices. Those which will do well in future include ONLY those which are wholly compliant with Google's standards for mobile devices - see my recent posts:
The new RI website:

  • addresses the critical need to respond flexibly and appropriately to it being viewed on different sized screens.
  • shows what can be done if you upgrade for new technology and the need to become compliant with mobile devices.
The Home Page on my iPhone 6+

This is the website's Workshops page on my Mini iPad.
The website is also well integrated with social media. It has:
  • the news page includes blog posts, a Twitter feed and a Facebook Feed bringing current news about the activities of the society and its members
  • widgets at the bottom of each blog post allows each post to be individually shared easily to Facebook, Twitter and Google+ 
  • there are icons at the top of every page which allow people to link to the RI's Twitter account and Facebook Page. 
The members get a prominent page and a lot of territory on the website.  The list is nicely spaced and I much prefer the design chosen of putting current members at the top and retired and honorary members at the bottom. 

The members' profile pages look excellent and I like the links to social media as well as the artist's website. Each of the members is providing material so, in time, each will have an individual page with an excellent image, a short bio and links to their social media activities and their website.  

Here's three examples for you to look at:

  • This is Lilias August who doesn't have a website or any social media activity. However this website now provides an example of her work (which expands), a photograph of her at work, a biographical statement and an artist statement. At last we get to find out more about her work and her background
  • This is Shirley Trevena - well known to many around the world - it provides some background and a statement about her working processes plus an excellent image which opens up in a lightbox to be enjoyed to the full.
  • This page is about David Poxon and shows how social media and email contact can be included. He chooses to provide a short bio and a list of recent awards as well as a thumbnail photo and a quotation about what's important to him

In terms of telling you what the society is about, there's a very clear and short statement on the home page which tells you what this society is about
The home of British Watercolour painting since 1831
Given its great age it's entirely appropriate for the RI website to have a major section devoted to Our Heritage.   I love the really ace images of their building on Piccadilly and other places the RI has been associated with. Plus always nice to see a list of Presidents

In addition, it's worth saying that the images on the website are universally excellent. There's obviously been some thought given to how to present the RI in a professional way.

The website includes a page which I don't often come across and that's a Donations Page. This highlights the charitable status of the RI and the opportunity to give money to the RI via donations, legacies and prizes and awards. It's also a page which provides the enduring recognition of those who sponsored prizes and awards at the annual exhibition. I thought this was a neat touch.

Finally, I'm finding the website loads very speedily on my iMac. Speed is so important - and hence quality and size of images will always need to be optimised for best performance on all devices.

More websites for Watercolour Societies

You can find a comprehensive listing for watercolour painters of the websites of watercolour societies around the world - and their blogs and Facebook Pages - in my website called Watercolour Societies - Resources for Artists

Blogging for art societies

You can also read about blogging for art societies in the following posts:

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