Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Artists websites in 2018

This is about artists websites in 2018 - what has changed and what has not - and what needs to change!  It looks at:
  • the pros - what has improved
  • the design - what has and has not changed
  • the words - why these are now much more important than they used to be
  • the weaknesses - identifies perennial weaknesses which still need to be remedied
  • the faults - highlights aspects which MUST be addressed 

some of the key factors which enable people to find and like your artist's website

I look at thousands of artists websites every year. That's because I write posts about those artists selected for the exhibitions of major art competitions and those winning prizes at the exhibitions of national open art societies in the UK.

I'm possibly one of a relatively small number of people (who knows - there may only be me!) who looks at so many artists' websites on a regular basis - and has done so for most of the last decade.  I'm also not just "looking" at them - I'm trying to extract data about the artist to check I've identified the right person and/or create a brief profile.

It occurred to me at the end of last year to write a post about artists' websites in 2018 after I wrote Selected artists for Columbia Threadneedle Prize Exhibition 2018

Recently this has been reinforced by writing about the professional and amateur artists appearing in the Portrait Artist of the Year competition on Sky Arts and the blog post I wrote yesterday about Selected UK artists for 'In Ruskin's Footsteps' (Botanical Art Worldwide #4).

Then I spotted a comment on Facebook yesterday by Jimmy Wright writing on behalf of The Pastel Society of America
You need to have a basic website that makes you and your work visible online. While doing research for the summer issue of PSA's Pastelagram, it was frustrating for the editors to not be able to look at an artist's work or do basic research on an artist online. A website is worth the effort and expense. How will a magazine editor, gallery director or collector find and follow your work? You can't expect an effective introduction to a gallery without having a website.
Below I'm going to write about the current trends I've spotted.  

This follows on from a selection of my posts about artists' websites in previous years:

Artist Websites - The Pros

I'm now noticing a sea-change amongst those SELECTED for prestigious art competitions - which are typically contested by professional or 'aspiring to be' professional artists.

The following observations are based on my standard research query which is "name of artist" + art.
  • artists' websites are now much easier to find - re. younger / professional artists ONLY! Most of these now have websites and most are on the first page of Google. Many are in the top five results on Google for my search query. (Galleries showing the artist often do better than the actual artist's website).
  • almost all professional artists now use their name for their website's domain name. Where the name is common (or there is a popular person - or another artists - with the same name) it is common to find websites which have added 'art' or 'artist' or 'fineart' to the personal name in the domain name URL. This pretty much now seems to be the rule - signal occupation as well as name - to ensure the website gets found quickly.
  • many have dropped the arty bollocks style of writing and are now using plain english. Such a relief!

Artists Websites - The Design

Websites MUST now be optimised for tablets and smartphones. There has been some major changes in the devices used and the structure and coding of websites in the last decade.The major change is the way traffic has switched away from desktop computers to mobile devices.

In design terms, on artists websites I now see the following much more and indeed they are becoming common features on the websites of more professional artists.
  • lot of white backgrounds - and lots of white space
  • lots of simple ways of doing galleries are available - and are being used by artists
  • some use images which still the whole screen to draw attention to their work
  • large banner images which fit the entire screen are becoming the norm
design your website on paper before you start to build it on a screen

Artists Websites - The Words

One of the main ways the web has changed in recent times is that search has moved on to being semantic search.  You can now improve the visibility of your website by the quality and quantity of the text you use and the way you write about your art and yourself.

HOWEVER This is still an aspect where rather a lot of artists still need to make significant progress.
  • Some artists hate writing - period.  You would not believe the number of websites I come across which have virtually no words. It's nice to think the art can do all the talking for you. The reality is it can't - not even of you've used proper alt tags on every image.  If you need help with writing text for your website you need to find that help and use it.
  • Some artists do not know how to write for the web. They write essays instead!
    • Few seem to appreciate that the vast majority of people now scan read
    • Few acknowledge that readers are often short of time
    • not everybody knows how to be succinct in describing themselves and describing their work
    • nor they do know how to write headings, sentences and paragraphs.  (It's an art form!)
    • there are still some real stinkers in terms of arty bollocks out there (I collect them!)
The emphasis on mobile means the opening sentences of pages and blog posts are now extremely important.
Search Quality Guidelines: Find out how Google rates websites
If you're not sure whether or not you know how to write effectively for the web take a look at my webpage on Writing for the Web. This tells you about:
  • How people read the web
  • How to structure text
  • How to write the text
  • How Google rates the content you create

Artist Websites - The Weaknesses

While the situation on artists' websites is generally improving.....
.....there are still some perennial weaknesses evident
  • some artists - particularly amateurs - have no website
    • There is no better way of signalling you are an amateur
    • Despite the fact that retail has moved online in a major way and shops (and galleries) are closing, there are still a significant number of artists who don't have a website - and many of those don't even want to think about having a website! 
  • some artists still think of websites as expensive. 
    • IMO if you can invest in oil paint and canvases you can afford a website.  
    • Or to put it more bluntly, if you can't afford a website why are you investing in the oil paint and canvas - unless you are happy to remain a hobby artist?
  • some artists use third party sites - like Saatchi - instead of having a proper website. However there are fewer who do this than there used to be. In my opinion, it's no longer good enough to think that Instagram or Saatchi will convey who you are. Think of them as an added extra - a way of generating traffic for your website - rather than the core marketing tool that your website should be.

My article in "The Artist" (2016) about how to get your art online for free

Artists Websites - The FAULTS!

These are the things are problems and which artists can correct themselves. You may need technical help - but everything is fixable.
  • some websites open VERY SLOWLY:
    • some use software which takes a long time to load. There is absolutely no point in improving the look if people don't stick around to see it
    • some use images which have not been optimised for the web. If you don't know how to size images for the web you need to learn or use a website which will automatically optimise for size and quality.
  • some use small images only - and it's a big mistake
    • most younger more professional artists who are 'savvy' about how people buy online realised some time ago that they need to post larger images - or at least make them available to potential purchasers. 
    • Those who really would prefer not to be online and/or are scared about people downloading their images and making a mint off them only post very small images of their art. 
    • If buyers can't see your artwork properly they are not going to contact you to enquire about a purchase or a commission
  • some people use some very odd domain name suffixes
    • The only one worth using is  .com. It still outranks ALL the rest. 
    • Even if you've not got a website you should still snaffle your name with .com on the end from a domain name registrar!  
    • Other suffixes are not as helpful in helping with google ranking (eg I typically only find these websites as a result of them being mentioned on other third party websites that the artist is also on - they rarely come up in results)
  • Some websites are OUT OF DATE. There is no better way of saying "I'm not really trying to be an artist" or "I'm not very serious about my art or art marketing". 
    • they are not updated i.e. 'future exhibitions' are in the past; there is nothing about current activities this year; the listing of past exhibitions shows nothing for the last few years
    • some are unable to update them - possibly because they are unable to access them or don't know how to update them or have forgotten how! (NEVER EVER let anybody build a website for you without making sure you know how to operate and update it on your own. Those that won't make it customer-friendly and tailored to what the customer can do easily are total rip-off merchants!!!)
  • some websites are unresponsive - which means they cannot be seen properly on mobile devices because they are not using a responsive template. Generally this is because they've not been updated for years. This means:
    • they won't work properly on mobile devices
    • nobody can read the text properly on a mobile device
    • the content is not designed for scrolling vertically or swiping sideways
    • potential clients pass on by without looking

If you are serious about your art and want to help yourself 
- but need some extra help with your website


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  1. As always, a quality article full of great info. I appreciate the work you put into this. I recognize myself in this article-an artist without a true website! My blog and FB page have been sufficing til now. What websites would you recommend that are easy to put up and maintain for a very busy artist? And I suppose I need a cart button-gulp-that would mean really checking every day but am ready. Any direction would be appreciated-thank you!

  2. You've identified two new pages which are "in the works"

    For those new to websites who only need the headache of the content to develop rather than dealing with all the technical side of websites I tend to recommend webware sites

    The three big ones which provide contemporary templates and I know lots of artists use are:
    1) Weebly
    2) Wix
    3) Squarespace

    My own websites (e.g. see https://www.artbusinessinfo.com) are on Weebly. This has a paid package option which provides you with ecommerce options for a store built in. see https://www.weebly.com/uk/features/ecommerce-website

    Don't start a store unless you have the TIME and the COMMITMENT to :
    * keep adding new content on a regular basis for at least six months
    * respond promptly when you get an order - and despatch it fast

    No need to check every day - your orders will come to you via email.
    You just have to check your emails morning and afternoon minimum!

  3. Thank you so much for your helpful advice! I so appreciate it.

  4. Good points here and an interesting find for me. I'm currently building my website and I have an artist blog as well. Both of them in WordPress.org.

    What's your opinion on WordPress? I've used Wee boy in the past - which is fine - but I don't think you can beat hosting your own site. And learning how to use it isn't as hard as people may think.

  5. Good points here and an interesting find for me. I'm currently building my website and I have an artist blog as well. Both of them in WordPress.org.

    What's your opinion on WordPress? I've used Wee boy in the past - which is fine - but I don't think you can beat hosting your own site. And learning how to use it isn't as hard as people may think.

  6. I think most artists - who tend to be non-techie types - would find hosting a website on a webware site the best solution
    i.e. very little technical stuff to think about and somebody else looks after the constant updates for technological progress -which seems to be happening faster as time goes on!

    In other words a solution which allows the artist to focus mainly on the text and images is the best.

    I've seen some websites set up by artists and hosted by artists and not touched for over a decade - because the person is not technically minded and doesn't appreciate how things have moved on. These sort of websites do NOT promote the artist. They reveal the artist as somebody who does not care how their artwork presents online.

    Wordpress can be good - but there's a lot more to it than some of the other hosted sites which are a lot easier to use.

    I'd say the favourite amongst those who prize design is Squarespace. Both Weebly and Wix produce very acceptable and flexible themes for sites and lots and lots of help. My view is stick with the ones which have proved themselves in the marketplace and support millions of websites.

    I've never heard of the one you mentioned.


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