With many easy-to-navigate platforms available, creating your own artist website is just a few clicks away. Whether you’re setting up your artist website for the first time, need a site refresh, or considering how to build your online presence for maximum impact, we’ve compiled some tips from arts professionals about what works. From implementing best practices on overall website layout to details that make a strong first impression, here are tips to guide your artist website.
Defining the Overall Layout
According to Neilsen Norman Group and Hubspot Marketing, most visitors spend only 10-20 seconds on a website. Given that short attention span, you have very little time to get engaged. Natasha Stefanovic, independent curator and founder of Beautiful Things Curated, outlines the very minimum she expects from an artist’s website. “I always first look for the page which shows their works, latest exhibits, CV/Bio, press page, their artist statement and lastly, the contact page if I’m interested to reach out,” Stefanovic says.
To make it easy for visitors to your site to contact you, include a contact form or list your email address Stefanovic also emphasizes the importance of examining artworks featured on artist sites. “When showing the artworks on your website, the more detailed they are the better,” she notes. It’s also a plus if there’s an option to zoom in.”
Artist Ventiko, founder and organizer of Animamus Art Salon, has years of experience reviewing artist websites. As a result, she has fine-tuned what works and what doesn’t for artists looking to make an impact with overall website design and their online presence. “Websites work best if they are clean, organized and easy to navigate. Automated slideshows and videos…especially with sound..can be inappropriate and disturbing in a public workspace,” she notes.
Ventiko addresses a crucial aspect of planning artist websites: the best artist sites function with the end-user in mind. While showcasing your work and qualifications as an artist is crucial to the purpose of the site, ultimately structuring a website that will speak to the widest audience and deliver the visuals and information you are providing effective and immediately will be your greatest achievement. “The visitor should always leave the artist’s site with a clear understanding of the artist’s work…a positive experience engaging with a site will encourage me to share the work with others.” Creating a website that facilitates a positive experience for visitors while still delivering crucial information and imagery should serve as the focal point of all artist sites.
Choosing Content for Your Artist Website
Adding photos or videos to your site is a given, and so is making sure they are high quality and upload quickly for mobile viewing. This can be a difficult balancing act for larger files – for artists working in video and performance, this is where a site like Vimeo comes into play – but for artists featuring images, there are a few quick and fast rules for reference when structuring image galleries or individual images on a website.
Stefanovic offers, “If artists don’t show any works or just a few, it makes a bad impression, as does looking at their works when it’s hard to scroll from one work to the next.” Make sure target audiences can easily navigate image galleries, take a closer look at specific images, and return to the previous image or move to the next body of work. By making an easily navigable site, artists can almost guarantee that visitors will spend more time there. Another turnoff? Poor image quality. As Stefanovic notes, “Images of works that are of low quality make [artist sites] not very appealing.” By making images compelling, high quality and easily accessible on their websites, artists make strides toward leaving a positive impression.
Celine Mo, Managing Partner of VICTORI+MO, shares her expectations for when viewing artist websites. “Professionally shot and clear images are the most important thing your website. I’ve seen way too many sites with images that are too dark or grainy that don’t accurately represent the work!” She says, “It’s a huge disservice to your practice and I think a lot of artists underestimate the power and impression of good images.”
While it may be an investment for artists to ensure that an entire body of work translates into sharp images for website visitors, it will eventually prove to be worthwhile if you can manage to keep a gallerist or curator on your website for a longer period of time. By ensuring images are worthy of visitors’ attention, you’ll be one step closer to having art dealers and exhibition organizers enthusiastically engaging with your artwork. And if you don’t? Mo echoes Stefanovic’s sentiments when discussing her biggest pet peeves on artist sites: “Grainy images and horrible lighting!”
Tell Your Unique Story
Artist statements and a resume/CV are the final essential components of artist sites worth careful consideration. While this content can seem straightforward, it’s vital to include information about your background, experience and education/training with clear and concise texts. While images and other media take a sizable chunk of the visitor’s attention, serious visitors will peruse your resume/CV for career highlights, recent/ongoing exhibitions and to take a sneak peek at upcoming exhibitions the artist is participating in.
Mo provides insights into how the curious gallerist responds to interesting artist’s sites, with emphasis on reviewing info about recent activities. “An up-to-date artist CV is also an advantage because I want to know what you’ve been doing recently and if there are any upcoming shows that feature your work. I’ll usually try to check out the next upcoming show before I reach out for a studio visit.” If an upcoming exhibit is listed at the top of an artist CV, in an easy to spot location on artist sites, odds are greater that a prospective gallerist or curator will be inspired to attend the exhibition.
Structuring a friendly, professional website will create a positive and memorable experience for visitors to your site. The main goal is to create a personal brand and to infuse your website with your unique vision while maintaining a clear pathway of navigation for the visitor. By expressing yourself within the context of creating a user-friendly experience, your website will become a gateway to securing new opportunities with enthusiastic partners.
What have you learned about creating your artist website? What worked and what didn’t? Let us know in the comments!
Audra Lambert is a curator, arts marketing consultant, and editor.