Spruce Up Your Artist Website – Top Twelve Improvements

Spruce Up Your Artist Website

I look at a lot of other artists’ websites, and I notice that artists—perhaps more than any other group of people with websites—commit some of the worst web design mistakes, thus causing potential loss of viewers.

So, I’ve made a list of what I consider to be some of the most egregious and some of the most common design mistakes I see on artists’ websites.

  1. Failure to put your name anywhere on your website.
    I’ve just visited an artist’s website that had NO header with the artist’s name, NO resume, NO bio, and only a first-person artist statement, unsigned.   The art was very nice, but I had no idea who the artist was. At least he or she included a contact email address (unlinked) on one page that I luckily happened to notice, so I suppose I could write and ask them, “who the hell are you?”  But I didn’t.  DO include a banner or headline text with your name or the name of your website in the same place on every page of your website.
  2. Failure to use the name of your website or your name in the title tag of every page on your site.
    This is a coding issue, and is related to the above, though far more common.   To help search engines index your site properly, and to have your pages be recognized as belonging to you in bookmarks (favorites), a good way to title your pages is “Name of Page | Name of Site” such as “Gallery of Encaustic Paintings | Your Site Name.”
  3. Failure to use consistent navigation.
    Your viewers will appreciate it if they do not have to search around on the page to figure out how to get back to the previous page or get to the one they wanted to see next, rather than get frustrated and click away from your site.
  4. Failure to use thumbnail views.
    Personally, I like to get an overview of an artist’s whole body of work before clicking through every image.  If the first image or two doesn’t grab me, and I can’t see the remaining images without clicking through every one in order, I may just move on to the next artist, and I suspect, gallery owners may do the same.  Let’s face it, even some of the best artists create a work or two that may not be up to the level of the rest of their work.
  5. Making the browser resize the images and resize the large uploaded images to the thumbnail size.   This is another coding issue for your web designer.  It’s better to size your images to the desired display size prior to uploading them to your website, to speed up the download of your pages.  Related to this is the failure to code the image size attributes, which is another coding issue that will slow down the loading of your website.
  6. Opening every large image in another new window (another coding issue for your web designer).
    Having 20-30 new windows or tabs opened by visiting one website is, well, annoying, to say the least.  I think it’s fine to open off-site links in new windows, but on-site links are better opened in the same window or the same new window.   The code for these would be “target=_blank” or “target=my_window” (a consistent, invented name).  I’ve noticed, though, that the second option does not necessarily work in all browsers, platforms and web programs anymore.
  7. Overuse and inappropriate use of Flash.
    Flash intros (they’re so 2002!), and Flash for navigation — there are many people who have Flash turned off and will find navigating your site annoying, if not impossible.  Plus Iphones and Ipads don’t support Flash.
  8. Failure to make your text easy to be read.
    Here are some specifics:

    • Inadequate contrast between the text and background.  Don’t make your site too hard to read, unless you don’t want people to read it.
    • Center-aligned paragraphs of text.  It’s too hard to read and just plain messy looking.   Your website is not a wedding invitation and should not try to look like one.
    • Fully justified text.   Though it looks very neat, it’s also too hard to read.
    • Text that is too small to read.
    • Text that is all bold, all italic or ALL CAPS, all of which are also too hard to read, except in small doses, such as used only for emphasis.
  9. Using an image where text would be better, such as for your resume.
    I also find PDF resumes very annoying.  It’s fine to provide your resume in PDF form in addition to text on your site, but forcing someone to wait for the PDF to load may mean you’ll lose some eyes on that resume.
  10. Failure to label your artwork with appropriate info:
    • Title
    • Medium
    • Size
    • Date
    • Price (if applicable)
  11. Incorrect labels.
    I just visited the website of one of my favorite local artists, and every piece was labeled exactly the same!   Her glass pieces were labeled the same as her drawings, so I know it’s just an oversight, but one that needs to be fixed.
  12. Failure to keep your website updated (especially your events).
    Keep your content fresh to keep people coming back for more, and don’t leave events on your site as “upcoming” long after they have come…and gone.

(I’ve just edited this page for grammar and inaccuracies.  Ha!  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!  — Marilyn, Dec. 2010)