Creating a new website to showcase or sell your art can seem like a daunting prospect. With so many freelance web designers, web design companies and ‘do it yourself’ options to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to begin.
I’ve been designing websites for over five years and in that time I’ve realised that the majority of artists go through a very similar journey, starting from their initial decision to invest in a website, right through to its launch. Although every artist will experience a slightly different process, there are several key tasks that are essential to complete in order to launch any artist’s website.
So, here are some tips to help you if you’re currently planning your own art website.
1. Define your website’s goals and target audience
Creating a website for your art is an investment in your time, energy and of course, money. So it makes sense to be sure as to why you’d like or need an art website, before you dive in. If your goals are clear in your mind from the beginning, you’ll be far more likely to get your website right the first time, allowing you to spend more time doing what you do best – creating art.
Your reason for having a website may be simply to create a place to showcase your art online, to share photos of your work and to attract collectors, galleries and new fans.
Or perhaps your dream is to make a living from your art and build a career out of it. If so, you may want a website that can not only showcase your work, but also offer an online shop facility to accept online orders and payments – providing you with a new source of income.
So before you do anything else, work out the specific reasons you want a website for your art. These could include:
- To display your art online – To friends, family, collectors and fans
- To get the attention of galleries – With the aim of exhibiting your work
- To build your online following – By connecting it to your social media pages
- To sell your art online – Directly to fans and collectors worldwide
- To blog about your art – To show your works in progress
Having decided on your main goals, you can plan your website accordingly. This will also help you to work out who will be using your website. Whether your target audience is friends and family, other artists, art collectors, art galleries or the general public, understanding who will use your website will help you tailor its design and content to those people.
2. Research other artist websites
With your target audience and the aims of your website in mind, it’s time to get inspired! Do a Google search for other artists and take a peek at their websites. Take notes of the elements you like and those you don’t and keep a list of your favourite artist websites for future reference.
You may find one or two websites that are just your style, in which case, there’s nothing wrong with using those for inspiration. Alternatively, you may like the fonts used on one website, the colours on another and the layout of a third website. In which case, you can create your own unique style by mixing and matching similar elements of other websites as well as a few of your own ideas.
If you know your way around Photoshop or even a Word document, try taking some screenshots from these websites and collating them together to create a mood board. Or for a web-based mood board, Pinterest is another great option for curating your ideas and inspiration from around the web.
This research will be extremely useful when it comes to discussing your website with your web designer, or when building your own. I tend to ask new clients if they have seen any other artist websites they like and this really helps us ensure we are on the same wavelength regarding their preferred styles, tastes, and expectations.
3. Choose the features you’d like
Once you have an idea of how your website should look, it’s time to decide on the specific features you’d like to include. Common features of artist websites include:
- Photo gallery – To display collections of your work
- Online shop – To sell your work or products such as prints or merchandise
- Blog – To share your thoughts or works in progress
- Contact form – To allow potential buyers or galleries to get in touch
- Social media feeds – To encourage site visitors to follow your social pages
You may decide you need all of these elements, but at the very least you will want some form of photo gallery. The other features are somewhat optional. Again, this is where your research into other artist websites will come in handy, as you may have discovered a certain feature you hadn’t thought of previously.
4. Sketch some ideas on paper
Once you know the features you’d like to include, it’s a good idea to sketch out the various pages you think you’ll need. This can be useful to work out the layout that would best showcase your work and the various text content you will need.
You will need to work out where your logo or name will go, the placement of your navigation links, and the layout of the photos of your work. Some artists opt for a grid-style layout that shows multiple photos of their work all at once, or others go for high impact, larger photos that display one at a time.
Sketching out the main pages will help you start to visualise the layout and how the different elements will fit together. Typically artist websites will include:
- Homepage – To introduce your art and link to the other pages
- Gallery page – To display photos and details of your work
- Bio or CV page – To tell your story and list your past achievements
- Blog page – To document your works in progress
- Contact page – To encourage enquiries
By sketching out some quick ideas, you can start to bring it all together and work out the best layout for displaying your art. This will be extremely useful to show your web designer, to help them understand your vision, or for your own use if you decide to build your own website.
5. Register your website address
The next step I’d recommend is to secure your preferred website address, also known as a ‘domain name’. Depending on how common your name is, your chosen domain may have already been taken. So check to see if your chosen domain is available for purchase and snap it up quickly if it is! Typically .co.uk domains will cost around £8 to £12 for two years or a .com will cost around £12 per year.
I recommend choosing the shortest domain available to make it as easy as possible to type for your visitors. However, if your name is already taken, you may need to add a related word to the end, such as www.davidhopkinspaintings.co.uk for example.
After you’ve picked a domain name, there are plenty of websites to register ownership of it. I highly recommend Pixel Internet, particularly for UK-based artists or GoDaddy is a another popular option.
6. Prepare your photos and text content
One of the most important steps in the entire process is creating the content for your art website. An artist website is of little use with no photos or any text! Whilst you can launch your website with a very small amount of text to introduce yourself (and add more later), clearly the photos of your work are the reason people will be viewing your website in the first place.
However, photographing art is no easy task. To capture the colours, textures and details accurately is not as simple as it may seem. Unless you are a skilled photographer, you will probably find that when taking your own photos, they just don’t quite capture a true likeness of your art. Personally I recommend hiring a professional photographer who understands lighting, has professional equipment and can advise you on where best to take the photos. Plus, they’ll be able to edit and tweak the photos afterwards until they are as accurate as possible.
If you don’t have the budget to hire a photographer, its still worth taking your own photos, at least to begin with. Even if you can only use your camera phone, taking your own photos is far better than not having any and they can always be replaced in the future. For some tips on photography, take a look at our article on how to photograph your art.
Once you have a Word document containing all of your text content and a decent set of photos, store it all in a folder on your computer so that it’s ready to go when you need it. To share the folder of content with your web designer, cloud (online) storage services such as Dropbox are a great option.
7. Choose between a Web Designer or ‘Do it yourself’ platform
So you’ve done your research, you know what you want and you’ve sorted out the photography of your art. Next it’s time to choose how you will go about creating your website. There are plenty of options for creating a website for your art, but essentially it comes down to using a DIY website builder, or hiring a professional.
Professional Web Designers
Depending on your budget, one option is to hire a professional to design and build a bespoke website. Whilst this will cost you more than doing it yourself, it will save you the time and the hassle of building your own. It will also give you access to the creativity, experience and technical skills only a professional can provide, as well as advice on related subjects such as social media marketing.
If you choose the right designer, you’ll also receive a more personal service from someone that cares about your success, rather than being just one more customer of a company with many thousands.
Here are some tips for finding a professional web designer:
- Find other artist websites you like and look for the website design credit link at the bottom
- Ask friends, family or fellow artists if they can recommend their web designer
- Look for web designers in the suppliers section of art publications or in your local newspaper
- Google search for web designers in your area
- Ask your followers on social media for recommendations
- And of course, you could always hire us!
If you’re tech-savvy and have an eye for design, your other option is to create your own website using a do-it-yourself platform such as SquareSpace. These platforms are designed to be easy to use and come with a wide range of pre-made templates and features to choose from. With these platforms you simply sign up, pick a template and upload your work. Then create a few pages about you and your art and you’re done!
As specialists in artist web design ourselves, we are of course extremely biased in suggesting you hire a professional, but only if you have the budget to do so, or lack the skills or time to create your own. Some of the DIY options available now are excellent and offer a great way to get your first art website online, at a lower cost.
If you choose the DIY route, I’d recommend the following DIY website builders:
- Squarespace.com – Best if the aesthetics of your website are most important
- WordPress.com – Best if you don’t want to pay a monthly fee
- Shopify.com – Best if selling your art through your site is most important
Although this is not a definitive list, once you have completed all of the above, you should be in a great position to get started with the process of actually building your new art website. To get the ball rolling, simply sign up to your DIY platform, or contact your chosen web design professional to discuss the next stages with them. And if you go with a web designer, having the above all ready to go will certainly make the process far smoother for both parties.
Best of luck!