When planning to create a website to display your art, it’s highly beneficial to be aware of what makes a successful, modern-day website and to understand the expectations of internet users in 2016.
The internet has advanced rapidly over the past decade and the expectations of the average website visitor have changed dramatically. With so many aspects of modern life moving online – from shopping and banking to entertainment and socialising, the average person is spending an increasing amount of time online. Because of this, many users expect more of websites than they did in the past and are generally becoming more impatient with sites that don’t meet modern standards.
Research by Nielsen Norman Group has shown that the average user decides within 10 to 20 seconds whether they will stay on a website or click the back button. Many users also expect a website to load within a few seconds and to work seamlessly on whichever device they are using – be it their smartphone, tablet, laptop or computer.
In this article I’ll go over some more of the basic standards that your art website will need to meet in order to satisfy and impress the modern-day internet user. So here goes…
1. Easy to find
First things first, if your website cannot be easily found or accessed, potential visitors may get frustrated and simply give up looking. Issues can arise if a website address is too long or difficult to spell, or if it doesn’t display on the first page of the Google search results. Luckily, a little forward planning can minimise these issues.
It is important to ensure that the web address (aka the ‘domain name’) you choose is as simple and obvious as it can be. For example, you could use your name plus .co.uk or .com, or if that’s already taken, add a word such as ‘artist’ after your name.
It’s also important to ensure that your website appears on the first page of the results for your name in search engines. This isn’t as simple as it may sound and there can be competition for places from similar websites. Search rankings are based on numerous factors including; how popular a site is, how fresh and relevant the content is and how well it is built. Fortunately, jumping up the rankings can be achieved by regularly promoting your website, blogging and adding new content.
2. Works on all modern devices
In 2016, the smartphone is now more popular than the laptop or desktop computer for accessing the internet in the UK. According to Ofcom, 33% of users now use their smartphone as their primary device to access the internet – up from 22% in 2014. During the same time, internet use on laptops has dropped from 40% to 30%. The number of smartphone owners is also increasing – 66% of adults in the UK now own a smartphone, up from 39% in 2012. Therefore, it’s now more likely that your visitors will access your website from a mobile device than from a laptop or desktop computer.
With all the devices that can access the internet now, it is important that your website is designed and built to adapt to these various screen sizes. Designing a website to work on any device is known as ‘Responsive Web Design’ and is a method of ensuring a website seamlessly changes shape to fit any screen size. To find out if your website is already ‘responsive’, try the Google Mobile-Friendly Test.
3. Fast loading pages
It can be tempting to display hundreds of photos of your work on your website to ensure that visitors see your entire body of work, but unfortunately this can cause slow page loading times. According to KissMetrics, if a website takes more than three seconds to load, 40% of people will leave the site immediately, so it’s important that your website loads as quickly as possible.
Luckily there are ways around this. One method is to optimise your image file sizes using tools such as Kraken. Another option is to simply restrict the number of photos you use, to your best or most recent work. Picking a handful of photos will ensure a faster-loading website in comparison to having a huge catalogue of images.
The quality of the website build will also have an impact, so choosing an experienced web designer or high quality DIY solution will also make a difference to your site’s speed. Your choice of hosting company may also have an impact, with the cheaper mass-market or overseas-based web hosting companies often causing slower loading times. Personally I recommend the UK-based Pixel Internet for hosting your website.
4. Designed around the art
The best artist websites are often very minimalist in design, with the focus on the artist’s work. This is the perfect approach in my opinion as the user should be admiring your work and not be distracted by other elements of the website. One key feature of an aesthetically pleasing website is appropriate use of colours, particularly with the background. White, light greys and pastel colours are all good options as a backdrop to ensure your art stands out.
Choices of fonts are also important and they should both compliment the style of your work and be easy to read. The layout of the website is another aspect to consider. Some artists choose to go for super-sized photos to maximise the impact of each piece, but others prefer a grid layout to display multiple images at once. This is a personal choice for each artist and there are numerous layout options to consider.
5. Easy to use and navigate
Another vital accessibility element is that of ease of use for the visitor. It should be easy to identify the navigation links to other pages and there should be plenty of links dotted throughout. This will help to form a smooth flow for the user and prevent any confusion. Any gallery feature should also be intuitive and simple to flick or swipe through so that the user can easily browse your work.
When viewed on a smartphone, your website’s navigation should again be obvious, with large enough links or buttons to tap with a thumb. Your gallery images should also be as big as they can be so that they are as easy as possible to view or scroll through.
6. High quality photography
Particularly relevant to artist websites is the use of high quality photography. It is not an easy task to recreate the true appearance of your work on your website, without high quality images. If the images are in a low resolution, taken on a poor quality camera or in the wrong lighting conditions, they will not do your work justice. Although it could be worth trying to take your own photos of your work, investing in the services of a professional photographer can be a valuable investment. A photographer will be able to ensure your work is photographed in the correct lighting and that the colours and textures are accurately recreated in digital format.
7. Information on the artist
Aside from the technical and aesthetic elements of your website, it is also important to ensure your website tells the visitor a bit about you, your art and how you got to where you are today. A biography and/or CV often work well along with a list of any past exhibitions you may have held or been a part of. A blog can also be a great way of sharing your progress and keeping your followers up to date with your latest work.
I would also recommend including an indication of whether you sell your work or are available for commissions for example. It’s always best to make it obvious rather than risk losing a potential customer because they didn’t realise you were selling your work.
8. Contact details
The final feature I would recommend any artist to include on their website is contact information. An email address and/or phone number will suffice. Alternatively, a simple contact form that forwards messages to your email address is a good option if you don’t wish to share your contact details online. Links to your social media pages should also be included if you have these set up.
To sum up…
Although this is not an exhaustive list, if your website includes the elements listed above, you’ll have a much higher chance of it becoming a successful tool for promoting and selling your art. With some forward planning, you can ensure your website meets modern-day standards and impresses the majority of your website visitors.
Remember too that most internet users in 2016 give a website 10 to 20 seconds before deciding whether to continue browsing or not. So grab their attention quickly with a well-designed website, and don’t give them a reason to hit the back button!
If you need to set up your own website or would like help with improving your existing site, I offer web design services for artists. Feel free to get in touch to see if I can help. I’d love to hear from you.