How to Create an Awe-Inspiring Artist Website
When you’re an artist, creating works of art comes naturally. Developing an artist website, however, can be a difficult challenge. Web design isn’t an area of expertise for all creatives, but to market your works, an appealing site is 100% required. While showcasing your talent online opens up many opportunities, a poorly developed website can quickly get in the way of all your hard work.
Luckily, artist websites are easily designed by anyone comfortable with a web browser. Knowing how to write HTML code is no longer required to build an impressive site. The best part is that, as an artist, many of the same design best-practices you already know apply to web layouts, too.
While this guide is geared toward visual artists, the ideas are suitable for all types of creative professionals. Painters, photographers, and sculptors use web sites to sell their pieces or submit to curators. Musicians need a place to post media content and touring schedules. Actors and dancers also need a website to post their resumes and recordings of previous projects.
Why Do You Need a Website?
No matter what your creative medium, you need a website to serve as a comprehensive marketing tool. Some artists might think that creating the art is sufficient, falling back on an “if you build it, they will come mentality.” This approach rarely works in today’s world. The world today is noisy, and creative products have a lot of competition for attention.
Your artist website will likely serve as the first impression many people have of your work. Here are the five web design guidelines for creatives today.
Here are the steps you need to follow if you want to have a great artist website.
1. Figure Out Your Audience
Think of all the different key players that can gain access to your works just by clicking an online link:
- Grant Review Panels
- Competition Hosts
Now, ask yourself:
- Who will look at my website?
- What will they want to see when they get there?
- How will these people impact my career as an artist?
The answers to these questions will help you decide on what pages will help make your website user-friendly. If your primary concern is selling your art online, an e-commerce page should be a priority. If you are more focused on getting shown in a gallery, displaying images of your current collection will be essential.
Remember that anyone with an internet connection will have access to your website. This availability is excellent, but remember to protect your intellectual property. A copyright message should appear on every page. You may also consider adding a visual watermark to images, as long as it does not obscure or distract from the art shown.
2. Register Your Online Resources
Before starting any website, you have to sign up for a few online resources.
- Domain name
Your domain name is the web address people will use to find you, for example, www.myartistwebsite.com. Keep your domain name short and easy for others to remember. If you are promoting yourself, use your first and last name, followed by an appropriate extension. The most common domain extension is .com, but other options may be a better fit for your work:
A domain name is how people find your website, but you also need web hosting. Hosting refers to the service that stores all of your photos, media, page designs, and text for your site. Website hosting is relatively inexpensive, and you can buy it alongside other web publishing tools.
When you are developing an artist website, reliable web hosting is indispensable. There are many web hosts to choose from, providing thousands of web hosting services. You want to choose a plan that will effectively serve images of your art day in and day out. If a curator lands on your website and it takes too long to load or doesn’t appear at all, they won’t wait around. They’ll bounce off of your gallery page and move to the next artist on their list.
In other words, do your research and choose a trustworthy hosting service.
- Content Management System
The content management system, or CMS, is the program that runs your website. A good CMS gives you templates to create the look of your site and guides you while adding content related to your art. Most CMS software today is mobile responsive, which means the page design adjusts to different screen sizes. Be sure to check that your CMS of choice falls into this category.
WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world, and popular with many artists. Thousands of mobile responsive templates are available on the WordPress platform, many of them for free.
To make things easier, you can register a domain name through Namecheap, and sign up for WordPress website hosting at the same time. Using one provider to supply all of these technical tools simplifies the login process and makes renewals easier.
Once you have these basic building blocks set up, you can start adding your artwork and make your website truly reflective of your personal brand of creativity.
3. Create Intuitive Pages
It’s always important to start with an intuitive site structure. Proper planning helps users understand how to find what they are looking for on your site. Organize your portfolio in a way that makes sense to someone who may never have seen your work before. When you showcase multiple collections or galleries, make that clear through text on each page. If you feel like website design just isn’t within your wheelhouse, consider hiring a freelance artist to help you.
Keep the navigation simple and use words that are easy for anyone to understand. For example, if you had a big exhibit of futuristic dystopian paintings last year, you might want to call the page, “Recent Works” or “Dystopian Collection” rather than something more complicated.
As you curate what will appear on the page, be conscious about including frivolous, unnecessary components, also known as feature creep.
Don’t require people too many clicks before people get to your work. People should be able to find what they want to see within one or two clicks. Picking the right navigation options helps with this. Portfolio, contact, and biography pages should be included in the nav of almost any artist website.
4. Choose the Right Type of Media
The primary feature of an artist website is will always be content that showcases the works of art. Photographs are the most common online media format, but can also include videos, audio, animations, and interactive content.
The file size of the photos must be moderately small. Large HD images are great for print and movies, but web pages have to load fast — the bigger the media file size, the slower the page load speed. In general, photos should be in the PNG file format, and smaller than 500 KB. Always preview how your photos look online. While pages should load quickly, you also want to avoid pixelated or overly compressed images.
Be careful about how many images you save onto a page. Large quantities of images can slow the load time down, too.
If the photos that you use were taken by a gallery or part of a major exhibit, be sure to link to the source. This allows visitors to see your personal connection to larger institutions.
Specific platforms like Vimeo and YouTube make adding video content to your website simple. They also make it incredibly easy for people to share your videos on social media. If you have videos of your work, Vimeo makes it easy to put them on your website.
Remember that about half of everyone that visits your site will look at it on a mobile device. Smartphone screens are much smaller than desktop monitors. A photograph that looks amazing on a big screen may be hard to look at when it’s only 2.5 inches wide. Always review your pages on a mobile device before publishing to make sure your work is well-displayed.
If you want to encourage people to share your work with others, add social media icons to each page. These can be small, and appear beneath each item in your gallery. Merely having a tiny Facebook or Twitter logo on the page gives people a little suggestion to share your website with their friends.
A Note on Editing:
Just as choosing the right media to showcase is crucial, editing your collection is also essential. If you only have 10 or 12 works in your portfolio, then showing them all is probably okay. If you have dozens or hundreds or thousands of pieces, you must edit them down to only the most notable examples. If you have 40 amazing photos of your last sculpture, pick the best one instead of including them all. Even your biggest fan will get bored by duplicated content.
5. Include and Artist Statement & CV
You may feel like your work speaks for itself, and maybe it does, but viewing art online is different than in the gallery. Curators create an environment that’s conducive to appreciating works of art. The world outside, however, is full of distractions. People who visit your site may not be entirely focused. Including an Artist Statement and CV page help everyone appreciate the work that you have created.
The Artist Statement should focus on your mission as a creative professional. It should answer questions such as:
- What are you passionate about saying with your work?
- Where are you from, and how does that influence your art?
- How do you want people to engage with your collections?
- What makes your work different?
Your Artist Statement can be many things, but conciseness and clarity and fundamental. It should focus squarely on your artistry, without diving into personal history or other backstories.
Be cautious about using superlatives to describe yourself. Avoid statements like “the most promising artist in the world today,” unless you are quoting an authoritative source.
CV stands for “Curriculum vitae” and is essentially a list of your accomplishments. Acceptable entries on a CV include:
- Personal details such as your name and location
- Training and educational background
- Teaching experience and residencies
- All exhibitions, including the year
- Publications where your art was featured
- Collections that include your work
- Past awards and major recognition
Create an easy-to-follow list, sorting by accomplishment type and date, as needed. Take a look at another artist’s CV to get a better idea of the structure. If you have any time gaps in your CV, such as a few years where you were inactive as an artist, you can address the reason, if you wish, in your artist statement or a separate biography page.
Just as the art you create is a unique reflection of you, your website plays a similar role. Therefore, creating an intuitive website that is easy to access and fun to browse will significantly help your marketing efforts. These five guidelines for artist website design will help any creative professional effectively showcase their work online. If you want a more in-depth look at the technical steps to building your first website, Namecheap has many more tutorials that can help.