With a multitude of easy to navigate platforms such as Wix and Squarespace available, artists have no shortage of options to create a stunning website. When planning for the creation of art websites, the main focus should be on identifying a unifying purpose across the site; Art websites should be answering visitors’ most pressing questions. What aspects of a personal brand need to be incorporated into a compelling online presence? What ratio of text-to-image is appropriate for art websites? What page formats encourage curators and gallerists to spend time on artist sites?
Whether setting up artist sites for the first time or considering how to best restructure your artist online presence for maximum impact, we’ve compiled some tips below from gallerists and curators to shed further insights into what works. From implementing best practices on overall website layout to zooming in on specific details that make a strong first impression, we’ve set up specific action items for gearing fine artists websites that make visitors feel at home.
Defining the Overall Layout
According to Neilsen Norman Group and Hubspot Marketing, most visitors spend only 10-20 seconds on a website. What considerations should artists be putting into their artist sites to ensure that a visitor stays 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 statement and lastly the contact page if I’m interested to reach out,” Stefanovic says.
While certain artists prefer to include a contact form and others list their email address immediately on the website, it is crucial that whichever option artists choose to pursue that they follow up with interested parties in a timely manner. 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 are 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 the Right Media for Artist Sites
Artists of any medium will be featuring engaging looks into their practice, whether videos for performance or new media artists or images for painters, sculptures and mixed media artists. While the specific media featured on artist sites may vary, visitors will expect high quality without a long, slow load time. 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.
Artists featuring images on their artist sites can take a few pointers from Stefanovic. “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].” Artists looking to make their website stand out from the pack should 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 venerable Bushwick gallery VICTORI+MO, shares her straightforward expectations for artists’ sites. “Professionally shot and clear images are the most important thing on an artist’s website. I’ve seen way too many websites with images that are too dark or grainy that don’t accurately represent the work!” she says, “It’s a huge disservice to the artist’s 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!”
Including The Fine Print
Artist statements and an artist CV are the final essential component of artist sites worth careful consideration. While this content can seem straightforward, it’s vital to include information and structure statements and career highlights within a fine artist CV in clear and concise texts. While images and other media take a sizable chunk of the visitor’s attention, serious visitors will peruse the artist CVs 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,” says Mo. 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 creating a user-friendly experience, your website will become a gateway to securing new opportunities with enthusiastic partners.
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