A Website Is Like A Gallery – It’s A Vehicle to Show Art, It’s Not Art Itself
This article is not about digital art, delivered digitally but it’s aimed at artists using physical media whether it be ink, paint, wood, metal, stone, plastic or installations. It also covers photographic and video art.
The purpose of an artist’s website is like that of a gallery: it is to show the art. So it’s best plain, simple, unobtrusive and easy to find your way around. It should aim to avoid any distractions allowing the visitor to focus on the art itself.
So why do many artists treat their website as an artistic endeavour in itself and end up with a site that gets in the way of the pleasure of viewing the art? Not to mention that the sites are almost invisible to the search engines, (which by the way makes it very difficult to find the really bad sites!)
In this and following posts I’ll review a number of art websites but before doing this I need to come up with some criteria based on the assumed purpose of the sites:
An Artist’s Website Needs To Attract Interested Visitors
In order to rank well (or rank at all) in the search engines an artist’s web site needs some content about the artist and about each of his or her works. This means a page for each artwork and the correct title tags and meta description.
An Artist’s Websites Needs Clear Navigation
When browsing I want to be able either to find a specific artwork easily, or, to browse through the collection fast so I can hone in on the artworks I like. This implies I want both large images of the artwork, so I can see the work in some detail, and also small images so I can view multiple artworks at one time. A previous and next button are really useful in browsing. This is analagous to the experience of walking though a gallery taking in each artwork one at a time. I can browse past everything quite quickly but will only linger on the artworks that command my attention.
An Artist’s Website Need Information About Each Artwork
Having information about the artwork serves two purposes; firstly it may be of interest to the visitor (potential buyer) and secondly it improves the position of the site in the search engines – and that means more visitors. The page should give a description of the work, the materials, the size, weight, year, the location of the work, what inspired the work, links to reviews, if it is for sale and a unique reference number. Also any images should be of good quality and faithfully represent the artwork. Remember to use the alt tag of each image of the artwork to add further description. (Hover your mouse over the Mona Lisa to see an example of this)
An Artist’s Website Should Allow A Visitor To Do More Than Just View The Art
On the detail page for each artwork there should be an opportunity to buy. This could be the work itself, a print, a t-shirt of the artwork, whatever is appropriate. All that is needed is a price and an add to cart button. If selling it not desired on then there is other features to be considered like ‘tell-a-friend’, ‘tweet’ about the artwork, digg it, etc. – these make it easier for the visitor to share their experience of viewing the artwork. Also why not let the visitor leave a comment about the work? All these features will improve the search engine ranking and get more visitors to the website
The next post will review the websites of some well known artists using the above criteria: the ability to attract visitors, ease of navigation, details on individual artworks and other interactive features that make the visitor experience more than a passive one.
A WordPress blog is a firm foundation that combined with a thoughtful design meets all the above criteria and hence provides a great starting point for any artist wanting to show work online.