If you’re an artist and you don’t have a website yet — or if you want to change the one you have now — it’s never too late!
Even if you’re a technophobe and you don’t have a cousin to build a website for you, there are lots of easy and even free options to make a website — and some of them are specifically geared to artists. The benefits are obvious: people looking for art can find you by Googling your name or your type of artwork, and they can contact you to make purchases. If you don’t have a website, you’re missing out on lots of potential collectors.
And if you aren’t sure what to put on your website, that’s simple too. Every site will be different, but the necessities are:
- easy-to-find contact information,
- a short bio or artist’s statement,
- and images of your artwork.
There’s more good advice in this checklist of dos and don’ts.
Not quite sold? We polled our Facebook audience to see what our community of artists likes and dislikes about the web platforms they use. Here’s what they had to say:
1. WordPress: WordPress is well-known as a blogging platform, but it can also easily be used to build a regular website using static pages. It’s likely the most customizable option short of a custom-built site, with hundreds of different themes, and many options for beautiful galleries and slideshows of your work. There’s both a free option, WordPress.com, and the self-hosted software WordPress.org, which is free to use but will require you to pay for hosting (probably around $10/month). This article explains the pros and cons of each service.
- As seen on: This blog, Art League member Wendy Sittner’s website, Adam Wilder’s website, and MICA’s photo department.
2. Heavybubble: Unlike WordPress, heavybubble is designed specifically for artists, with easy-to-set up templates for galleries, artist bios, links, and contact form. Options start at $20/month.
- As seen on: Gallery Director Rose O’Donnell’s website. Rose: “I liked the ease of setting it up but now find that I need more from them, and they don’t provide things like a link to my Facebook and Twitter pages.”
3. Other People’s Pixels: Another service geared toward artists, OPP promises “the best shameless-self-promotion that money can buy.” Like heavybubble and Fine Art Studio Online (below), it offers a free trial. Plans start at $16/month. OPP’s blog has a Tips & Tricks section with tutorials on things like search engine optimization, protecting images of your artwork, and setting up a “virtual business card” with a mobile site.
- As seen on: The microWave project site. Co-founder Allison Nance shared that she loves the service, but the sites don’t work as well on mobile devices.
4. Fine Art Studio Online: FASO includes easy-to-change image collections, events, and built-in visitor statistics. Two features that may make it more attractive are the option to sell artwork through the website, and a way to manage and send email newsletters. The cheapest option, $8/month, allows you up to 25 images; the next step up is $28/month.
- As seen on: Art League members Web Bryant‘s and Jill Banks’s new websites. Jill said that while she doesn’t like the idea of using templates and looking too similar to other websites, the service’s ease of use makes it “fantastic.” She said the email newsletters were the main factor in her decision. Web writes that FASO is great for displaying art and for the integrated blogging, but “you need to play with it to not look like all the other templates.”
5. Weebly: Weebly features free hosting as well as an easy drag-and-drop way to build your website.
- As seen on: Grayson Heck’s website and Art League instructor Nancy Freeman’s new website. Nancy posts videos, demos, and blog entries there and reports that building it was easy.
6. Others: There are lots more ways to make a website! We sent out a call for feedback on Facebook, and our fans suggested, in addition to the sites above, Sitewelder (seen here), Behance (seen here), JimdoPro (seen here), Yahoo! Small Business (seen here), the artist-focused Big Black Bag (seen here), and more.
For photographers, there are a number of options, like SmugMug and PhotoShelter (used by Art Leaguer Carol Simons Huddleston), both of which offer built-in ways to sell prints. You can see what everyone had to say on Facebook here.
And of course, there’s always the option of building from scratch, either on your own or with a web editor program like Adobe Dreamweaver (used for Art League member Pam Coulter’s site). Jenny Reeves built from scratch, though she also happens to be a web developer. She recommended the easy-to-use WordPress software for non-technical artists.
There are lots of things to consider other than price. How is the technical support? Can you track visitors? Are image galleries attractive and easy to manage? Do they have an easy way to set up a mobile site so it looks good on smartphones? Other considerations:
- Picking a domain name (e.g. “theartleague.org”) is a big decision, but it boils down to choosing something that will be easy to find and not too long to type out. Usually, this will be your name (dot com) or, if that’s not for sale, your name studio (dot com) or your name art (dot com). If your name’s not in the domain, make sure it’s at least featured in the page title so people can still find you on Google!
- Picking a hosting service. Heavybubble, Other People’s Pixels, Fine Art Studio Online, and Weebly all include hosting and a domain name in their price. If you want to self-host on WordPress or a different service, you’ll have to find a web host. WordPress recommends some reliable services here.
How about it, Art Leaguers? Any other services to recommend? What do you use, and how do you like it?