People will forget what you did, people will forget what you said but people will never forget how you made them feel. Maya Angelou
Is your Artist Website working for you?
Your website is the first impression many art buyers, curators, gallery owners or workshop students will have of you....long before they meet you in person.
In this busy online world it is imperative to have a website that represents the best you have to offer. If you craft your website correctly you can use your online space to stand out and get noticed.
To showcase your art and your wonderful :-) personality does NOT mean you have to fill your website with everything you have ever said or done.
Using just the right image or arranging carefully picked words brings clarity and helps visitors quickly grasp who you are and what you are all about.
First and foremost you need to decide the goal of your website. Your goal will determine what elements you need to add or maybe even remove from your website.
Do you want to sell your art?
Do you want to use your website to showcase your art?
Do you want to promote a workshop or art event?
When you get clear about your website's objective, you can take steps and decide on the layout, navigation, graphics, words and images.
Fortunately it is becoming easier and more doable to design your own website. With platforms like Wix, Squarespace or Kajabi you can now get your website up and running in no time. Take some time investigate your options. This may ask a small investment in time and money but by crafting your website yourself really has many advantages:
1. You can keep your website up to date,
2. You can keep a keen eye on your analytics,
3. You don't have to pay a pricy web designer,
4. You are more flexible and can make quick changes.
If you do need help you can always ask a quote for hiring a virtual designer. Look at platforms like Upwork or Fivver to find a designer take suits your needs. Make sure you make clear arrangements. Stipulate exactly what you want done and what the price will be.
TIP: Make a mock-up of your website first. That's right.... on paper. Think through your whole website experience by finding the right images, words and layout and get this down on paper before you start with a designer. This will save you a heap of time and a bunch of money!
Your url is your website address. Find an url that includes what you do or even use your own name. If the domain is free, register it and you can get going with your website. If being found in the Google search is important to you (and it should be) then use an extension that applies to your location. If you are active in the UK then use the extension. co.uk
This immediately tells Google that you are active in the UK and the search engines can categorise and rank you and what you do accordingly. Of course if you work worldwide then use the .com or .org options.
A quick word about SEO ->Search Engine Optimisation
'Stay with me, no pressing that exit button.'
Just knowing that there is something called SEO will help you be more aware why you need to add certain words or structure to your website a certain way.
If you want to be more easily found when potential buyers or students do a google search you need to remember these three 'C's':
1. Be Concise
It matter's what words you use - add words that include keywords. Keywords are words that people fill out in the search bar eg: 'mixed media artist' , 'Sculptor of wildlife in Cape Town', 'Installation artist in Houston'. Always think of your website through the eyes of who you would like on your website. What are they looking for? What do you do? Who do you want to find you?
** Google's aim is to try and help that person as quickly and efficiently as possible. The clearer you communicate in words (remember the google bots don't read images) the easier it is too categorise you and invariably it is easier for those surfing the web to find you.
2. Be Coherent
In order for the search engine to categorise you, you need to communicate a coherent message. If you are an encaustic artist then use this description consistently on all the pages and sections of your website. The search engine is looking for connections and patterns. If you use clear and coherent words to describe what you are doing and who you are the easier it is to categorise you and the higher you will be ranked in the search.
3. Be Consistent
Let the search engine know that you are active and relevant. By adding fresh data, links and content will tell the search engine that you are a relevant, active artist and this will keep your website in the picture.
TIP: Write your artist statement in the first person. So instead of saying I studied at ....and when I pick up my paint brushes......use your own name in a few of the sentences. Sonja Smalheer studied at ...... etc.
This may seem weird. Google can't connect the 'I's and the 'me's' to a person so by adding your name to your content will help the people that are googling your name find you. If you have used your name in the wording it will pop up in the search.
Get your Homepage right and the rest will follow
The HOMEPAGE is also known as the Index. You can compare it to the entrance hall of your home. All other 'rooms' lead off from here. The same is true for your homepage. From this page the visitor will need to find their way to the different sections on your website.
Questions to ask:
1. What do you want people to see when they first visit your website? First impressions count!!!
2. Is it clear what you do and who you are? Use images and words to communicate this.
3. Where do you want people to go from here? Navigate them to the next page or section on your homepage according to the goal of your website.
FOLD - Everything you see before you first start scrolling is what we call above the FOLD - this term comes from newspaper publishing and referred to the fold in the newspaper.
The most important information on your homepage is always above the FOLD. This is probably the only space visitors will see, so make it count.
Make it interesting and inviting enough for visitors to take the next step and venture beyond the fold.
Always keep the goal of your website in mind. You are not only making a pretty website you have a goal and a purpose.
HEADER - this is the static section on the top of your website. Place a clear navigation in your header. Keep it simple and don't overwhelm visitors with too many choices.
FOOTER - this is the static section on the lowest part of your website - repeat your navigation, contact details and social icons
An image speaks more than a 1000 words.
Find good quality images that amplify your objective. Images that reflect who you are and what you are doing and place this above the fold.
It is important to invest in a photoshoot so that you can build an archive of good quality images.
Make a deal with a local photographer and ask for shots of you and your art in high resolution. Make sure you have a variety of shots. Choose shots for the different sections on your website and that you can use on your social platforms.
If you are promoting your workshops and you seriously want to build an art teaching business then invest in a photo session during your next workshop. Shop online for prices and what is available. These images are extremely valuable for your communication.
If you are selling your art. Make sure you use clear images and use a tool that you can zoom in and view the work from different angles. Consider using an app to show your art in real life. Hanging or standing in a space? Give the visitors a context to your art.
***Make this a priority this year. Even if you need to save for it, having just the right images will make your website really stand out and get your art the attention it deserves.
You can use stock photo's. There are free and paid platforms like Unsplash or Pixabay or invest in a stock subscription Adobe Stock - that is what I use.
The human body has one goal and that is survival. Your wonderful body will do everything to preserve calories so that you can survive and live another day.
What does this have to do with setting up your website.
Don’t give people too much information. If people have too many choices they don’t choose.
The brain will shut off to save energy and this is not good when you want people to sign up for a workshop or view your gallery.
The less options your give your visitors the better they are able to choose.
Use a Call to Action button to navigate visitors to the important sections on your website.
Call to Action (CTA) buttons are designed in a contrasting colour and have a clear appeal. With wording like: Make an appointment, Sign up, Register now or Find out more, are all calling people to take some kind of action.
Place at least 2 CTA buttons above the fold.
Remember the CTA buttons can be stylish and tasteful and aim to give people the 'gallery' experience without your website looking like a cheap dollar shop.
DO THIS LITTLE TEST!
I call it the 5 second test! Initially visitors will not read your website, they will glance. In about 5 seconds they decide whether what they see on your website interests them or not. Here they decide whether to stay or to go.
Try this test. Find an artist website. Look at the homepage, above the fold. Count to five -> do you understand what they are doing? And why? This is a good test to do with your own website or ask friends (or even strangers) to do this test too! Their feedback will give you valuable insights as to what is working and what is not!
Keep your website up to date. I saw a website recently of an amazing artist working and teaching and doing amazing stuff. As I scrolled through her website I saw a CTA in the side bar of a workshop offer from 2015. This is not what you want to communicate.
We all develop blindspots! Make sure you look at your website each week. Make sure that your navigation is working and if all the information is relevant.
TIP: Ask friends to look at your website. Their feedback may be confronting but be open to embrace a little tough love in order to get your website where you want it to be.
And remember the three SEO 'C's' - By consistently adding to your website you are telling the search engines that you are an active, relevant artist which makes your website more visible and ranked higher than the more dormant websites.
TIP: There is an enourmous increase of mobile internet users so make sure your website is mobile friendly.
I recently heard an interview with an editor of an art magazine. Shared more about her role as editor and her experience with artists. In the interview she was asked how she finds artist to feature in her nationwide art magazine. She shared that it was more difficult than expected, many artists did not have their contact details visible or available.
Make sure that visitors can connect with you. Having a Facebook or Insta account is not enough.
Add a contact form or your email address, where people can find you, so they can inquire about pricing and conditions.
TIP: Don't put all your eggs in one basket. Just relying on your social media platforms to connect with your fans & followers is not enough. It the algorithms change or a platform is taken offline you are busted!
Build up your own network of people that you connect with on a regular basis by sharing inspiring content.
By doing so you will be adding value to their lives.
One way to do this effectively is by communicating with them through emails. In order to do this you need to have their email address and 'yes' you need to ask for permission.
You can add an opt-in form to your homepage and ask visitors if they want to stay connected and stipulate what you will be sending them.
If you write a weekly blog or share an artist's story then you can ask people if they would be interested to receive your inspiring content and updates about latest courses or exciting art adventures.
The key here is not to spam people with nonsense. You are offering them value on a regular basis. If you do this consistently you can build a family of followers that will get to know you and your art and they are far more likely to purchase your art or attend a workshop in the future.
It is one things for you to passionately share what you are doing and why you are doing it.
But what if other people start doing this for you? How much more impact will this have?
Add testimonials, personal experiences buyers of your art, and students of your workshops to your homepage.
TIP: At the end of your workshop have students fill your an evaluation form. If there is good feedback ask people if you may use it on your website. Or if a buyer emails you how much they are enjoying your painting in there hallway then ask if you can paraphrase them on your website.
And last but not least , add a FAQ to your website.
***The reason many people do not buy your art online or register for a workshop is not because they don't want too, but because they are undecided. In a FAQ you can answer their questions, address their fears and take away those objectives buyers or students might have.
Think of questions about shipping, framing, guarantees, payments, refunds etc.
*** If you take anything away from this episode .... then let it be this!
It is paramount to get super clear and intentional about what you are putting on your website. Remember less is more. Remove the clutter, make it clear and easy to navigate and visitors will enjoy their stay and invariably come back to visit some more.
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