Working as an artist means a constant effort for increased visibility and to connect with new fans. Getting space in galleries, solo shows, art fairs, and media coverage are all essential to the process. But nothing has greater potential to reach more people—and art buyers—than your website. And certain web design best practices for visual artist websites help ensure you make the most of the opportunities.
We’ve previously covered some general web design best practices for brands, and that’s worth a read, too. But every industry has particular considerations that affect optimal site design. The visual arts are no different.
Below are some important elements and design considerations for a website intended to showcase and sell your artwork. They aren’t necessarily all incontrovertible laws, but for the most part, they’re helpful for creating the most compelling site possible. Most artists believe that rules are made to be broken, but successful ones know you first need a strong foundation in the rules and a good reason for breaking them when you do. Web design is also an art form, and this holds true in the field.
Tips for Designing a Great Visual Artist’s Website
- Use photos of your work for the images on your site. Refrain from taking attention away from them with many (or any) other pictures, graphics, etc.
- Only use high-quality, high-resolution digital images of your art. Poor quality pictures won’t add to the appeal, and they make you look unprofessional and unaccomplished.
- Build a portfolio or gallery page to display all the work you have available to show online; include it in your top-level navigation.
- Create individual pages for each work of art, accessible from the gallery, to encourage a closer look, sales, and easy sharing for visitors who want to email links or post pieces on social media.
- Offer a few first-person words about the inspiration or circumstances around each work on its individual page. Fans and buyers connect more strongly to art when they have information about its creation.
- Mention if pieces have been included in shows or won any awards. This is a key type of social proof for visual artists.
- Include prominent social sharing buttons on all pages for individual works to encourage users to share. There’s a good chance some of their connections have similar taste.
- Include a direct link to buy each piece from its showcase page. It should always be quick and easy to buy your art; minimize opportunities for potential buyers to get distracted once they’ve been won over by a particular work.
- Capture some of your personality and predominant aesthetic in your website design. Your site should be a reflection of your work and your personal brand.
- Keep copy to a minimum on most pages of the website. Don’t distract too much from what people ultimately need to connect with: your art.
- Break the above rule on your About page, which should also be in your top-level navigation. This is the place to foster stronger personal connections with the public. Let them learn about who you are, why you do what you do, what inspires you, what your process is like, what your main intentions are in your work, what artistic philosophies drive you, and so on.
- Have an Events page in your top-level navigation. Make it easy for visitors to find out where your art is currently on display, where it’ll be in the near future, what art fairs you’ll be at, etc.
- Blog! Fans are always eager to gain further insights into your inspiration, process, and career. It’s a great way to build stronger relationships and give people reasons to revisit your site. Don’t forget to let people know about any awards or media coverage you get.
- Combine your events, news, and blogging into a newsletter to build a mailing list and engaged fan base. Typically, monthly works well, but you could go bi-weekly if you consistently have a lot going on. Include prominent calls to action on every page of your website to subscribe.
- Have obvious social buttons on every page that allow visitors to immediately find and connect with you on social media. Social sites are prime places to expand your reach, especially when your fans help promote your work!