Guest blogger: Whitney Zeldow
Recently, I went shopping with a friend of a friend.
After spending an hour in the SAME STORE, I finally burst:
“Oh. My. God. You shop so weird! You’ve looked at every piece of clothing on that rack, mulling over each one.”
“Well…yeah. That’s how I shop. What do you do?”
“I walk quickly through the aisles, look side-to-side and trust my subconscious to yell at me if it sees something it likes.”
These are two wildly different styles of shopping, and part of the reason there is such contradictory advice on what your artist website should look like is because both shopping styles occur among online art buyers. Slow scavengers get frustrated when they see websites that are designed to appeal to fast hunters and vice versa.
Alyson has given you advice on what appeals to art industry types who care more about the “feel” and “quality” of your work than anything else (slow scavengers). It’s hard to get them into your store, but once they are there, they will browse piece by piece.
The following advice is for artists who want to appeal to people who will buy right now (fast hunters). These people don’t particularly care who you are or what your overall portfolio looks like, but they are willing to go into anyone’s shop because they move quickly and only need to pause when there’s a show-stopper in your portfolio.
1. Beware of decision paralysis. When you display your images as thumbnails, quick browsers can better judge each piece by color, framing, and general feel. They can quickly judge which pieces they like best, instead of being enamored by all of your work (which you don’t want because it’s easier for them to decide to buy nothing than decide which one they like best!).
Important note: Make sure the thumbnails display the ENTIRE image, not a cropped version.
2. Not everyone is picky. Some of your customers will be looking for something vague, like a piece of art to hang on their wall. They don’t care if it’s a photograph, painting, landscape, or nude. A huge problem I come across when I look for art on the Internet is when artists over-categorize.
The quickest way to frustrate me is to force me to push the “back” button on my browser every time I want to look at a category of art (“New York Cityscapes,” “Portraits,” “Florals,” “Mixed Media”). I suggest adding an “All Artwork” category where someone like me can browse all styles at once.
But use your common sense! Just because Target sells Easy Mac and women’s size 12 jeans in the same store doesn’t mean it makes sense to display them next to each other.
3. Don’t be boring. Quick shoppers don’t read much, but they do occasionally read the first couple of sentences of your “About Me” page (it’s a popular page). Make sure these sentences are interesting and informative. Save the info about your art education and years of experience for later.
4. Curate your art. Never have one thousand or more pieces of art in your portfolio. And never (photographers, I’m talking to you) have side-by-side “experiments” where you take the same picture, edit it in two different ways via Photoshop, then put them both on your site. Your indecisiveness is equivalent to expecting us to do your job for you.
These four rules apply to your personal website and – because this is where the quick shoppers are – third-party sites where you display and sell your art.
And here is one extra piece of advice that applies to all shopping styles . . .
Learn from the corporations. Have you ever looked at a corporation’s email form and thought, “Yeah, I’m never gonna get a response if I fill that out?” The same goes for the email form on your site. You can keep the form on your site as long as you also offer an email address.
Whitney Zeldow runs a free email newsletter that aims to connect “regular people” with the best, most sale-able art on the web. She regularly hunts on the Internet for painters and photographers with show-stoppers in their portfolios that can be featured in her newsletter.