More Web Site Mistakes for Artists

BarkPhillippa Lack wrote in with these additional Web boo-boos (my word) for artists to think about. They’re from her boss, Dave Lerner, who owns a Web design company and expand on the ten Pat Velte listed in this week’s Art Marketing Action newsletter.

11 (or maybe number one). Ignore the search engines. Pay no attention to how the search engines rank websites.

12.  Assume that your customers are already buying your work. Don’t put up your prices – it will just confuse them. (See previous postings about showing prices #1 and #2 for my take on this.)

13. Make it very difficult for your customers to buy. Force them to click to several pages just to find out how to order. List your prices on a separate page from your products, so that the customers have to click back and forth to figure out what they are ordering. (See previous postings about showing prices #1 and #2.)

14.  Save money by not getting a merchant account. Your customers will just mail you a check, won’t they? Taking credit cards is too easy for them.

15.  Don’t promote your website. Don’t mention it in your advertising or business cards.

16.  Use a hotmail or aol e-mail address. That’s much more professional than using your web address in your e-mail. It shows potential customers you are not really serious about being in business.

17.  Have a friend or relative build your website. You don’t need to look like a professional. After all, your artwork is done by an amateur, why shouldn’t your website?

Image: Phillippa Lack, Bark. Painted silk with found objects.

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9 comments to More Web Site Mistakes for Artists

  • I love Phillipa’s tongue-in-cheek style of presenting these do’s and don’ts. As a person who specializes in web sites for artists, I am constantly blown away by some of the mistakes I see on web sites. I’m also surprised at some of the things my clients want. Sometimes the biggest favor I do them is to say NO to a bad idea.

  • I thought Alyson’s newsletter and her blog entry with additional tips were great. Unfortunately I have to disagree with Clint about this posting. I find the tone of these suggestions to be condescending. I feel it’s an attempt to present technology as something only a select few of professionals will ever understand. As a software engineer myself I often run across fellow “geeks” that feel they have special knowledge. Technology is simple if you can find someone willing to spend the time to explain it in a non-confrontational and straight forward way. In addition I disagree that these suggestions are necessarily relevant for an artists website. Most specifically I find #11 suspect. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is viewed by many as a complete waste of time and money. Content, content, content is the key to top search engine placement. Artist don’t need to shell out large amounts of money for SEO. I think their time and money is better spent on improving the quality of the content of their website. I also find suggestion #14 suspect. Unless you are selling a large volume of work on your website the cost of a merchant account is rarely justified. Paypal provides similar functionality at a fraction of the cost of a merchant account. I do not put prices on my website and as Alyson has pointed out there are many reasons an artist might have a website and in some situations prices my not always be appropriate. A blanket statement that prices are a must, as is suggested here, indicates that the person believes that artists websites are one-size fits all, which seems a bit short sighted. I do agree that a professional looking website is extremely important. But as with the discussion on photographers, just because someone says they are a professional web designer doesn’t mean they are good at what they do. I think it is very important that artists understand at least a few basics about what is important and appropriate for their situation so they can hire a web designer that will fit their needs and that will do a good job. If you find a web designer that is wanting to sell you expensive SEO, shopping carts, fancy graphics, etc, etc it’s important to know what they are talking about so you can understand if you need what they are offering. Here are a few more tips for website design that I don’t think Alyson has covered: 1) Don’t have an “entry” page. It’s a waste of your user’s time. They already clicked to get to your site – they don’t want to have to click again to “enter” it. In general your goal should be to minimize the number of clicks a user has to make on your website to navigate it successfully. 2) Have consistent simple navigation. Each and every page on your website should have the same menu in the exact same location as all other pages. It’s clean, simple and obvious how to navigate such a website and provides a nice user experience. 3) Have a consistent page layout/color scheme. I see many websites where the page colors and fonts change from page to page – I’m never sure I’m still on the same website or I’ve been directed elsewhere. Consistency is very important for a quality user experience. 4) Don’t use a dark background color. Sure your art looks lovely on black but your text does not – and in fact it is difficult to read for those with astigmatisms. Stick with white or light colors with dark text (I strongly prefer white with black text as it follows the “clean and simple” paradigm). There is a reason it is harder to drive at night – think about what that might imply when it comes to surfing the web.

  • I had a professional build my first website (which is still out there, not under my control), along with a Gallery website (which is still out there, not under my control). And then the “professional” disappeared. The Gallery website has prices that are out of date. Having a professional is, then, not necessarily better than your cousin, especially if you have control of your url and can learn as you go. Having prices is, then, not always a good idea (my prices have gone up). It’s hard enough to be an artist without everyone out there who makes money on artists (and that includes web builders, which is not to say bad things about them just to say that they are making money) telling artists that they aren’t professional unless they have professional help. And hey, guess what, I used a hotmail address for 3 years and it didn’t hurt me one lick. Sure I wanted an email like I have now, but hotmail worked just fine until I could get it. To all artists: follow your Art. Everything else will work its way in. And listen to your heArt before you listen to *anyone* else. When you’re in a position to get help, get it. But until then, don’t stop trying just because someone out there (who wants to make money off you) tells you you aren’t professional. Tammy Vitale,

  • My little cousin just returned from a two year work visit to Uganda…She has a blog which she used to communicate with family, friends & interested others…The photos & comments are so fascinating, it has reminded me why & what makes an internet presence interesting…Basically, lead an interesting life, others will follow…Mark Steyn, a writer for Maclean’s magazine, wrote about the Frey thing- he said that basically the problem with most writers is that they sit around in their underwear in front of their computers getting up every 20 minutes to fill their coffee cups…hence the need for Frey to embellish his life…yes, it is not always true ( I know, Hemingway was fascinating…)but I think the reminder is important…

  • Have to chime in here and say that artists are often just as qualified, if not more than, as web designers when it comes to designing their own sites. An artist should have a good understanding of basic design. Some web designers (not all, of course) have great tech. knowledge but have never taken a design course. I’d reccommend inquiring about this when hiring a prof. I used a template to design my own site and am very happy with it. Though there are limitations to what I can do, the artist in me really needed to have creative control of the design process. And the great benefit of designing my site–a brand new confidence about technology. I was a serious techno-phobe until four months ago when I built my site. Like Tammy’s experience, I’ve known more than one artist who has struggled with the disappearing web designer problem. It is important to look for someone who is visibly cemented to his or her business and provides an easy way for you to add content to your own site.

  • phillippa lack

    Great comments from everyone! Dave was not trying to be condescending, he told he he’d replied to my email and was just having fun with suggestions, some of which he mentioned came from actual clients who could not understand why their websites were not attracting traffic (for the most part, his clients are folks NOT selling art)…thanks, Alyson, for the image. It’s one of myfavorite ones!

  • Hi, This has taken off a little further than I expected. Phil sent me an e-mail with the first 10 items on the list, and I quickly banged out a response to her. I never thought it would wind up on a blog and out in public. But there were some points that I made and that others have commented on that are worth expanding on. First, about search engines. There are some very basic principles that all search engines follow. For example, they read text – and do not see photos and graphics. Websites created with little or no text don’t show up well. That means if you want your website to have a chance of improving its ranking, you have to use text. That’s not fancy search engine optimization – that’s just basic stuff. Getting listed in the search engines is free. Free is good, so if it means paying a little attention to things that would benefit you, and they don’t cost anything, you should do it. As for artists being as qualified as web designers, I think the difference is in the media you use. If you are as skilled in html as you are with a brush and canvas, then you should definitely create your own website. But just as not all great painters are also great sculptors, not all great artists are great website programmers. Remember, a website is a computer program. It requires learning how to use the various software programs used to write that website. Great web designers are artists. They just use the medium of computer programming. But I wouldn’t hand a block of marble over to a web designer and expect Michelangelo’s David. I know about the difficulty in maintaining a long term relationship with a professional web designer. The field is changing, and it is more difficult today for someone to enter and be successful in the profession than it was five or six years ago. That doesn’t mean people aren’t trying – it’s just that they don’t know what is involved, and before they know it, they are in over their head with a website they can’t complete. As an example, when the new phone books came out a few years ago, we noticed a new competitor with a large ad in the website design section. Five days after the phone book landed on our door, that competitor called us asking for a job. He built one website, which was frustrating to him and the client, and was out of the business in less than six months. The best suggestion I can make is to call clients of the designer you are considering hiring, and get references. Ask the references about the experiences they had with the designer – was the designer responsive, did he or she do what the client wanted, how long did it take, how were charges assessed, what happens when you want updates, etc. One other thing about merchant accounts and websites for artists in general. I think if you are expecting to make a lot of sales from a website you may be disappointed. People will visit and enjoy your art, but usually it takes standing in front of a painting to really feel the effect and make the decision to buy. That’s not to say that sales won’t happen – of course they will. Just don’t expect to make your fortune from e-commerce sales.

  • In response to Lisa’s posting, I have to say that I didn’t find the tone condescending at all. It was obviously meant to be tongue-in-check, while at the same time acknowledging that people really DO make the mistakes that Phillipa is addressing. Regarding the disagreement on #11, Phillipa NEVER suggests hiring an SEO firm, and neither would I. The posting simply says not to IGNORE search engines, which is GOOD advice. It’s possible to get a decent ranking without paying for SEO, especially for an individual artist. Regarding #14, Paypal is not always a good solution. In fact, for artists it is rarely a good solution. Paypal has a $2000 spending limit for non-paypal members. Which means if a client wants to buy your work and spends more than $2000, the sale will be denied unless the client becomes a verfied pay pal member. A hassel most clients WILL NOT do. I speak from experience, I enabled paypal on hundreds of my clients’ web sites about a year ago, and now many of those clients are having me remove it, because it is proving to be a big hassel for the art buyers. For small transactions, pay pal WILL work. For artists who regularly sell from their web site, they will need a merchant account, or simply be prepared not to accept credit cards. The cheapest merchant account I have found is through COSTCO. An executive membership with COSTCO is $100 per year, and includes a merchant account with no fees, except for the 2.39% charge on each sale. That’s right, NO statement fees, NO annual fees (except for your COSTCO membership). Sincerely, Clint Watson Software Craftsman and Art Fanatic

  • (Boy, there’s a lot more geeks like me lurking on this blog! 🙂 ) So, Alyson, you had commented that some of your opinions on pricing have changed since you originally posted your pricing guidelines. With all the comments that you have heard, what do you think now?