What Makes a Good Artist’s Website?

 

I’m between projects now. My new How to Make Masks! book has gone to the printer, but it still hasn’t appeared on Amazon.com. Soon, though, so I’m on pins and needles, waiting…

Meanwhile, my daughter and I have been having long discussions about artist’s websites, and we’d like to get some feedback from you, too. Questions keep coming up in our discussions, and there doesn’t seem to be any definitive answers for them.

For instance, I found this article about sculptor’s websites that immediately convinced me that the site’s home page should be all about the artist. But, on the other hand, you also want people to see your artwork right away. And it should be really easy to figure out how to buy something – you don’t want people to click so many different links that they change their mind before they hit that order page. And, most new visitors probably won’t land on the home page anyway, because they’ll come in from the search engines and land on one of the inner pages of the site, which means that the whole framework of the site has to be set up to make things easy for visitors.

Jessie is in the middle of re-designing her artist’s site, and, now that my latest book is finished, I’m thinking about trying to sell some of my own work online. Before we make huge decisions about what our sites should look like, we’d really like some feedback from you.

Here’s some of the questions I hope you’ll help us answer:

  • When you visit another artist’s website, is there anything in particular that makes you think you’d like to own that person’s work? Is it the artist’s statement? The way the images are presented? A story that goes along with each piece of artwork that makes you feel connected to it? If you’ve actually purchased art from a website recently, what made it easy for you to make that decision?
  • What sites have you visited that you liked so much you bookmarked them or sent a link to friends? Did you like the site for the basic design, the work that was shown, the text? Would you actually buy something from that site, or do you just like visiting?
  • How important is the “design” of a website when you make a buying decision. Does a pretty design sometimes get in the way?
  • How can you encourage people to comment on pages that show a work of art? It’s easy to get comments on a site like this one, where people come to learn how to do something, or share their own knowledge with others. But feedback is so important to any artist (it gets lonely in those studios), so any artist would like to get comments on pages where they show off their work. Have you seen non-how-to art sites that made you want to enter the discussion?

If you have examples of “good” websites that you’d like to share with us, a link would be nice. But be sure to tell us why you like the site, and if it made you want to buy something. There’s a very big difference between an attractive website and one that actually works as a store. I think that’s the biggest problem when an artist designs a site – designing is what we do, and selling is something that we usually hate doing, so we’re probably the wrong people to design our own sites. But, on the other hand, nobody knows our own work better than we do.

Of course, there’s a whole ‘nother issue – should we sell our work from our own website, or should we put our work on a site like etsy.com, instead? I’ve checked the sales stats on a lot of pages on etsy, and most people don’t seem to be doing very well. Is it because their page gets lost among so many different artists? Is it easier to send traffic to a separate site, or to get traffic to a page on a huge site like etsy?

So – if you have an opinion on this subject (and I hope you do) please add your comments to this post. What makes a good artist’s website, from the customer’s point of view? While you’re at it, are there any changes you would like to see in the UltimatePaperMache.com site? Let’s talk…

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterest

37 Responses

  1. Jessie Rasche paintings
    Jessie Rasche paintings at |

    Thank you so much for all of your help with my site, and for this great conversation!

    Reply
  2. Teresa
    Teresa at |

    Too bad about the plugins, I don’t know whether there is a way to tweak them or not. Oh well.
    And I guess I’m the odd bird that will actually do a copy and paste of the url’s I find on Etsy, in the store announcements, so I can see the artist’s website. Many people either don’t know how to do a copy and paste or are just too lazy to do that.

    I totally understand why Etsy doesn’t allow live links to other websites – it would cut into their profits. And they are there to make money just like everyone else. I guess you’re going to have to do some really serious thinking on this.

    How successful you are selling all depends just how many people you can attract to your site. Internet marketing is a tricky entity to tame. I wish you all the luck in the world. (And maybe a chair and whip too…just in case. :D )

    As far as my web site goes….. I don’t have a web site anymore.

    Reply
  3. Teresa
    Teresa at |

    Hi Jonni, I’m a newbie to your webste. I only found it about a week and a half ago but, here’s my 2 cents anyway. First I want to address one thing that I didn’t see any comments on. You asked for any changes we’d like to see on this web site and there is one that has frustrated me from day one. Under your blog post there are three randomized links to other pages we might also like to read. Personally I like to open links in new tabs (sometimes I’ll have 3 or more tabs open at one time) so I can come back to the original place I found them and read on or click on more links. On this site I can’t do that and if there is more than one link I want to read I can’t because clicking on a link takes me to the other page and when I come back there are three different links under your blog. Very very frustrating.

    It sounds like most of the people who have made comments have been following you for quite some time. I found you totally by accident. I had never heard of you and haven’t seen any of your books. I was looking for new content for my homepage and found your site while looking. I really love this site, your blogs, the recent videos, and everything. But if people have never heard of you how do they find you?

    I did a web search for “paper mache” and you showed up on the first page in the #5 position for this page http://ultimatepapermache.com/paper-mache-recipes. Which I thought was wonderful but, when I did a web search for “paper mache masks” I found you on page #4. That’s not good if you want people to find you.

    I’m sure that there are tons of people like me that have never heard of you. That’s the main reason I suggest that you get and Etsy store front. Not that you’ll sell a lot at Etsy but to get your work out there where people can see it and have your url in the store anouncments that will take people to your main web site so people can really get to know you and your work. I don’t know how well this will work or if Etsy has safe guards against doing this or what.

    At the same time though you can display your work at here http://www.papiermache.co.uk/. You don’t sell your work here it’s just a place so other people can see your work and put up links to their web sites if they have one. Plus you won’t get as “lost in the crowd” here as you would on Etsy.

    Well that’s my 2 cents. Everything else has been covered thoroughly.

    Teresa

    Reply
  4. madely
    madely at |

    magazines and how do I buy .thank you

    Reply
  5. madely
    madely at |

    hi! I call madely am Brazilian, working with paper mache and found you I was delighted by his work. When I look for an artist, as he did want to know what inspired and disseminate the work of the artist with others who have the same interest, I also like ask for suggestions to exchange ideas is isso.Bonito your work is having a day of peace! hug.
    ah! I work with all puppets made ??of paper mache

    Reply
  6. Win Dinn
    Win Dinn at |

    I’ve been thinking about some of your questions, Jonni:

    For me, it is mostly the visuals of the artist’s work that tweak my interest in the site – if they don’t appeal, I’ll immediately move off the site. Next, it will be the writing that engages me – I love to hear the stories behind the artwork, and an explanation of the thought processes that went into the work is a delight to me. Can you tell I’m a blog addict?

    When I buy from a site (and my ‘artist life’ budget precludes it happening often), I find that ease of purchase is key. Give me a quick option for a credit card to make my decision easier. I find that spare design of a blog or website appeals to me over some design that overwhelms the artwork it supposedly supports.

    Getting feedback on work is a challenge – engaging readers/viewers to comment (or participate in challenges) can be difficult. I think that being light-hearted and creative is key here, along with persistence!

    While I’m commenting, I’m also posting a photo of my paper mache horse. Details of the process are available on my own blog: http://windinnart.blogspot.com . This piece is going to be sold by silent auction Feb 10 & 11, 2012 at ArtTrot here in Creston, BC, Canada in support of the Therapeutic Riding Program in town.
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/400.JPG[/img]

    Reply
  7. bmaskmaker
    bmaskmaker at |

    Great, timely discussion as always!

    I’m like you and haven’t actually purchased art online — but I’ve come very close a couple of times. : ) The things that interest me are stories — the stories of making the art, and, where appropriate, the stories of the pieces themselves.

    Ghoul Friday does this brilliantly I think. She’s on a break lately, but here’s one of her summer posts. She creates a series. Then reveals them, usually one at a time. The description has something personal and amusing. And when the piece is bought, (often later that day) she edits the pictures with “Adopted.” She sells at craft/trade shows as well as online.

    http://www.ghoulfriday.com/little_minions_brimston

    Also, by getting me to subscribe so I see what the next story / character is, I’m always entering her site on the specific page of the art piece. I found the site originally because of the paper mache tutorials — which showed up in google searches. So a combination of approaches, I guess.

    Stolloween started doing something similar with Arsenic asylum project. (That got put on hold, but I think it’s his theme for this years haunt.) It seems to me he’s doing a kind of paper mache action figure / collector’s series.

    http://www.arsenicasylum.com/

    I’m also interested in how pieces get made. I know Jonty used to make his unfinished works in progress available, and that intrigued me. Since your (Jonni’s) following is also people who want to learn how to do what you do … could you make part of a piece and have that be a secondary market? (Kind of a hands-on tutorial in a way.) …

    I’ve done a lot of work with teleseminars in my past and know that authors have had a lot of success with virtual book tours (basically a book Q&A with the author — but on a conference call or webinar vs. in a physical bookstore.) I think the model would translate to artists as well (tho perhaps easier for artists who create pieces that can be duplicated like songs or prints.) At a minimum it could mimic something like a gallery opening, but be a little more shy artist friendly.

    But they do all rely on already having a following, or being willing to continue putting things out there waiting to build the following up.

    Reply
  8. skwirl
    skwirl at |

    I like bright and bold, hate too many details, hate having to click too many times to get the info I want, especially hate waiting for pages to load. Love simplicity, ease and uncluttered. And love color. That’s my simple consumer opinion lol. Doesn’t matter how much I like the art, if I have to go through too much to get the info I’m looking for then I’m outta there. I like to see pages full of thumbnails with maybe a brief description maybe name, price and size, and if I see something that interests me I can click on the pic and get the complete info on the item. That makes it simple and easy for me.

    Reply
  9. Jim Kransberger
    Jim Kransberger at |

    Jonni,

    Didn’t intend to put any web designers out of work . . . !

    It takes time to design and maintain a website, or the time to earn the bucks to have it catered. After I lifetime of being a peddler, I favor bricks and mortar — letting someone else do the selling stuff.

    At one point, maybe six years ago, I started an online art site: WNC-OnLine, a local Asheville art e-zine. It was a neat site and a dud. I think the economy had just started to rock the national art market. I suggest that everyone have a “hit counter” on any website. A “hit-counter,” for those who don’t know, counts the number visitations a site gets. Given the number of my recorded hits (even with a now-and-then first page Google position) I received . . . it was futile fatal information. It, the site, never floated and was promptly scuttled.

    I agree with Jonni and her comment about the ETSY link that takes you to the ETSY site and way from your website without an automatic return mechanism. I had the feeling about the the Sculpture site that want’s tons of linkage. That drives not only people to your site but also lets it flow through to a bigger hosting site. Google position is sensitive to the number of sites that are linked to it. Remember that Google position is what sets the worth of the hosting site. Can’t blame them for asking.

    Jim

    Reply
  10. Jim Kransberger
    Jim Kransberger at |

    My website is perpetually unfinished (http://jimkransbeger.com). I’m still trying get the minimal notice to need a website. Secondly, I am not inclined to sell over the Internet. Pick your favorite ETSY artist and check out their online retails. I did and found I can’t make work in the time it takes to make it and sell at those prices.

    There was, earlier this year, an article in a magazine —perhaps ARTnews— to the fact that people don’t buy art on the Internet from artists they art unfamiliar with. Their reason was that people go online only (mostly?) buy art from artists they have actually laid eyes on somewhere else before.

    If you take that to heart and treat it as a given, then to get the results you seek, you must drive people to your site. First you can insert into your meta dirty words, but unless you the local police department officer (the one with the juvenile telephone voice) is an art aficionado, you are wasting time. So you can either drag your wares to market to introduce and/or promote your self or get someone to do the heavy lifting for you.

    To get publicly noticed you can attend art festivals, enter competitions, get into galleries or get publicity of one sort or another. Art festivals are costly and probably equal in expense to the fifty percent that galleries require. One of the greatest expenses that go unrecognized in festival attendance is that you are not in your studio, producing. The rap against galleries is that are —as they have to pay all the marketing costs— very selective in who they represent. Ouch! Hope you are not just another insecure artist in waiting.

    Competitions are great because you get seen, noticed and establish an acceptance . . . if you pass muster and are selected. Getting into a local art show qualifies you only for your local market area, something that carries no particular weight in someone’s Google search. If you want the required minimal, national recognition to be discovered online, then you’ve got to get something to move you from the fourth page of a Google search. Did anybody ever tell you that seldom does any Google used look beyond the second page? To get on the first two Google pages -where the big boys play- is backbreaking. Keeping yourself there requires almost a small staff.

    The rule-of-thumb, for success in promoting yourself, is that you must spend 50% of your time beating your own drum until you reach some sort of critical mass within your discipline. If you want your website to carry enough water (sales?), you’ve got to invest the time and/or dollars to make it fly . . . unless you’ve more artistic talent than everyone else in the game. You can’t place a dime bet at the two-dollar window.

    Now, once you’ve surfaced and have been recognized, people will go online and can search you out. Once people have a recognizable name to search for, your web site becomes wondrous. Don’t avoid getting noticed.

    Jonni is an excellent marketer. She positions and promotes herself actively online. She sells her books online through the big box booksellers. The booksellers give her high Google visibility and she gets to promote her art form, and herself based on that feed. She in turn directs sales to those vendors. In the yarn business, they say a good yarn has “good hand” and that a good merchant knows inherently a yarn’s quality by touch. Jonni has that inherent ability in what she does. Listen to her . . . she shares her knowledge willingly. She is a willing mentor.

    Jim

    Reply
  11. Jan J.
    Jan J. at |

    I haven’t looked at any of the websites above, but this is an interesting topic as I hope to sell on-line soon. As a shopper and art lover, I like a web site that has muliple images on the home page. I strongly prefer to buy from a place like etsy in that feedback is important to me. I have given newbies a chance who have very little feedback but if I am making a larger purchase, I like to see multiple positive feedbacks.

    It is frustrating to see so many good artists on etsy who get little traffic to their shops. I sell digital prints of old postcards – images mixed media artists _should_ love – I have seen similar images sold for more than double and people buying them like hotcakes, yet I only made about 36 sales in the last few months, to probably about 25 buyers. I use lots of keywords.

    Tascha is an artist I like – here is her blog
    http://timewithtascha.blogspot.com/

    I like the blog concept as it is personal and you can put some great images at the top an advertise etsy shop on the side. She also has a Facebook page that she is active on and has little giveaways from time to time of bookmarks and pins, etc., and I think that keeps folks looking.

    I’m going to go look at some of those websites now! Thanks for the great question, Jonni. I am always learning here!

    Reply
  12. Sharon Moreno
    Sharon Moreno at |

    You know Jonni
    I think there is a very good chance that you would do well on Etsy. And command the prices you wish…because, you are well known in the paper mache community. You already have a following….you have soon to be 3 books + published and your name will be recognized. I urge you to give it a try.

    Reply
  13. Matthew Condon
    Matthew Condon at |

    Jonni,

    Wow…lots of good questions…When it comes to designing anything, you need to decide who is your target market. Ask questions like: how old are they, where do they live, what kind of jobs do they have, what car do they drive, where do they shop, what kind of music do thy like, what clothes do they wear, what other art do they like…the list can go on and on. It’s important to understand your market, because they are the ones you are trying to persuade to give you their money. Remember, if you go too broad, you won’t be able to satisfy them all, you need to focus in on a very specific group of people and target them in a very specific way. If they are the older generation, think about how they use a computer…a website for them should be simple, and a website for the younger generation should attract them with trends of the time. Although, if you go trendy, you have to work hard to stay on the top of the trends.

    What is the purpose of the site?
    To sell your art work? If so, then your artwork should be front and center with the artist’s bio and info somewhere else, but easily found.

    Web site designs with an “enter” page should be avoided like the plague! Visitors wanting to come to your site expect to enter your site when they click on your listing in the search engines. Don’t make them have to click again to enter your site.

    I find, too often, artists’ sites that take too long to lode because there are so many images that are so large. You can still have visually large images on a site that don’t take up tons of space and are much faster for loading. You need to know how to resize images for the web.

    I have never purchases art work on line before, but I do make regular online purchases. A quality website speaks loudly when it comes to making any online purchase. I know that just because a site looks great does not make it a safe site to make a purchase, but it does go a long way in credibility.

    You have to make it as easy as possible to make a purchase. Give as much info about each work as you can, and make a way for a customer to ask questions about the work of art they are interested in.

    Now for a big idea…
    YouTube
    Consider making short youtube videos to promote your work…the goal is to get people to your site.
    Here is a link about marketing on youtube…I like it! Read the article, it explains it all.
    http://technology.inc.com/2008/08/01/marketing-your-business-on-youtube/

    Here are two books with a ton of web design ideas that I love!
    http://www.amazon.com/Web-Designers-Idea-Book-Ultimate/dp/1600610641
    http://www.amazon.com/Web-Designers-Idea-Book-Vol/dp/160061972X/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b
    These books will give you a visual overload very fast, but they are great!

    Have you seen sites with a workspace look http://designbeep.designbeep.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/27-free-wordpress-themes.gif
    This ideal of incorporating your workspace might work for your site. You could try adding all the things that are involved with paper mache to the design of the site.

    Ok…that all for now…if I think of anything else, I’ll be back.

    Matthew

    Reply
  14. patch
    patch at |

    I think you have to figure out why the artist set up his/her site before judging: is it meant to sell, or to display, or some other reason? I’m shortly going to change my own site — I have to say I don’t know the first thing about the nuts and bolts of web design, and this site was conceived and put together for me when I said I wanted something a little different to start out: http://www.patchapin.com . My site can sell work, but is principally set up more to show work.

    Etsy is too many good artists and artisans all stuck together in one enormous place.

    A painter’s ‘sell it’ website might be: http://www.monicalinville.com/index.php.

    In the end, no matter how clever a website is, if a person doesn’t like the work it won’t be able to sell any, would be my opinion.
    patch
    [img]http://ultimatepapermache.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/SPI.jpg[/img]

    Reply
  15. Amanda
    Amanda at |

    Hallo

    Here is four from me:

    This one is simple and easy from a great artist

    http://jamesjean.com/

    Here is one that I love, because it is what I think he is as an artist. It´s welcom me …

    http://www.shauntan.net/

    When I found this one I remember how fun it was to play office, long time ago

    http://newhousedesign.com/

    And at last, a she, after three he

    I just love her work, and the homepage is taken care of the feeling I has about it

    http://jmurphybears.com/

    Ciao … Amanda

    Reply
  16. Dixie Redmond
    Dixie Redmond at |

    This is an interesting question. I think each person’s art site will be as unique as the artist. I like to read about artists, and always like to check out their blogs. My own blog IS my art site, and that is tricky. I have links at the top for paintings and folk art dolls, and some images in the sidebar (which I should make link to the galleries, now that I think about it).

    I’ll be interested to follow this discussion. BTW, I came here through a search about homemade paperclay, I think. I’ve been following for a couple of years.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Heads up! You are attempting to upload an invalid image. If saved, this image will not display with your comment.

Heads up! You are attempting to upload a file that's too large. Please try a smaller file smaller than 250KB.

Note that images greater than 250KB will not be uploaded.