As someone who has spent over 20 years as a web developer, I've picked up a thing or two about web sites in general. Before we begin, let me say I do not consider my web site the most awesome and coolest web site on the Internet, but it's a start, it's functionally sound, and it works on any device. And that, really, is the most important thing.
As I've said on the about the artist page, as of this article I had been away from painting for 35 years. When it comes to marketing my work, getting into galleries, and being a full time artist, I may as well be fresh out of high school. A total and complete newbie. So I am still learning in this aspect, and for the most part I'm staying quiet and watching, listening to those of you who have done this for a while. I'm truly thankful for the bits you've shared.
One of the things I'm doing in that journey is to look at a lot of artist web sites.
I mean, a LOT. Some nights 4 or 5 hours worth, hundreds of sites. Not only do I get lost (and a little intimidated) drowning in the awesomeness of other artists' work, one horrible awful realization keeps hitting me in the face.
Most artists' web sites completely and totally suck. They really, really do. Some are more pretty than the art itself, others look like a high school web page project, others are so consumed with the artists need to TELL us something their art becomes secondary. These are all very very bad things to have on your web site.
This is not about design issues or how it looks, which seems to be how the average person judges a web site. What most artists sites seem to do is draw the visitor away from what should be the core point of your web site, to present and sell your work. To me, that's a pretty big problem.
As artists we're sensitive creatures, we have a message we want to convey and its very important that WE get our message across, WE say what we want to say.
Which is very unlikely WHY someone has taken the millisecond to click the link to your site.
If you can get over that harsh reality, think about that: WHY are they here? Not to read about you, not to enjoy your prose or poetry, but to see your work. Not to marvel at how beautiful your web site is. They took that precious millisecond of their life to click that link to see your art. So give it to them.
This is not to say your poetry and prose is not important, or that describing yourself is not important, I do it myself. But it is supplemental, it belongs on the about page, or the blog page. If someone gets what they want they will want to know more about you, they will seek it out. Don't make it more important than the reason they came to your site.
When you walk into the supermarket to buy apples, what would you do if the store manager blocked your path? "Before you buy those apples, I need you to know how they were grown, need you to meet the farmer and let him explain the extent to which he's gone to insure each delicious bite is as sweet as it can be. I can't let you buy them until we show you this."
If that sounds ridiculous, it's because it is. It's also what many artists do on their sites, and is the birth of the second* most horrible device ever introduced to web sites, the splash page.
It's REALLY simple. Keep your home page about your art. Your name or branding, and your ART. That is the whole point, show them your work, keep it clean and focused.
Don't be cute and use what is called "mystery meat navigation" - icons that the user has to "figure what's behind door number one." Your web page is not THE ART, your work is! Keep it that way.
Use plain accessible text navigation, make them feel comfortable and know what to do: Gallery | Shop | Events | Exhibitions (if you have them,) | About | Contact, and on any page but home, add the home link. If you love kitties (and I do,) go ahead and create a link to your kitty fetish page, but for God's sake, don't make it part of the main page content.
You can learn more about how to make your site better on the least likely of places: Web Pages that Suck. Seriously. If we can't learn from our mistakes, we haven't learned a thing.
To all you artists out there: I want you to succeed and I love your work. Please fix your web sites and give your visitors what they want.
UPDATED: I received such an overwhelming response to this post that I was inspired to explore it a little deeper, see Artist Websites Part Two.
*The first being the .