Top Reasons Not To Use a Website Template

We have recently discovered new information about using a template for your website and want to share it.  Some of this information is quite alarming so if you’re thinking of going with a website template – like ArtSpan, Square Space or WIX – this will be of interest to you.

Your Website Will Not be Unique or Exclusive to You or Your Art.  No matter how much you customize and tweak it there will be a uniform look. Guaranteed that hundreds of other artists and businesses will be using this same template.

There Will be Limits to Design Elements.  You will only have so much control over typefaces, colors, backgrounds and even banners (your logo) that you can use.

No or Little Search Engine Optimization.  Some templates may allow you to enter keywords but that’s it.  You will not be able to enter formal Meta-tag Keywords or Descriptions at all.

Not Search Engine Friendly.  Some website templates won’t even be compatible with Search Engine Spiders and/or confuse them.  That means that your website will not be visible on Search Engines at all.  What’s the purpose of creating a website in the first place if it can’t be found?  If you can’t gain new contacts, viewers and buyers?

Not Being Able to Choose Image Size or Optimize Your Images for the Web.
Website Templates may require that you size your images according to their perimeters and that may be way too small or may even skew your images into an odd shape.  Your images should also be optimized for viewing on the internet and that takes skill – where a website designer can help you.  They can also be optimized for Search Engines.

Needing to Know Code such as .html or .css  What’s the point of using a template at all and if you have to use code?  If you knew how to use code you’d design a website yourself without a template, right?

Unwanted Advertising or Banners on Your Website.  This is why we say be careful what you wish for when it comes to free website templates because free isn’t always free.  You may see huge banners, flashing elements and some may even create noise.  The main focus of your website should always be your art.

Favicon will be the logo of the template/not yours. Remember that the favicon is the little symbol that appears to the left of the website address or page title on your browser.  It does nothing more than add a professional look to your website.  If that favicon belongs to someone else then it isn’t professional.

Too Much Design Code.  .html (Hypertext Markup Language) is what drives the internet.  Website templates can have pages and pages of code that will clog up your website, slow down the speed of opening the page and your images and confuse Search Engines when they are evaluating your website for categorization.

The following is where things can get especially alarming….

Some Website Templates Will Require You to Use Their Hosting and Domain Registration Services.  That can add up quickly and become expensive.  Some fees are monthly and some are yearly.  It’s better to register your domain and get hosting elsewhere because if you do lose the website unexpectedly or decide to upgrade you will have the assurance of more control.

You Could Unexpectedly Lose Your Website.  When you register with a template host you will undoubtedly sign or be subject to their Terms of Agreement.  Should they suddenly decide that your website violates their Terms they could take it down without prior notice or your agreeing to it.

You Won’t Own Your Website.  While you will own the images and text on your website you won’t own the website design itself.  This is a crazy quirk of the U.S. Copyright Laws (the person writing the code or the person that owns the template code owns the copyright).  This also means that should you decide to upgrade to a professionally designed website you and your new designer won’t have access to any design elements from the template.

No One to Call If You Need Help.  Should something go wrong with your website you may not be able to pick up the phone and get help with it. Should you actually be able to speak to someone they may speak in technical language that you won’t understand.  We’ve had this experience with some hosts. No matter how many times we’ve asked they refuse to get out of that geek mode.

Remember that these issues don’t apply to every template service but in most cases one or two will.  Don’t take that risk.

The reason we decided to make website design one of the primary services we offer artists was for fair and professional treatment.  There are many businesses out there just waiting to take advantage of an unsuspecting artist.  Most designers will also charge exorbitant fees.  We’ve seen websites start at $2000.00.   Depending on what you need we usually wind up charging $600 and not only will you get a website, you will get so much more. Including Full Ownership of Your Website, Meta-Tagging Every Page and Coaching for Internet Success.  We have a proven track record of success for artists so please Click Here to See What We Can Do for You: www.theartistobjective.com/websitedesign.html

Internet for Artists: Website Design: The Gallery Pages

The most important reason that viewers will visit your website is for your art. It is important to present it, therefore, clearly and simply. There are several options for doing this and there are new options appearing as new technology becomes available.

When I first started writing this I was using Photoshop Elements and Dreamweaver 8. I am now using Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Web. It’s amazing the difference in new technology and will probably always be a novelty to me. It has Photoshop Extended. Photoshop Elements is a perfectly good enough program if you can’t afford Photoshop Extended and will let you do all the things you need to do. Therefore, there is no excuse for poorly presented photos.

Since I am talking about photos let me speak about a newer format. .png 8 and .png24. These two elements are lossy compression elements as is a .jpg or .jpeg. That means that you will loose pixels when you save it but not as much and the color options are in the millions and millions. This makes it a format that is great for the web and presents your art in a clearer way. .jpg or .jpeg is still the preferred format in most applications for exhibits, grants, fellowships and residencies.

So how to present your art. Remember that each artist is different and each website should be professionally presented but at the same time unique and inline with the artists style and technique. I did like the disjointed rollover. That means that you have thumbnails of your work on one side and when the mouse rolls over it, a larger image appears. This allows your viewer to see a larger version without having to click on anything. However with the advent of new technology and the fact that Dreamweaver CS5.5 no longer has the technology to support it, it’s not the ideal way to go.

Another way is clicking on a thumbnails and a larger image imposes itself over the page with a transparent black background. Much like in this website: www.kathleenjgraves.com. Make sure that this is done in .html or Javascript and not Flash. Flash is not supported by mobile devices and is slowly going out for computers as well.

This artists website has a portfolio system with thumbnails on the top that visitors click and a larger image becomes available below them: http://www.symastudios.com/PORTFOLIO/Pages/PUBLIC_ART.html#8

I’ve also seen pages with thumbnails that open into a new window. This is becoming common again. However, make sure it’s not a “pop up” window (a small window that opens to the top left or top right of the browser). Also make sure there is a way to go from photo to photo without having to leave the separate window. It’s best to have it open to a full web page rather than a “pop up.”

I can’t really offer you more options at this time but keep looking around. Look at what other artists are doing, galleries and museums. See what you like and instruct your designer accordingly. Make sure it’s simple, all about your art and you will have great success.

Internet: Website Design: Top 10 Mistakes

Before I talk about the gallery pages on your website I thought I should talk about the mistakes I’ve seen on artists websites. I want to be sure that you will develop THE most exciting and professional website possible. Your website says so much about you and is there to speak for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s the world wide web after all and a poorly designed website says so much about you.

1. Not including an artist statement, bio and resume.
Visitors will go to your work, first and foremost, to see your art but a well written artist statement, bio and resume will make the difference between making a sale and not making a sale. Between getting an exhibition and not getting that exhibition. It shows how in touch with your process you are, your experience and your professionalism.

2. Not including contact information or including too much contact information.
If there is no way for people to contact you how will you receive any opportunities. That said putting your address on your website (or anywhere on the internet for that matter) is opening yourself up for identity theft and perhaps something worse. Also putting a landline phone number is a bad idea. If you put your phone number into a search engine your name and address might come up. Try it on Yahoo in particular. With that information someone can start opening bank accounts, getting credit cards, etc. in your name. So put access to an email and a cell phone number only. You can also put links to your Social Networking profiles.

3. Not putting links to other websites
Search engines will give you better ranking if you link your website to another website and they, in turn, link back to you. Make sure that these links are relevant to your work and that they have high search engine ranking. A link to your dentist is fine but does it really have anything to do with your work?

4. Not Meta-tagging Your Website
This means that you will choose 8 key words that will help search engine spiders categorize your website. If you don’t’ do this they will go by the content of the text on your page and that will make they come up with something totally garbled. There is also a two sentence description that is a tag. You can see what that is in a previous post with a glossary of terms.

5. Letting your website developer handle the whole entire thing, even the design.
A website designer, in most cases, is not a graphic designer. If they are, they may not know the ins and outs of the art world. What makes a professional website. That’s entirely up to you. Before you even think of approaching a designer please, please, please take the time to plan your website. I can help you do that through an internet consultation. Visit the website for more information: http://www.theartistobjective.com I can do it over the phone or in person with internet support.

6. Putting up a website and leaving it static.
In order for a website to be effective it has to be live. Meaning lively and constantly changing. Put new photos, articles, exhibition information and events. If you can’t do it yourself have your website designer do it for you. This can be costly. The Artists Objective has a monthly website update program. For more information: http://www.theartistobjective.com

7. Confusing Navigation/Menus
This runs the gamete from poor placement, to type that’s too small, to confusing categories. The number one mistake here is categorizing by the year. To me this is a huge cop out and I’m inclined to leave the website. I feel that it’s too exclusive for me, and that I might have had to know about the artist in the first place in order to be privileged enough to visit the website. I know that’s not what the artist intended but it’s the lazy way out. Describe your art by medium, or subject. You can do drop down menus (technically known as jump or pop up menus). Think carefully about this because it generates hits/clicks which boosts your rating on search engines.

8. Poor Navigation on the Gallery Pages
I will talk more in the next post about how to set up the gallery pages but you will want a way for people to click from one enlarged image to the next without having to go back to an interim page. That’s annoying to your visitor and they may leave after the first click.

9. Small Images or Images that Don’t Enlarge.
When I visit a website I want a comprehensive look at the art. That’s the first and foremost reason I am there. I not only want to see the work, I want to LIVE in it. I want to feel it and almost touch it.. I want to feel compelled to touch my computer screen. Images that are too small do not allow me to do that. In fact, it almost screams ameture. Images must be 72 dpi and I like to recommend a minimum of 350 pixels. but ideal is 504 which is 7 inches. I always try for that but if it’s not possible that’s okay too. Be sure that it also works on a smaller screen, like an iPad or an iPhone.

10. Poorly Photographed Images
When I see this I sigh. Why did the artist spend the time and the money to put up a website in the first place? I can understand if an artist is using interference or iridescent colors but there is a way. Your images must be 100% perfect! In today’s digital world there is no excuse. See the first posts on this blog fore more about photographing your art properly. Please don’t put up a website until you have good photos.

A bonus mistake – too many bells and whistles or colors that are so bright that they interfere with the art itself. Your art is fantastic! Make it shine on the internet and everywhere else that you present it. Let planning your website be a way for you to develop a “look” for all of your materials. Your blog, postcard, brochures, stationary, etc.

That said The Artists Objective does website design and internet consultations. Please visit the website for more information: http://www.theartistobjective.com In the next post I will address the gallery pages. Stay tuned!

Internet for Artists: Website Design: Planning

The number one key to success on the internet is intuitive design. This takes thought and careful planning but the pay off is huge. It’s key to higher search engine ratings and will be very important to your visitors. Most of all the main content of your website is to showcase your art. It should be a retrospective of everything you’ve ever made, a catalog raisonné of you – the artist.

There is a temptation to put up bells and whistles, fast moving content. Please avoid this. The simpler the better and the more your art will stand out. Sometimes these kinds of websites are built in a program called Flash. Flash is okay in parts of websites but the whole thing should never be built in Flash. For example most videos are viewable in Flash. I’ll talk more about website design programs in another text but one major reason not to use Flash is that you can’t meta-tag it, losing control over traffic to your website.

At this point I’m sure you have a vision for your website. What color is the background, what typefaces will you use? How will your banner look, etc. I’ll talk more about type and color in another post. I’m going to start with a list and descriptions of essential pages every artists website should have.

• Home or Index PageThe first page your visitors will see when they arrive at your website. This should be simple and make a bold statement. Your visitors should never have to scroll for anything on this page. I always recommend putting a work of art there that’s bold and inviting and to change that about once a month or as appropriate. It will keep visitors returning again and again to your website.

• Gallery Pages – These are the pages that display your art. How will your visitors see it and how will these pages connect to each other? How many images should go on a page. If you have a lot of art I recommend using what’s called a “disjointed rollover.” This is an image that opens larger in another part of a page just by having the mouse roll over it. See an example on this website: www.nancyfabrizio.com You will also see a small arrow on the right that connects to the next page of the art. If you have fewer images you may want to consider using one or two larger images of your art.

• Text Pages – one each for an artist statement, bio and resume.

Site MapA Site Map is a page with listings of all of your pages. This is a wonderful tool for many reasons. The number one reason is so that your visitor can easily find a specific page they are looking for. Secondly, it helps search engines categorize your website and thus boosts your ratings. Thirdly, it is a wonderful place to start your website on paper. Do this and your web designer will love you. You’ll also save a ton of money doing it.

• Press Pages – if you have any press written about you and the images of those articles this is the place to put them. Make sure they are readable. The type and images are clear.

• Copyright Page – it’s one thing to say ©Artist Smith, 2012, All Rights Reserved. It’s quite another to outline the terms of that copyright. It makes you look so much more professional. Like you really mean business. You can see the copyright page on the website mentioned above. By the way the way to say copyright is just the way I said it above “©Artist Smith, 2012, All Rights Reserved” As I mentioned in a previous post there are international conventions and by saying All Rights Reserved you are conforming to and claiming those conventions.

• “Missing” Page – This is a page that people will arrive at if a URL is typed or linked incorrectly. I’m sure you’ve seen those pages that say “This Page Does Not Exist.” A website host will automatically put up a page for that, however it will not look like your website and you’ll lose the visitor. It’s easy enough for a website designer to create a “Missing” page with your banner and navagation bar on it. Again your website will look more professional and you will capture the visitors that you’d otherwise lose.

Those are the essential pages. Now it’s time to think about how to link these pages and this is where the planning comes in. It’s time to draw out that site map. Which pages and links will link to what pages? How will you get there? It’s called navigation and I’ll address that in the next post.

The Internet: Website Design: Thinking Simply

That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.
Steve Jobs in Business Week, 1998
The main reason visitors will come to your website is to see your art. Therefore making your art the central focus is the logical thing to do right? Not so fast. It takes some careful thinking and planning. You have to think simply. Some websites are about written content but your website should be about images and the best images possible in order to showcase your art. The design around your work should be simple. The temptation is to overpower it with bells and whistles or bright colors or large bold text is very compelling. Don’t succumb! A clean, professional looking website will help to bring you success in a very significant way.
The first step in planning a website is to think about the design of the actual pages. Most artists have an idea of what that should look like because they are focused on their mission. I would like to give you some help by outlining the components of a website page. If you’re doing your website by yourself this will help you tremendously. If you’re using a designer this will help you to direct them. Remember that in most cases a website designer is not a “designer.” They won’t know your art as well as you do and they may not be aware of what is needed for success in the art world. So you need to be a guide and have a strong vision. I will talk about what a visitor will see and the behind the scenes.
The components that are visible on a web page are:
• Banner or Header- the header/logo at the top of the page. This should appear in the exact same place on every page. A common standard is to have this clickable to the home page. More and more websites are doing this and it eliminates the need for a “home” button on your navigation bar. This will be created as an image or a .jpg and images are easily linkable.
• Navigation/Menu Bar – This is the set of links that enables visitors to find things on your website. It can appear at the top of the page under the banner or on the side. More and more websites have it at the top. There is something called Drop Down or Pop Up Menus. This can also be a huge help when categorizing your work.
**Tip: This is where wording and simplicity are all important. You want to be sure that people will click on your website, boosting your search engine optimization. I have seen navigation bars on artists websites that categorize the work by the year. I really, honestly feel that this is a huge cop out. The website probably has a very low search engine rating because the number of hits will be lower. How would a visitor know what to click on? There is probably also a large bounce rate. Visitors that come, see the site and leave without clicking. Categorizing your work by subject or media or something else will mean more to a visitor than almost anything else you do, with the exception of showcasing your art.
• Images – The actual photos of your work. They should always be 72dpi for two reasons. 1. It loads faster because .jpg’s are compressed (see the previous post on the different types of images) and 2. 72dpi prints out rather poorly and will be hard to reproduce, therefore protecting your copyright. Remember that visitors will have short attention spans. If an page takes more than 30 seconds to load they are likely to leave your website. The size is also important. I’ll talk about the gallery pages more in the next post and what your options for display are.
• Text – Words ARE important, see the previous posts on writing. The content of the home page is usually low on words but you can put a testimonial or a quote from an article written about you. You can also put a section of latest news on the home page: a quote from an article written about you, or an upcoming exhibition. Of course, you will also have pages with your artist statement, resume, bio, copyright, contact, links and press. (If you don’t have all of that yet there is no need to worry. Your art is the first reason people come to your website. You can add those pages later.) The fonts you choose are also important. The difference between type used for text, headlines, and banners are viewed differently so it’s important to think about it’s readability when you are thinking about placement. I’ll address design elements in another post.
• Footer – Those are the little words at the bottom of every website that are not necessarily in the navigation bar. They can include copyright, site map and email. These are important because they not only help your visitors but really help search engines to categorize your website. Especially if it leads to the site map.••Tip: One more thing you should add to the footer of every page. Social Networking Buttons. They allow visitors to share the website page they’re on, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace, etc. I am including a link to a website below that allows you to choose those buttons and get .html code that you can simply plug into the code of your website. I always add this complimentary, by default, to every website I create. You don’t want to miss any opportunity for exposure after all.

Favicon That’s the little image that appears to the left in the address/URL bar of the browser. If you go on www.starbucks.com for example you will see their logo right up there. This is a 16 pixel image that can be transferred into a favicon very easily. This can be static or it can move. It may be small but it makes your website look so professional. I always include it complementary when I design a website.
• Title – these are words at the top of the browser – above the address bar/navigation. This is helpful to your visitor because they will know what page they’re on and the content and extremely useful for search engines. In fact, titles rank in importance with meta-tagging and meta-descriptions.
If you right click on any website a menu should come up – this applies to both Mac’s and PC’s – and you’ll see “View Page Source.” Click on that and you’ll see the .html code that makes it possible for the website to be visible. You will see two sections. Head and Body. Sounds kind of anatomical in a way and it is. The anatomy of a website.
The Head text is the content you don’t see. It’s the instructions that will juristic the way the page looks overall. For example: the background color of the page, the default font your page will use, the code for the navigation bar, the alignment of the whole page. You can set these up overall. It will also show what type of code to use. html vs. Javascript, etc. This will also include the Meta Tags (keywords and descriptions) the favicon and the titles.
The Body Code is the part of the website that is visible. The actual words and images. The navigation bar, the footer, etc.
There is one more thing you should know about text and code. It’s called CSS which means Cascading Style Sheets. CSS can be used for much more than just text but this will help you speak to a designer tremendously. For changeable text in the body section of your website you should use CSS. Some programs like Dreamweaver will automatically set this up no matter what. So you can use any kind of text in the body/content area that you want to. However it’s best to cascade that so that if someone viewing your website doesn’t have that typeface on their computer they’ll still be able to see it. For example: if they don’t have Georgia, they may have Palatino and will definitely have Times Roman. A CSS for type looks like this in the code: Georgia, Palatino, Times, Serif.
I’m telling you this because I was once working with a web designer who told me I could only use Times or Helvetica for text. He was wrong. I was completing my first web design class at the time and told him that’s not true. I wanted to use Baskerville – because that’s what the organization used in their newsletters. I told him to use this Baskerville, Palatino, Times, Serif as a cascading style sheet. If I hadn’t been apprised of that I might have listened to him and the website would have been inconsistent with the organizations print materials.
If you remember simplicity and consistency in everything you do – on the internet and off the internet – you will have success.LINKS
Website to create favicons – http://favicon.htmlkit.com/favicon/