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.