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

Email: What to Do if Your Email Has Been Hacked

No discussion of email would be complete without addressing the issue of hacking. This is when someone takes unauthorized control of your internet based account and starts doing unlawful things with it. Usually they send emails in your name. Sometimes those emails ask the recipients to click a link taking them to a website and enter information that allows the hacker to take control of your account.  They can get information that will allow them to go as far as sending similar emails to your contacts, identity theft or sending a virus that will shut down your computer. So beware.

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR ACCOUNT HAS BEEN HACKED

1. Make sure your security/anti-virus software is up to date.

2. Recover your account. Go to your account and try to log in. You will most certainly need to change your password because the hacker has changed it. You can do this by using the “Forgot My Password” feature and it will help you change your password.

3. Change all, and I do mean all, of the information that is associated with logging into your account. Your password, your security questions, your pin number if you have one. Changing your security questions, especially, will prevent the hacker from taking control of your account again.

4. Check your “Sent” box. This will allow you to see any mail that the hacker has sent to your contacts or anything that is unfamiliar. Delete those emails immediately.

5. Send an email to all of your contacts letting them know your email was hacked. If they see any strange emails from you not to open them and, most certainly, do not click any links in the email. Not only will this alert your contacts to the fact that your email has been hacked but it will alert the hacker that you’re on to them.

6. This final step is not necessary and it may be hard to find a way to do it but report that your account was hacked to the email or social networking platform you are using. This will allow them to investigate and perhaps prevent it from happening again.

PREVENTING HACKING
There are several steps you can take to prevent your account from being hacked.  You should make this part of your daily business practice of making art.

1. This one should be a no brainer but don’t ever, ever share your password with anyone and I do mean anyone. Even a trusted best friend or a family member. Yes you can trust them in just about anything but do you trust them to know exactly what to do with the information. Don’t take that chance.

2. Be on the lookout for Phishing attempts. No reputable company would ask you to change your password in an email. Not even a financial institution, an email company, a social networking company. They have built in ways of asking you to do that right on their websites. Do not even open suspicious emails, especially if they have an attachment – they could be SPAM.  If they contain a virus it will open up automatically and “infect” your computer.  Even if there is not an attachment there could be a virus.  Spammers who use commercial email services can see who opened their emails and what action they took – if any.

3. Keep anti-virus software up to date always. Hackers are discovering new ways to get in all the time. Anti-virus software companies are constantly on the lookout and finding new ways to prevent them just as fast.

4. Take extra precaution when using public computers – in a library or a cafe. Hackers can store something called Malware (which stands for Malicious Software) in public computers. This will allow them to capture all of your information. Please, please, please do not ever do any banking or financial work on a public computer or a computer that doesn’t belong to you. It is a sure fire way for someone suspicious to conduct identity theft.

5. If you are using your own laptop in a WiFi Hotspot – especially one that is not password protected – be cautious. Hackers can get into your computer through WiFi. I’ve even heard of cases where hackers drive around neighborhoods in cars looking for WiFi spots that aren’t password protected. If you are using a wireless modem make sure that it is password protected. Most modems are now coming with built in passwords so it’s not as much of an issue.

6. Never click on ads in search engines – especially if they say one thing and the domain address/URL says another. For Example: if you see an ad for Target, check the URL. If it doesn’t begin with http://www.target.com you know it’s not an official Target website.

7. Always sign out of your accounts, especially when you are in a public space. If you are doing financial work – like going on your bank’s website – don’t just log out of the account – quite the browser. Some people advise shutting down the entire computer but I’m not 100% sure of this. Again, please keep your financial work at home. Don’t go on your bank’s website in a public space.

CREATING STRONG PASSWORDS

1. Use 10 characters or more. 16 characters is ideal.

2. Do not use information that is close to you. Such as the name of a relative, pet, the year or city you live in. Use something that is not easy to guess.

3. Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters and punctuation. For example: iLWoprqba@9548.

COMPUTER SOFTWARE

Firewalls
Most computers come with a Firewall built in and/or it comes with anti-virus software. It’s a computer based program that protects your PC. It automatically monitors incoming and outgoing traffic to your computer as a virus preventative. It also prevents hackers or other people from seeing what you’re doing.  This is based on a set of precepts set either automatically by the software or by you.

Anti-Virus Software
This is software that you will have to purchase but it’s well worth the investment and it’s well worth it to take the time to update it when it asks you to. It repeatedly scans your computer for viruses and removes them when it’s detected. It will also prevent them from coming into your computer. The two best anti-virus software programs are McAfee and Norton Internet Security or Norton 360. Some Anti-Virus software will come with a Firewall for extra protection.

FROM THE HACKER’S PERSPECTIVE
Why would someone want to hack your email or your account?  What is the motivation behind it? The most common answer is simply for sport – to get a cheap thrill. It can also be for unlawful reasons – such as accessing bank accounts, identity theft or information gathering.  Hackers are usually sophisticated software programmers.  You can receive a legitimate looking email from a hacker.  It will come from a trusted email service provider or a company.  It may even have the logo and usual format from the company. Such as clothing1@target.com or info@paypal.com

Hackers usually send out a huge broadcast of emails, so they’re not just targeting you. They are looking for anyone who is uniformed enough to open the email and take action. Even just opening the email could cause a problem – a virus could open automatically onto your computer and do one of several things.

MALWARE/VIRUSES
The technical name for a virus is Malware (short for Malicious Software).  It is a general term for hostile or intrusive software.  In addition to the internet or email this can come from being in a Wifi Hotspot or a public computer.  The types of Malware that you may come across include: Worms, Trojan Horses, Ransomware, Spyware, Adware and Scareware.  Here are descriptions of the different types of Malware.

Worms
Software that spreads across a network of computers – without attaching itself to software or an email or an in company message.  It replicates automatically again and again and again.  This has been known to shut down entire companies or even sections of government.  Chances are that you are only on a network of one computer – yours – so you won’t have to worry too much about this one.

Trojan Horses
These are similar to Computer Worms but they don’t self replicate. Typically they are used to cause theft or loss of data and could possibly cause harm to your computer.

Ransomware
Malware that restricts access to the computer that it infects and demands a ransom to be paid to the creator in order for the restriction to be removed.  Some forms of Ransomware simply lock the system and display’s messages intended to coax the user into paying to get the computer working again.

Adware
This is exactly why you should avoid click ads on Search Engines.  It’s advertising supported software that will generate ads in your name.  When you click that ad in the Search Engine the hacker will gain access to your computer.  It will also generate revenue for the hacker.

Scareware
A virus that produces frivolous and alarming warnings and threat notices. They are most certainly fictitious or a useless Firewall or computer registry cleaner. It will also try to increase it’s perceived value by bombarding the user with constant warning messages.

I hope that by telling you about the different kinds of viruses it will send the message home that protecting your computer is key to your success and can save you thousands of dollars.  Sometimes computer stores will charge a ton of money just to recover files.  This is also why you should never leave anything on your computer’s hard drive.  Always use a Flash Drive/Memory Stick.

SOCIAL MEDIA HACKING
One more tip to prevent hacking on your Social Networking accounts.  Be a warm contact always.  This is good not just to prevent hacking but for your business.  A warm contact is someone that clicks like, comments and posts.  In other words, is active. Hackers are looking for cold contacts.  These are accounts that were set up and never touched again.  The hacker will take the same actions that they do on email with the exception that they may tag your contacts in photos you didn’t post, or post something on your timeline.

If you do find a friend who has been hacked inform them immediately and then unfriend them.  The hacker can access your account through them.  As soon as the person resolves the issue you can get back in touch with them.

If your Social Networking account has been hacked follow the same steps as you would to recover an email account.

Hopefully none of this will ever happen to you and if you take the precautions I’ve mentioned going forward it won’t.  I can tell you that my computers have never been hacked and I’ve been working on computers – mostly Macs – for over 20 years.  Besides the fact that hackers don’t seem to be interested in hacking Macs there are great preventions built in.  PC’s are also prevalent in offices, companies and government offices.  Hackers will get far more results with a PC. Therefore, if you own a PC please constantly update your anti-virus software and get total control over your Firewall.

If you take just one thing away from this post, it is to be vigilant and to always be on the look out.  Make preventing viruses and hacking a daily business practice of making art.

 

Social Media: An Introduction Part 2

Most people think of Social Media as Social Networking. Social Networking is one of only a vast range of tools at your disposal. I will break it down into simple terms in a minute. What they all have in common, however, is the ability to interact. To have a two way conversation. There are places on the internet where you will not have that ability, a website is a good example and on Social Media you can also turn off the ability to have that conversation but this is not something I recommend. On a website you might be able to click a “Like” or “Tweet” button but you won’t be able to comment or post, directly on that website.

Here are categories of Social Media:
• Social Networking – a platform, similar to blogging, where you can interact with people, create relationships and enhance the ones you already have. Facebook , LinkedIn, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.

• Blogging – short for web log, this is a place (like this blog for example), where you can write articles, post photos and videos and people can comment and share and repost your articles on their blogs. So far I have found that WordPress.com is the best platform because it has automatically built in functions and widgets that will share your posts on various Social Networking websites. I also like Blogspot.com, otherwise known as Blogger.com but not as much. It’s run by Google and has good search engine visibility but there aren’t enough widgets or built in things. I have had more traffic and comments on Word Press in a month than I had in three years of being on Blogspot.com

• Micro-Blogging – Twitter.com is a good example. You have a set amount of space (140 characters – spaces count as characters – on Twitter for example) to post. An original idea is to post several consecutive posts on one topic. I did a Twitter class on Digital Photography for example.

Photo Sharing – websites like Pinterest.com, Flickr.com and Instagram.com It’s almost like a photo blog. You will post photos and people will comment or in the case of Pinterest.com, they will “re-pin” onto their boards.

• Video and Audio Sharing – this is a website where you would post audio or video and you would get comments and feedback. People will also share your posts and put them on their “Channels.” YouTube.com is a good example of Video Sharing. SoundCloud.com would be a good example of an audio sharing website.

• Podcasting – Audio or Video that you create and post – different from Video and Audio Sharing – that people listen to or watch, like listening to a radio show. It’s usually a series of informative recordings. These are available through a website or a platform like iTunes.

• Article Sharing – These are websites where you can post articles that you’ve written about different topics. They will be shared and re-posted and commented on. A good example of an article sharing website is hubpages.com

• Business Rating Websites – These are websites where users post information and reviews of existing brick and mortar businesses. Yelp.com is a good example.

• Crowd Source Funding – These websites work in conjunction with Social Networking websites to help you raise funds for certain projects, such as Kickstarter.com, Rockethub.com and GoFundMe.com. Some are all or nothing websites – raise all the funds or you won’t get paid (Kickstarter.com is one of these) – and some are get paid as you go (Rockethub.com and GoFundMe.com are get paid as you go websites).

The statistics of user numbers for these websites is huge! I will share some of this in future posts. Before Social Media, however, Word of Mouth marketing meant that one person could spread the word about you and your art with 20 people over a period of time. With the advent of Social Media – combined with mobile devices such as iPhones, Androids, iPads, Kindle Fire and more – one person can share information with 2000 people in a matter of minutes. This should give you a fair idea of the power of Social Media.
In future posts I will show you how to maximize your use of Social Media to get positive feedback and word of mouth about your art.

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/

Internet: The Basics

The Internet is an extremely important marketing tool for artists. It’s a way for you to make connections, make money and develop a real following.

Now that you’ve gotten all of your other materials prepared it’s time to get your website up and running and your “presence” on the internet. You will need to approach it in an organized fashion and think about who “you the artist” are and how you will present it to the world. Developing a website plan can help you construct that “persona” and a brand that will help you towards success. From there you can go onto selling on sites like eBay, Yessy and Etsy, Social Networking, Blogging and so much more. You will need to have a plan just like any other business. Consider it the internet section of your marketing plan.

Just to give you some background on my qualifications on this topic, I am a website designer and am trained as a Graphic Designer and in Advertising. Before I design a website I always like to have a consultation with the artist about how they will present themselves to the world.

I will go into depth on each and every aspect of the internet and how you can use it to get publicity, network and make a profit from it. As an introduction, you will find a glossary of definitions below. They will not only give you definitions of each item in the topic but perhaps give you information on items you thought you already knew about. You will be able to refer to this again and again. However if you do find it overwhelming you can contact me for a website consultation at: info@theartistobjective.com

The Internet or World Wide Web (www.) – A network of interconnected links – websites, blogs, web pages, etc. that may include content such as text, images, video and/or audio – that are hosted and available for viewing on a computer.

URL (Universal Resource Locator)The address of a website, usually – but not always – proceeded by www. It’s also known as the Domain Name of a website. Example: http://www.smithartist.com

Domain Name – The name or address of your website – otherwise known as the URL – that is registered with a domain registration company. It is unique to you and you only. In most cases you will purchase a domain name that is registered for a certain number of years.

.html (Hyper-text Markup Language) – The basic language – or set of tags – that make a web page visible. It tells the computer where to find an image or where to place text. The color of the text or design and whether it’s centered, aligned to the left or to the right and so much more. It also instructs search engines to place your website or blog in the right category. See Meta-Tags and Meta-Descriptions below.

Tags – The “words” of .html. Usually surrounded by < > (known as ankle brackets) and give a command. Usually starting with a start tag and ending with an end tag like this this content is bolded to give it emphasis.

Java Script – a type of language (like .html) that allows for minor animated functions on web pages.

Adobe Flash – a multimedia platform that is generally used to add animation, video and interactive media to websites. Some websites are designed entirely in Flash. Note that this is not recommended for several reasons, which I’ll go into in another post.

Search Engines – A program that allows you to search for documents, websites, pages, blogs or any type of content on the internet.

Spiders, Crawlers or Robots – automated programs used by search engines to evaluate your website and “index” or categorize their content.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – process of adding, removing or placing content on a website so that it can gain higher placement on a Search Engine. Tip: Once your website is up and running you will get a few emails about SEO from companies offering to upgrade your search engine visibility. Ignore them all. They are all SPAM.

Meta-Tag – a series of up to 8 key words (no more) that helps search engines categorize web pages.

Meta-Description – a two sentence description of a website that is visible on the search engine under the title of the website.

Website – a collection of linked pages that can be static, dynamic or interactive. It can be used for personal or commercial/business purposes. A static website does not change. The content is put up and it stays the same and it doesn’t invite a visitor to do anything. A dynamic website has moving content such as video or animation and an interactive website allows your visitor to click on media, watch it or create something and much more.

Blog (Short for Web Log) – a type of website or part of a website that is updated with content. Usually writing but it can be images or video. It has followers and is actually considered a legitimate form of journalism. A good example of a blog is: http://jazzsaints.blogspot.com/

Web Traffic – Information generated by visitors to your website or blog. They click on something that leads to your page or click something on your website. Tip: This can be tracked by Google Analytics. More in a later post.

Visitor – Someone that is viewing the home or index page of your website. There are two types of visitors. New Visitors – a visitor that has not made a previous visit – and a Repeat Visitor – a visitor that has come to your website more than once.

Hit – Otherwise known as a click. A visitor comes to your website and clicks on a link. That’s a hit. The more hits a website generates, the more popular it will seem to Search Engines and they will place your website higher on the list based on your Meta-Tags.

Google Analytics – A free service offered by Google that allows you to track traffic, in detail to your website. This will help you figure out what’s working and what isn’t.

Server/Host – A huge computer owned by a company (like GoDaddy.com or Hostdime.com) that allows your website to be live 24/7 for viewing by the public. Very often hosts will give you a deal if you purchase a hosting package when you purchase a domain name. Both will be for a specific duration of time – like 3 years for example.

Email – An online communication between two or more people. I will go into how you can use email to optimize your visibility online and off in depth in another post.

Social Networking – interactive websites that allow you to connect with people, view photos, videos, join groups, gain more exposure, and keep followers interested. There are 400+ Social Networking websites but the “big three” are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Even YouTube is now considered a social networking website. I’ll go into it more in depth in a series of future posts.

PayPal – The most popular ecommerce company in the world. It allows you to open an account (for free) and pay or get paid for things on the internet. (It will take a small percentage if you get paid – usually from 2-2.75%). You can create customized buttons generated through PayPal that you can add to websites, blogs and emails. PayPal is an eBay affiliated company as well and if you intend to sell anything on the internet PayPal is a MUST! They’re in the business of security and everyone knows it. You’ll get paid faster and easier because there is a level of trust with PayPal. It also allows buyers or collectors to pay via credit card, debit card, PayPal account or even a checking account. www.paypal.com

YouTube – A video sharing website (created by 3 former employees of PayPal) that allows you to share and watch videos. You can create and subscribe to “channels.” Over 10 Million people watch a day and usually more than one video. You can even see demonstrations of painting, sculpting and art making, videos of artists work and so much more. Why not create a video, post it on YouTube and get a piece of the action?

Photostreams or Photo-Hosting Websites – Websites that will host your photos for use in other mediums such as a blog. They also function in a way that is somewhere between a blog and social networking. They are public, allow people to see your images and comment on them. www.Flickr.com is a good example

eBay – An online market place where people sell things from and to all over the world usually through auction. Sellers with a track record can create an eBay store and you can also create a “buy it now” price. eBay makes their money by charging a fee for posting items up front. Start slowly and build. More in another post.

Online Stores – a website where you can sell and purchase items. There are several devoted to art and hand crafted items. Etsy.com, Fine Art America and SaatchiOnline.com are good examples

On Demand Stores – Stores where you can design items that are then created and shipped after a visitor to a website purchases it. Such as www.zazzle.com/artists or www.CanvasPress.com

Online Galleries – Galleries that function on the internet in the same manner as a gallery with four walls with one major advantage. They can reach a much larger audience and even some viewers who would never even step foot in a gallery or museum. Beware of the vanity online galleries or galleries that use unprofessional practices like audience generated jurying. Shameless Self Promotion: www.melissawolffinearts.com

Online Art Portals – Such as Fine Art America, Saatchi Online, Artnet.com. They connect your website – usually for a fee – to a designated portal of art buyers and collectors. Buyer beware! There are websites that claim to put your website in front of a larger audience but don’t deliver. Pick and choose carefully.

Website Design Software – Software that allows you to create a website on your computer and then transfer it to the host through something called a ftp (file transfer protocol – a series of web language that helps a host communicate with your computer) The best software for website design is Macromedia Dreamweaver – which can be purchased alone or as part of Adobe Creative Suite. There are other programs for website design out there but none are as easy to use or as flexible. It will even support Adobe Flash and Java Script and something called CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). WordPress.com is a blogging format that you can use to create something similar to a website. It’s not a website per se, you don’t have traditional means of Search Engine Optimization and Search Engines will categorize it as a blog.

If you’re doubting the seriousness of selling online let me clear that up. This past year (2014) Sotheby’s is organizing a collaboration with eBay to make their auctions live online.  Amazon.com is now carrying expensive art by approved galleries.  By 2018 online sales of art are expected to jump to over $34 Billion a year.  Shouldn’t you be able to be a part of that statistic?  It’s time to get yourself online if you’re not already. If you are already online it’s time to hone your skills and make money!