How to Build an Art Website

By Christina Hamlett

  • Overview

    If you're an aspiring artist who is just starting out or a seasoned veteran who is looking to expand your marketing base to a global platform, the Internet is a great place to launch a virtual gallery that can stay open 24/7 rain or shine, that requires minimum maintenance, and that oesn't even need a floor manager or a sales staff to show prospective customers what's new. Here's how to get one up and running.
    Putting Your Best Art Forward
    • Step 1

      Identify what you want your website to accomplish. For instance, perhaps it will be an online extension of an existing gallery or shop where you are displaying and selling your artwork. Its twofold purpose would thus be to attract customers who aren't familiar with your talents as well as to keep the clients on your mailing list apprised of upcoming special events and new merchandise. Another purpose of the website might be to use it as a virtual resume wherein prospective employers directed to your link can get an overview of your education, experience, awards and areas of specialization. If your area of expertise is customized art (corporate gifts, special occasions, theatrical posters), the website you design might have an interactive component wherein customers can choose from several different options and get a rough idea of what the finished product will look like or, if they prefer, fill out a brief survey of what they'd like designed and initiate a dialogue as to materials, timeframe and cost. Yet another website purpose might be an educational forum that includes essays, artist biographies, interviews and comparative analysis of different art periods.
    • Step 2

      Decide on a domain name for your website. If you're already operating as a business or own a gallery, the domain name you use should ideally be exactly the same or similar enough to the name of the brick and mortar business that your online audience won't get confused. Further, although you're allocated up to 67 characters to use for your domain name, make sure that your selection isn't so long or so abstract ("jerrysbeststuff," for example) that potential customers aren't going to be able to remember it.


    • Step 3

      Make sure no one else has already chosen the domain name you want to use to promote your art. The simplest way to research this is to type your choice into a search engine and see what comes up. You can also use services such as htttp://www.whois.com that not only allow you to see if your choice is available but also see which domain names have recently expired and are now back in circulation for others to purchase.
    • Step 4

      Register your domain name. This is as easy as paying a small fee to a hosting service and then retaining the use of that domain name for as long as you want for a monthly charge. There are currently hundreds of domain registry and hosting services available throughout the world, many of which offer easy-to-use templates for you to start uploading your content that very afternoon and "go live." In addition, they also provide step by step instructions on how you can maximize your Internet exposure through RSS feeds, banners, blogs and traffic accelerators.
    • Step 5

      Choose the best samples of your artwork that you want to feature on your new website. Whether your talent is in paintings, sculpture, ceramics, charcoal, photography, jewelry design, textiles or even string art, you'll need to photograph your samples with a high quality digital camera and then upload the images to the website with appropriate captions and pricing information. In most cases, you're going to need some sort of photo software program on your computer so that you can manipulate the size of the image and/or adjust the color and lighting so that the objects will look as pleasing as possible on a monitor.
    • Step 6

      Include your new website on your business cards, your formal correspondence, and as a tagline below your name on emails to generate traffic to your site. Add your website as the second line below your name on return address labels.
    • Step 7

      Make it easy for prospective customers to understand your pricing and your fees for custom work. Your art website should advise them on the payment methods that you accept for merchandise (credit cards, PayPal, personal check), a table of shipping costs, and an estimation of how long it will take to receive their order once it has been placed.
    • Step 8

      Promote your reputation as an expert by writing freelance articles, doing workshops and participating in online forums. While chat rooms generally have prohibitions against hawking your wares directly to other participants, there are enough clever ways to either include the name of your website as part of your signature line or allude its existence in the context of explaining the inspiration or materials involved in a recent project. It will only be a matter of time before readers will be curious enough to seek you out on their own.
    • Step 9

      Subscribe to websites such as It's WorldArt, which not only allows you to stay abreast of what your competitors are doing but also provides numerous feature articles and useful how-to's on marketing techniques, building mailing lists and finding artist representatives.
    • Skill: Moderately Easy
    • Ingredients:
    • Digital camera
    • Photo editing software
    • Domain name and web hosting
    • Business cards
    • Pricing component
    • Payment and delivery method
    • Tip: Keep in mind that a suffix such as .com, .org., .net, etc. makes a difference in the availability of a domain name and that if a prospective customer can't remember and simply searches for "jerrysbeststuff," the links that subsequently pop up will display all the suffix variations.
    • Tip: If your domain name were posted on a billboard, would it be short and/or catchy enough that people driving by at 65 miles an hour could remember it? This is a good thing to consider when trying to decide what to call your site.
    • Tip: If you already have a business license, your online gallery would be considered an extension of that business. If you are just starting out in promoting your work, however, you'll need to acquire a business license at the time you set up your website because you will be engaged in the promotion and for-profit sale of your own merchandise or the merchandise of others.
    • Warning:
    • Never let your art website get stale. Take a page from what used car dealers always do to keep their lots looking fresh and exciting to people who drive by day after day; specifically, rotate your merchandise at least once every two weeks. This not only puts new merchandise front and center to grab your audience's attention but will also make them act a little faster to buy something when it first catches their eye lest it be gone by the next time they look.
    • Always include a notice on your website that the material displayed is protected by copyright and that none of the items can be reproduced without the owner's express permission. You'd be surprised how many people assume that just because something is on the Internet, it must be free to steal.
    • When photographing your art to upload to the website, make sure that the background you use isn't a distraction. Solid backgrounds such as black, red, cobalt blue, and white are good choices as backdrops for paintings. Items such as ceramics and glassware will look smart if the backdrop is complementary to how the item will be used (a tabletop, a tray, a placemat with napkins).

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