I still hear from artists, on a regular basis, that they are paying outrageous fees (i.e. thousands of dollars) for the maintenance of their websites. The platforms on which their sites were built are either using outdated technology or are unnecessarily complex. This means that the site is too difficult to maintain unless you know a fair bit about coding. Most artists don’t, so they have no choice but to pay someone to do the coding for them. The result? They can only afford to update their websites once or twice a year. This is really not a good thing. In this day and age you should be able to update your website 24/7: when you create a new body of work, when you sell a painting or when you announce your participation in an exhibition or art fair.
The good news is that you no longer have to be stuck with an eternally outdated site or pull out your hair over your uncommunicative IT support team. These days you can build your own site and maintain it yourself, at a very reasonable monthly cost (of course depending on how computer-savvy you are or want to be). This is not an exhaustive list but scroll down for four things to keep in mind when shopping around for a platform that can host your new website.
1 Try It Out
You need to try it out, to see if you like working with the platform. Even if you decide to outsource the maintenance of your site at a later date, you always need to be able to keep it updated yourself, should that be necessary. Most platforms offer free trial periods. Try it for a couple of weeks and see how you get on: is it easy to upload and crop images so that your art looks good? Can you upload video to the platform? Is it easy to link your social media accounts to the website?
2 Blog Component
Does the platform offer a blog component? Having a built-in blog is better than a blog located somewhere else because blogs drive traffic to your site and provide a better visitor experience. Even if you don’t have the time to post to your blog right now, it’s worth having the option for a later date.
3 Templates vs Customized
Ask yourself how complex your site really needs to be. Can you live with a well-designed template that shows off your art beautifully or do you want something entirely customizable? In my experience, a well-designed template is more often than not the best solution for artists because a template requires less maintenance (reducing the risk of an outdated site) and a template removes the tendency to keep adding unnecessary bells and whistles to a website (i.e. weird fonts and background colors, too many pages, overly complex site structure, animations that slow your site down). This not only detracts from your art but also drives away potential art buyers. “Wasn’t this an art site?” you hear them gasp as they recoil in horror and hit the Go Back button. As with most things in life, keeping it simple is usually the best solution.
4 Is It Mobile-Friendly?
Lastly, make sure that the platform is configured to make your site look good on mobile devices. This is becoming more and more important because art collectors access the web on their phone or iPad more often than not and Google takes this into account when ranking your site. Click here for an article on why artists need Google Analytics.
I am a huge fan of squarespace.com as I find their platform easy to use and they fulfill all my requirements for a website. wordpress.com is another popular option and some artists prefer wix.com. Do the research and find out which platform best suits your needs.