OK, so here’s some more nagging, like you don’t get enough of that already, right? But better to be nagged by me than by someone who, you know, lives in your house or shows up at your front door or–worse!–would love to buy something from you but got so frustrated trying to navigate your rusty old website that not only did they not buy anything, but they came to your house to gripe about it.
~~Photos. I can’t stress enough how important photos are. I have seen some beautifully done websites with most excellent photos that make even not-so-well-done work look stunning, and I have seen photographs that are so poor even a masterpiece looks like, well, not so masterly. You know how you look on eBay sometimes and swear the person who took the photo reallyreallyreally didn’t want to sell whatever-it-was but was being forced to, and so they took the worst photos ever on the planet, just so no one would bid? There are artists’ websites that make me feel the same way: I don’t want to sell this piece but am being forced to offer it, so here’s a photo that shows how much I don’t want to sell it. You know: tiny, out of focus, horrible lighting that makes half of the piece white and half so deep in shadows you can’t even tell what colors are involved. Whatever you have to do to get good, clear, large photos, do it. Take a class, buy a better camera, trade a piece of your work for someone else’s help, bribe a small child–something. Take some time looking at other artists’ websites. Really look at the photos. If you have trouble with lighting, set your work up on a table out doors, out of direct sunlight, against a blank wall. Build a simple lightbox–there are instructions all over the web. You can get a great camera for less than $200, and if you have a fairly new smart phone, it’s perfectly capable of taking decent photos. The key is to work at it: take as many as you need, and then take some more. Practice, ask for help. The main things to think about are:
~~lighting. Make sure there’s enough and that it doesn’t cast shadows or create a glare. If you don’t have lights that work, shoot outdoors.
~~background. Don’t set your work up on the dining room table with the kitchen in the background, or your 1962 den paneling, or your family photo gallery. Hang a sheet, prop up a piece of posterboard, clear off a section of wall. The background shouldn’t detract from the work–at. all.
~~size. You’d be amazed at how many artists’ websites I’ve visited where the photos are small, and when you click to enlarge them, a nice white box opens up and you get ready to really *see* the piece, only the photo that appears is only about 1/1000000th of an inch larger than the original. If you’re going to enable “click to enlarge,” then let the relevant word there be “enlarge,” please. Not just clicking for the fun of it.
~~detail shots: if you’ve got a detailed piece, show multiple images from a variety of angles. We want to see what you’re doing.
So, to sum up my nagging for this go-round:
~~Keep your website up to date. At least once a month, more often if you can.
~~Don’t take it live before it’s ready–make sure you’re ready to have someone see each section before you post it.
~~No auto-play music or moving parts or anything that’s going to distract your visitor. We’re there to see the art, and anything that takes our attention away from that could mean a lost opportunity. We get distracted just as easily as anyone else. Ooooh! Sparkly!
~~Make sure your contact information is up-to-date and that you CHECK for messages. Often. Reply promptly. And, please: sound friendly when you do. I can’t tell you how many reply emails I’ve gotten that say, “What do you want?” At the very least, say, “Hey, thanks for getting in touch!” You may hate responding to email because it takes you away from the studio, but I can tell you that there have been grouchy replies that lost someone an opportunity that might have been really fabulous. Word spreads, and if you’re curt and act like you’re too good to spend time answering email, guess what? We’re sending that to each other going, “Whoa. I don’t think that’s going to be worth the trouble.”
~~Photos, photos, photos. Clear, well-lighted, no ugly backgrounds, large enough so we can see the details.
Set aside some time to get in there and really look at each page. Delete ones that are no longer relevant, add whatever you need to bring things up to date, and then go in there and check your messages. Who knows what might be waiting for you?
For more website tips or maintaining your blog, check out Blogging for Creatives by Robin Houghton.
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