In building and designing an artist website, the site should be simple, organized, fast and easy to navigate. The design should be easy to follow, and be interesting enough to keep visitors on the site.
The most important information should be readily accessible: contact information, the actual gallery, artist statement, and why the art is worth buying.
The internet is populated by portfolio sites with common mistakes in design.
In avoiding these, and fixing any errors you are making now, you will have an instant advantage over the vast majority of online artists. Hopefully, your artist website will be one that keeps visitors coming back, and will impress them enough to want to let others know about it.
The point of this article is not to criticize, but to highlight some typical design errors. We all have made some of these at one time or another. In emphasizing common design blunders for portfolios websites, focus on what you can fix in your own. Fix the most visible mistakes first, and work on the others later.
20 Common Portfolio Website Design Mistakes
Poorly photographed artworks
Blurry, uncropped photos, and images with glare look bad on an art portfolio website. Take some time to photograph your artworks decently for the web. A professional camera is not really needed. Good looking images can be obtained with a regular camera, but general photography guidelines should be followed.
For a tutorial on how to photograph art for the web, please visit: How to Photograph Art
Splash or entry pages
These are big mistakes for two main reasons. Visitors want to see your artwork right away without clicking through a series of links to get to it. A flash intro may be cool the first time it is viewed, but having to view it every single time the page loads may frustrate some people.
The second reason is that splash pages contain very little content. The entry page is the most important page for getting your artist website properly indexed by search engines. Having a flash splash page will actually hide your content from search engines, making it much slower to be catalogued and found by others.
Very little text and content
As I mentioned several times, search engines need content in order to find out what an art website is about. Along with images, include a title, medium, size, and price. Also write a brief explanation of the piece using descriptive keywords. This content should give a back story to the piece, explaining how and why it was made. Make the artwork interesting and write about things an art collector can identify with.
Mistakes in formatting of text
Text should be evenly spaced and easy to follow. Break chunks of text up into sections. Use spacing between title and text areas. Make use of bold and italics, and align your text areas where necessary.
Sometimes text may look ok in one browser, but in another it may be improperly formatted. Open your web page in the main browsers, Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Netscape and try to make your website compatible with all of these. Do a search for free browser compatibility test to find a free tool to test your site in multiple web browsers.
Displaying page after page of thumbnail images
Some artists choose to display everything they have created, the good and the bad. Only display your best artworks. Don’t show any more than 20 thumbnails on a page. If you have lots more, try to categorize your photos into different pages. The reason for this should be quite obvious. Most visitors do not have time to spend hours browsing through art images, no matter how good it is. Art collectors want to be able to find what they are looking for quickly and easily.
Pages too cluttered
Having too much on an artist website can be just as bad as having too little. Keep your design clean and simple. Stay away from having a lot of thumbnails at your entry page. Some of the best portfolios I have seen have only one large image on the main page, along with areas of content, and navigation links.
Spelling and grammatical errors
Mistakes in spelling and grammar will make the artist appear unprofessional. Fix all such errors before publishing. Use spellcheck in Microsoft Word or your website editor, and a thesaurus to find proper grammar.
Using too many fonts
Pick one or two fonts for text and stick with it throughout the entire design of your website. Using a dozen different fonts will make the website look chaotic. If this is suited to the style of your art, it may be ok to play with fonts. But, the design of your website should be attracting attention to the artwork, not the text fonts!
The type of font used can have an affect on how your website is perceived. Use standard fonts for text areas (Veranda, Arial, Georgia, Sans serif) and an impression of formality. For an informal, playful, creative feel use script and decorative fonts for title and headings.
Difficult to use navigation
It is obvious that navigation links should be easily found on the main page. Most artists do not fail to do this. But, when clicking on the gallery, then clicking on a thumbnail to view a larger image in another page, how does one return to the main page, or gallery page directly from there without navigation links pointing directly there?
Of course, there is a back button on your web browser but some users may forget about this. Visitors may have the intention of buying, but if they are becoming annoyed with not being able to easily view artworks, they may choose to leave instead.
To make the site easily navigated, and ensure visitors do not become lost, the main navigation links have to be on every single page of the art portfolio. There should be also a way for viewers to return to the main gallery page directly from single image previews.
Plainly label these so that visitors will have no doubt how to get from one place to another.
Using flash on portfolio websites
Flash is very popular for portfolio websites. Flash may look cool the first time it is viewed, but a flash portfolio will present you with a major disadvantage over the competition. They are not easily indexed by Google+, slow loading, and actually distracts from the artwork.
The entire focus should be on the artworks, not the website design.
If you desire to learn more about portfolio design, please review these previous posts.
A future post here will be dedicated to completing this list of 20 common artist portfolio mistakes. Please subscribe to receive this post by email.
UPDATE! This post is found here: 20 Artist Website Design Errors to Avoid