I love teaching e-courses and I love when students reach new heights in their art journeys. One of the questions I get asked most often, especially as students start to present their art in galleries, exhibitions, and markets is: Do I need a website? Imagine me jumping up and down emphatically saying, "YES!”. Your website is the first place people will go to check out you and your art. Your website conveys your BRAND. Your website conveys your commitment to your craft as an artist.
Two years ago, I started researching artists' web sites that spoke to me and looked for the name of the website designer at the bottom of the page. HINT: This is one way to choose a website designer. Look for websites that you love, check out the designers website, see if it is a fit for you, and then contact that designer to discuss working together.
For two years I had a terrific site, but I knew it wasn’t going to take me where I wanted to go in the future. I wanted a more sophisticated look, more robust commerce ability, a new ecourse platform, and, well…it just didn’t feel like me anymore.
And, that piece is key: What do you want your website to convey about you and your art story?
What does your website say about you and the story of your art? People are not just buying art, they are buying your brand. Your website will be, for many people, their very first impression of your artwork and your services. Your site represents an important aspect of you, what type of service your customer can expect and what you will offer them through your website’s appearance and organization. This is not something to be taken lightly. You and your art should be taken seriously.
Once you start creating more and more art, you’ll want to be able to SELL your art. You want to send a customer to your website to view all of your art pieces. If you are showing in a gallery or a craft show, chances are that you have many more pieces that are housed on your website OR rather should be housed on your website. If you want to sell your art in a gallery, you need a body of work and, if you have collectors who follow you, they need a way to view your art and buy from you. Even if you are not able to sell directly from your site, you can still link to a site like Fine Art America or Redbubble or any number of sites where a customer might be able to purchase a print or product made from your art. How would they do this if you did not have a website?
The STORY OF MY WEBSITE REDESIGN
This past January, I was itching to redo my site. I was seeing more and more sites by Squarespace that I loved, but I knew this was not my area of expertise. I knew I had to do a few things first: I hired a videographer to create a professional promotional video for my new site. I also hired a professional photographer to take shots of me and my art. I asked other artists about website designers they worked with and came across Janessa Slangen of Janessa Rae Design Creative (soon to be known as my angel, savior, and any other accolade I could throw in here to describe her).
Here is what I did next: I invested in Janessa's website review offering so she could review my current website and give me her thoughts from a strategic point of view—AND boy did she give me her thoughts. She not only gave me a 6-page checklist review with an action steps writeup, but a full 1-hour personalized video screenshare walking me through my site. Things that I thought made perfect sense were not easily found by the customer, links were broken, there was too much text, the colors were not consistent and I could go on. It was daunting to read what needed to be corrected, and to be honest, I felt like taking my toys and going home and saying, “Thank you, but my site is just perfect. Don’t need your help.” But Janessa had taken such a thorough and detailed approach and I just kept asking myself, “Alexis - do you want to stay small or do you want to grow?”
I knew that my signature e-courses were different from many others with not only the amount of content but the various other resources I provided for the students’ experience. Yet, my website was NOT showcasing the uniqueness of my e-course. I needed to change this—quickly!
THE WORK BEGINS
For many months Janessa and I have been kind of tied at the hip. We discussed brand strategy, colors, branding boards, design...things I have never, ever thought about. We changed from Wordpress to Squarespace. We talked about my logo and most importantly - we discussed creating a consistent brand experience. Whenever I post a picture or a post, the font colors will be my brand colors. My logos are beautiful. All of my artwork is in high resolution. Through Janessa’s suggestion, I transferred my current e-courses to Thinkific, a brand new e-course platform and ginormous learning curve for me, but I am thrilled with the type of student experience in Thinkific. I’ve changed email providers, created freebies and opt-ins and words that were never in my dictionary before and while all of this work was a little anxiety producing, every single time I look at my website I feel like crying. It is absolutely perfect. It conveys me. It conveys my BRAND.
Now, you all do NOT need to create an elaborate website, but it is very important to create a great brand experience with a website that your customer wants to return to again and again.
After two years, my sage advice is to work with someone that can help you with your goals. There are many inexpensive companies out there now or you might want to try a DIY with Weebly or Wix or something inexpensive. BUT, put the time and patience into showcasing your art and you in the best way possible. I’ve seen some websites that show crooked paintings on the front page of the website - this is not going to impress your customer. Create your site, make sure your art is beautifully displayed, see if the site is easy to navigate, take that all important step to brand yourself, and ask family and friends (the ones that will tell you the absolute truth) to review your site for you. Know your customer and speak to him/her through your website. If you are successful, your customers will return again and again to visit your site and see your new art works. You have built a brand that your customer will trust and value.
Trust me. This investment in your website cannot be understated. Creativity takes courage and this is not just about art. Be creative with your website and make sure that when customers visit that you’ve provided them with a truly joyful and worthwhile experience.