Too many artists are building someone else’s business.
Sites like Etsy, Artfire, FineArtAmerica, and others (which I call Art Malls) make it easy to create the illusion of having a ‘web presence.’ When they upload all of their work to an Art Mall site, it makes many artists feel like they are finally getting their work online. All you’re really doing is creating more content for these sites to sell, with no investment on their part. You could be doing the same thing for yourself.
Reasons to Have Your Own Website Instead of Using Art Malls
You are an artist, not a commodity. No getting lost in the crowd. If you are on one of these online art malls, you are one artist among thousands. Browsers will click right by all of your stuff because someone more interesting is right next to them. Even if you get featured as an artist of the day and have a few thousand people look at you, that attention is gone within a couple of days.
You can build your fan base. When you are on someone else’s website, you had better believe that they are benefiting more than you are. When they share a page with a friend on Facebook, that links back to someone else’s website. When they sign up for an email list, that list is owned by someone else, not you. With a little bit of work or a small investment of cash, you can build a site where people play directly with you, not with others. For example, some customer support software allows you to interact in real time with visitors to your site, an excellent relationship building and sales tool you won’t get as part of an Art Mall.
You get your own domain name. If your website is something like www.YourName.TemplateCompany.com then you are leaving a lot of opportunities on the table. A real domain name (www.YourName.com) costs about $8 – $10. There’s no reason to not have a custom URL. In addition to it looking more professional, you will do better in the search engines.
Control over your look and feel. If you are a dark and brooding artist, why are you displaying your work on a site with cheerful, happy arts and crafts? You know that people’s reactions to art is all about context. They need to see your work in a context that makes sense. In online mall sites, you get a limited set of looks, with a very limited ability to change them.
Last week I had a client email me because her artist website was a mess. The company that she was with had made some changes to their websites and she didn’t like the changes that were made. In addition, the company was keeping her mailing list hostage – she couldn’t export her mailing list if she switched websites.
If you’re using a template then your site looks like hundreds or thousands of other websites. People expect artists to value creativity and originality. Your site should differentiate you enough to make you stand out. Also, most artist website templates already look like they were designed in 2000 with no updates since.
Non-flexible features. Even if the company just launched and they have every bell and whistle in their current templates, the Internet changes fast and you need to be able to adopt new technologies into your site as they come along. Most artist website companies shoehorn new features into their sites in ways that are awkward and unwieldy. Also, some artist website companies try to be all things for their artists and they end up not doing anything very well.
It makes you look cheap. If you are selling $2000 original pieces of art, why do you have a website that looks like it cost $30? Your image has to match your market. Since most collectors are wealthy and educated, they are probably going to expect something a little more sophisticated.
No access to the html of your site. In order to make real customizations to your website, you need access to the html files. If you don’t have access, you can’t change borders, colors, sizes, and where page elements are placed. In addition, if you ever decide you want to move your website to another hosting provider or another company, you’ll have to start over from scratch.
Search Engine Friendliness. This is a tough one for most web designers. Quite often, if they are good at making pretty designs, they’re not too good with making sure the search engines find your site. If you want to be found online, then you need to make sure that your site can easily be optimized for search.
How Do I Get A Good Artist Website?
I’d recommend hiring a professional website designer.
If you can’t spend the kind of money that it takes to have a really great website built for you, then I highly recommend WordPress as a way to get a high-quality website up and running. WordPress is a free website building software that can have a site up and running in literally minutes. If you want to see how I set up an artist’s website in less than 10 minutes using WordPress, check out How to Build an Artist Website in 10 Minutes with WordPress.
I also recommend checking out our review of Shopify and Squarespace.