Can you imagine having your very own art gallery that shows nothing but your artwork? Actually, if you’re like most fine artists, you already do—it’s your website. Having a portfolio website is like having an exclusive art gallery where art enthusiasts can come and see—and possibly buy—your work 24/7.
And that’s exactly why the design and construction of your portfolio website is so important. I just went and searched through dozens of artists' websites to see how others are using these online portfolios to showcase their work and represent their brands as effectively and professionally as any bricks-and-mortar gallery would. I found several features that really stood out, so I've collected them here for us. If you feel like your website isn’t serving you as well as it could be, consider making one or more of these six upgrades.
- Update the artwork in your portfolio often.And when I say often, I mean monthly or perhaps even more frequently. You want to give your fans a steady stream of reasons to return to your website repeatedly, and the best enticement is to show them new work. Having the ability to make your own updates is essential, which is why I recommend using one of the many web design and hosting services that cater to artists, like Wix, Weebly, or FASO, which is what Romona Youngquist uses. These services all offer templates designed specifically for artists’ portfolios, and all of them are easy to learn to use, which allows you to make frequent additions of new work.
- Shine the spotlight on your work. Whether you choose one of the website templates from a portfolio service or have your website custom designed, be sure to choose a design and particularly a background color that lets your artwork stand out. Personally, I prefer an all-black or all-white background because they don’t conflict with the colors of any work. But it all depends on your art. It’s entirely possible that a light- or neutral-colored background could work, too, as you can see from Jacob Collins's website.
- Make the website easy to navigate.I know this seems obvious, but I’ve seen many artist portfolio websites that worked so hard to be “artsy” and “creative” that the navigation got lost. If you want your visitors to stay awhile, make it easy for them to move around in your website. Lori Putnam's home page even offers sub-categories on the navigation, allowing visitors to find exactly what they want from the start.
- Organize your artwork into categories. Most art enthusiasts have preferences or are looking for something particular, so help them find it by arranging your artwork into galleries, such as landscapes, figures, and still lifes. Another way to categorize your work is by date, as in “The 2015 Collection” and so on. Jessica Zoob organizes her collections by dates and gives each collection a name that piques visitors' curiosity.
- Ask for email addresses. One of the primary reasons to have a portfolio website is to connect with potential collectors, so be sure to provide a means of collecting their email addresses when first-time visitors come to your site. This will allow you to market to interested art enthusiasts directly with exhibition invitations, newsletters, and other announcements.
- Above all, design the website to communicate your brand. Your artist portfolio website is an integral part of your overall branding effort—the collection of marketing materials (logo, business card, brochures, etc) that communicate who you are as an artist. All of these marketing materials should have a cohesive look and design, and that look should be an expression of your personality and style. Just to give you a simple example, if you create very traditional work, your marketing materials, including your website, should have a traditional, elegant design, probably with serif type faces. But if your work is very contemporary, you probably want a modern design with lots of crisp white background and sleek, sans serif typefaces.
In the next post, we’ll talk about some additional tips for managing your website, but in the meantime, what do you think of these tips? Any thoughts on upgrading your website design? How is your website supporting your overall branding message? Let’s connect.