4 Steps for Saving Money on Your Artist Website

Ready for a new website?

Yes, you could do it yourself by using any of the template sites available. But when you take the step to have a site thoroughly customized to your branding and goals, there are things you can do to lower your monetary investment.

Designers can’t pull together a design from nothing. They need you to do your part.

When you do this, you will save money and have a more harmonious relationship with your designer. Here are four steps to get you started.

Step 1: Research

Look at other artist sites. When you find one you like, deconstruct it to figure out why you’re drawn to it.

©Ananda Khalsa, Spring Maple Necklace with Green Tourmaline. Acrylic on watercolor paper below faceted green tourmaline with 22k gold and sterling silver on a 14k gold chain. Used with permission.
©Ananda Khalsa, Spring Maple Necklace with Green Tourmaline. Acrylic on watercolor paper below faceted green tourmaline. Used with permission.

When you’re on a site that you find attractive, is it because of …

  • Colors?
  • Font (styles and sizes)?
  • Navigation?
  • Layout of pages?
  • Text/stories?
  • Image sizes?

Also, know which features you want on your site. Do you want a blog? An eCommerce platform? Email sign-up?

You should also be researching your designer in this phase.

Look at the sites that your possible designer has created. Do you like them?

Talk with the designer’s other clients about their experience working with him or her. Hiring the wrong designer could be a costly mistake.

Step 2: Decide

Since you’re a visual person, you would benefit from making a visual map of how your various pages are linked together or related.

What are the main categories in your menu?
What are the subcategories or drop-downs in the menu?

Try to limit your primary links to 5 or 6 choices. From those, you can have drop-down menus or secondary links on the primary pages.

At the same time you’re working on the above, gather the images you want to place on your site. If you don’t know what work will be there, it’s hard to know what to include in the menu.

You shouldn’t try to show everything on a website. You should show your best stuff – about 15-30 images per section.

According to Pat Velte, Web guru to myself and many of my clients, “If eCommerce is involved – if you’re trying to sell directly from your site – it may work better to have fewer than 30 thumbnails on a page simply due to how the cart systems go from thumbnail to product page and back. Visitor fatigue is something to avoid.”

©Mary Farmer, A Place Far Away. Encaustic on panel, 20 x 20 inches. Used with permission.
©Mary Farmer, A Place Far Away. Encaustic on panel, 20 x 20 inches. Used with permission.

What categories make the most sense for your art? Some artists divide their work by media, while others segment it by color or subject matter.

Step 3: Write

Prepare searchable text for every page of your site. You might have:

  • Artist statement next to the art
  • Bio or About page
  • Stories about individual artworks
  • Descriptions of special exhibitions
  • Promotional language for teaching offers

If you are planning to have a blog, have at least two or three blog posts ready to publish so that virtual space is filled when your site goes live.

Don’t wait until your designer asks you for text. The time to start writing is now because it’s a process.

“The perfect words” rarely happen in one sitting. You need to massage your writing over time.

Pat says that waiting on content from clients is the biggest bottleneck in the process.

Web designers can’t make up material for you. That’s not their job.

It’s your job to produce the content for every page: text, credit lines, images, and, if you choose, video.

Ultimately, everything that appears on your site is your responsibility. Designers are not editors, spell-checkers, or proofreaders. You have to get this right.

Every change you make later will cost you money.

Pass your writing to friends, relatives, consultants, former teachers—anyone who can look at it with a critical eye.

Text revisions can waste valuable time and money when working with a designer. “Now that I see it on the page…” is a costly way to justify the time spent changing a page layout because of text changes.

Step 4: Resize Your Images

©Phyllis Tarlow, Evening Shoreline at Rye Town Beach. Oil on panel, 6 x 8 inches. Used with permissio
©Phyllis Tarlow, Evening Shoreline at Rye Town Beach. Oil on panel, 6 x 8 inches. Used with permission

Get image specifications from your designer and provide to-size thumbnails and images. A designer could do this for you, but you’ll save money when you do it yourself.

You’ll save even more money if you name the image files in a way that makes it easier for your designer to coordinate image, credit line, and placement on the page. Time = Money.

Your Turn

What is your experience with this process?
How have you saved money on your website? Or what mistakes did you make that cost you money?

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32 thoughts on “4 Steps for Saving Money on Your Artist Website”

  1. very good advice! I created my own website and followed these steps. It’s time consuming but saves time in the end and you get to learn a lot in the process. I would add: get honest feedback: show it to several friends and see how they react. Also test it on your cell. it’s often how people will access your website… Thanks Alyson

  2. As a web designer, I will say this: people vastly underestimate how much time writing the content will take!

    It always, always takes longer than you anticipate. Start before you think you need to. Clear out your schedule, and really focus on writing. It’s work like any other, not something you stuff away for the evenings and weekends (unless you have a day job, in that case evenings and weekends will have to do).

    Preparing a website inspiration board on Pinterest can go a long way to communicate the desired style and atmosphere of your site. Don’t just include websites, feel free to also feature magazine spreads, art show flyers, textures, photos and other things that feel like your brand.

    I hope this helps! 🙂

  3. Very nice tips for artists websites. As I developed my site I searched other artists sites which helped. Now I ll make further changes as given above. Thanks for sharing valuable opinion.

  4. I believe it is really important to have your designer give you information to refer to when you need to add to, delete, or update images and text pages on a site. That in itself is a huge money and time saver for me.

  5. Karen Leso Hegglin

    Thank you Alyson for this very timely post. Very informative and useful, before I talk to Pat about my site. Yes, content does take time.

    1. Have you given any kind of thought at all with trnailatsng your website in to Chinese? I know a several of translaters right here which might help you do it for free if you wanna get in touch with me.

  6. Like you say, Alyson, you don’t have to go it alone. A lot of artists think they will save money by doing their site on their own. What they save in dollars they spend in time.

    I help some artists in a group on Facebook and I see them choosing the wrong WordPress theme, usually with the biggest learning curve.

    The single most important item (other than resizing your images) is selecting a theme that allows you to change themes in the future without losing all your content. I current have a client with an old theme that isn’t mobile device friendly. The theme also has a portfolio module where she created all here galleries. When we switch themes we will have recreate all the galleries. That’s crazy!

    Technology changes so fast and what is trending today will be gone is a few years or less. If you are creating a WordPress site select a plugin to handle your portfolios and a simple theme that you don’t have to go to school to learn how to use.

  7. We build websites for people and I have to agree with Alyson and Nela that content started ahead of time is very important. We sometimes wait months to finish a website for someone because they didn’t have the content ready. Some of the other things Alyson talks about- knowing what you are about and what your goals are for your website can help your designer design the best website for you.

    If you are picking a template- make sure you like how it looks on mobile. It is hard to change it later.


  8. And of course not everyone needs to do their own web design. I use FASO (Fine Art Studio Online), which already has templates and works specially with artists. They take care of optimization and have several marketing tools to get your work out there. Plus, their tech support is excellent. They do cost more than doing a WordPress site, but then I don’t need to master WordPress, handle updates, or deal with designers/Webmasters who aren’t dependable.

  9. Barbara I use FASO too for the same reasons. But I do wish they had the option for drop down menus. You also can’t segment your email list if your using their newsletter. Their tech support is incredibly good. My time is so limited that I can’t afford to spend it learning the ins and outs of WordPress.

  10. I’m rewriting my website as we speak.
    It will be live on October 1.
    I’m determined that it will be.
    It’s been a mess for too long, even though it looks fine, and has brought me business, and is my portal to the world.

    I’ve been held to ransom for 7 years by the “designer” “tech guy” that I got to set it up then. 7 years ago I didn’t know where to go for a website. I ignored the usual clues that I use when choosing a new tradesperson – does he turn up on time, does he reply to emails, does he listen to what I want. I went with it because I didn’t know what else to do. I spent an inordinate amount of time learning the template and writing the content, learning the content management side of the program and leaving the tech side to him. Bad move. He didn’t run his business the way I did. He missed bills from servers, he missed payments from me, he was uncontactable by phone or email.

    Finally he was late renewing his domain name, which compromised my email program. Finally he had to go.

    This month I’ve averaged 53 work hours per week, most of it here, in front of my computer instead of in front of my easel which brings in the money. It’s a wordpress site, I transferred the content but have had to edit pages, words, images, links etc. It’s been time consuming, but interesting. I’ve drunk a lot of tea, and not seen quite enough sunshine.

    On October 1, the face I present to the world will be neater, mobile friendly, easier to use, less wordy. It’s still me writing, still my words and my images. No shopping cart yet, or other fancy things; they will come later. It’s been a long month, but with the end in sight, I have a delicious sense of accomplishment. If I could have gone back I would have paid more attention to what and how the “designer” was treating me. I would have researched more about the tech things that he took control of that made me and my business vulnerable, and kept that control myself. But I have had a website that worked for 7 years, on October 1 I’ll have a better one.

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    2. Oh gosh Christine, this sounds like an absolute nightmare. I’m so sorry.
      I’ve heard of similar stories from people, and these hacks really give web designers & developers a bad name.
      I’m glad you’ve found a way to turn it around.

    3. I do not shop using Google chrome coz i have seen that it stores my Credit Card Number. I would like to auto fill other inmtofaoirn but not credit cardsI still feel safe using IE for that kind of stuff.

  11. Alison,

    Your suggestion of limiting primary navigation choices to 5 or 6 is important. I would add something I recently came across while researching navigation best practices:

    Many web developers and user experience experts are discouraging the use of drop-down menus. The alternative is to have each of the 5 or 6 primary items do nothing more than lead to a “section page.” The section page would have the sub-pages – you can think of a section page as taking the place of the drop-down menu.

    The experts cite some compelling reasons, including:

    — Studies have found that many people find drop-downs annoying and confusing
    — Too many choices on a drop-down menu often will cause people to choose another primary menu item or leave the site completely

    A big advantage of not having a drop-down menu is that you send people to a section page first which gives them context that is difficult or impossible to do in a navigation menu.

  12. I went through the nightmare of trying to get someone to create my site and couldnt believe how limited it they were (and how much they didnt know and how much money they wanted)

    so I went and did a tafe course – AND I LOVE IT – so i went to uni to learn it – and i LOVE IT EVEN MORE and now i make a website every month about my art – as art – to learn how to use it to make art

    I think scripting is a new medium that not enough artists are embracing – its a doorway to a new artform – get out there and learn scripting people

    – i also know now how hard it is to make a web site and feel a bit guilty at my disdain of the early web designers i had hired – and i totally see that what i refused to pay 5000 for instead have spent years of my life learning, so it would be cheaper to buy one…(unless your like me)

    and i love the idea about a pinterest board, i usually collect urls on evernote

  13. Great article Alyson, and I love all the feedback. As yet another web designer and artist, I would say research your designer and get recommendations from friends. Make sure they have a good reputation and can provide the function you want, along with lovely design. The thing I actually think is most important is professional photos of your work. The photos are what sells you and your art. Also, I love the comment about taking the time to write good content. And remember that your content is the biggest key to your search engine results, so be sure to slip some words in there that your viewers might be searching for, including using these on every photo. (As an ALT tag- ask your designer). Best of luck to all of you and may your work shine online! 🙂

    1. THIS. Photos sell your work, period.

      Not even the greatest design can salvage the impact of bad photography, but even the simplest, most minimal design can look amazing if the photos themselves are beautiful.

      I’ve recently completed a website for a client who did a professional photo shoot before hiring me, and it was the best experience I’ve ever had. With so many great photos to choose from, design flows easily.

      So absolutely get those photos done. Full art view, closeups of textures, portraits in front of an easel, palette and art tools closeups, etc.

  14. Thank you Alyson for the feedback. I had a webpage and now I am rebuilding it.Reading your article makes me asking about an offer I received: Do you now Squarespace? they offer domain, website and online store templates. First they offer a trial and then they charge annually, from $10 to $30 it depends on the kind you choose. I like some pages I have seen. What you call business page, is it only in Facebook or you can use also Linkedln or Pinterest ? It is good to have directly an online store or it is better in the website offer the link to the online store?
    Which is the difference between the business page and the online store?
    And Kellie, I agree 100%, professional photos are very important. I appreciate your tips.

  15. Great timing for me as I’ve been wanting to refresh or redo my website. It was built on WordPress by a web designer, although I can make changes to my portfolio, bio, resume, etc. I don’t like some of the WordPress look, such as the whirling thing that pops up when loading an image. I’m wondering if I should switch to a Weebly website or something similar, which has a monthly fee, web hosting, etc. My current website does have a custom look, and I’m not sure that I could get that with Weebly.

    The earlier comment about not having drop down menus on the primary navigation choices is interesting, too. Something to think about.

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Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

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