How not to design your art website
27 June 2007
I know that a lot of artists are visiting my site regularly and many have their own websites with galleries of artwork. So this post will be especially useful to those artists who either have, or plan to have, a website with their artwork on it.
Whenever I browse other artists websites I frequently run into many usability issues like: flash only, odd navigation graphics, color combinations that make the text and links difficult to read, tiny fonts, tiny obscure thumb crops, too many pop-up windows, incompatibility issues, lack of proper navigational structure, broken links, poor site performance, etc.
The less user friendly your site is the less exposure you'll get. It's a simple matter of cause and effect. Most people are busy and/or impatient. They want things to work quickly and easily. If a site is difficult to use, the visitor is more likely to leave for other sites to browse.
If something is easier to use, it often wins over a more difficult solution, even if the easy solution is inferior in any other way. In other words, you may have great artwork but if your site is not user friendly, you will likely loose (clients, fans, traffic, etc.) to sites with better usability even if their artwork is not as good as yours.
Designing a good, user friendly site is a lot of work and requires specialized knowledge. You can either do it yourself or hire a professional. Hiring a reputable professional is usually the best option, unless you are the do-it-yourself type like I am. There is a third popular option however, and that is to use pre-made templates with a popular content management system (the most popular are Joomla, Mambo, Drupal and PHPNuke ). This is the cheapest and easiest solution, with virtually no technical knowledge required, and usually with good usability by default.
I got inspired to write this post after reading the How Not to Display Your Artwork on the Web by Charley Parker on his Lines And Colors blog (an informative art blog by the way). His post made me laugh several times - it's spot on! and a good place to find out how user friendly your site really is. A couple of other good general website design resources are usability.gov and Criteria for optimal web design. And here is a list of free and commercial content management systems. Finally, whatever solution you choose for presenting your artwork online, keep in mind the KISS principle.
Art and Illustration Studio.
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