What is a Website?
The internet is made of of servers that host files, wires to get those files to user devices and users who access the files in a web browser. A website is merely a specific collection of files. We call the files webpages. Webpage files do not need to have any images or video on them. Images, Video, Sound and other associated media files must also be on the server that “hosts” the website files. These files are linked together and have references to the media files that are displayed on a page. A website is the group of webpages and media files groped together. A website may have one webpage or many webpages.
You need a domain name. This is like having a phone number. All websites are resolved by typing in an IP address but numbers are hard for humans to remember so we use domain names. When you type in a domain name URL into your web browser, the browser looks up the Domain Name Server (DNS) to get the phone number. It then makes a request to the server on the other end of the IP “phone number.”
Unlike a phone number, you can have a domain name without having a web hosting server. This is not very useful because if someone goes to the domain and you do not have a hosting server, then they will get an error and will not see your webpage. This is like having a phone number and cellphone without a phone plan.
Domain Name Providers
Here is a list of domain name providers from the internet. These are the types of companies that you will find when you search for domain name providers. Inclusion on this list is not an endorsement. Some are better than others for each person’s specific needs. Visit a few of these providers and go with your gut after seeing how their websites are presented. You can always transfer your domain name to another domain registrar if you end up not liking your provider choice.
- Name Silo
- Name Cheap
- Network Solutions
Once you have a domain, you need a place to put the files that make up the content of your website. Typically, websites are hosted on web servers. A web-server may have one or may websites on it. It is merely a computer connected to the internet with the website’s webpages and media files on it. When we type a domain name into the address bar of our browser, the browser looks up the DNS record for that domain and then connects to the remote web server to get the website.
When you first begin working on websites it is easy to confuse the local website files on your local compute that you are working on, the website files stored on the remote web server and the exact same files that are downloaded to phones, laptops and other internet connected devices when someone goes to your website.
There are many options for getting a web-server to host your website online so visitors can see your webpages with artwork. The individual consumer will likely purchase space on a shared web server. This means that your website will be on the same “computer” or web server as many other websites. This usually is not a problem but some cheap or not cheap but bad web hosting companies will put too many websites on a single web server and this will slow all of the websites down. This is bad. You want viewers to see your work right away.
- A2 Hosting
- Github Pages (Free for Static Sites)
What is an Artist Website?
It is just a website associated with an artist. There is no set definition or ISO standard for an artist website. Generally it will have visual representation of an artist’s artwork, a way to contact the artist, information about the artist’s life as well as information about their career. It may include all of this, some of this, none of this or much more information.
A good way to get a sense of a typical “artist website” is to look at lots of artist websites noting similarities and differences. I recommend viewing at least 20 artist websites and a minimum of 3-4 pages on each one. Look at the websites visually. What stands out? Do you notice things in common?
Take notes of our observations. Your mind is fleeting and you won’t remember everything when it is time to make your website.
Example Artist Websites
Do you need an artist website?
The artists below seem to be doing quite well and they do not have readily discoverable websites. Maybe you don’t need a website. Investigate the careers of the artists below to see if that is a path for you.
Prominent Artists Without Apparent Websites When Searched April 2021
Art Gallery Websites
This is not an exhaustive list but will get you started on your exploration of art gallery website styling. New galleries pop up and others close. Take not of what seems to be dominant visual themes in these gallery websites. Just because everyone does it, does not mean it is necessarily a good idea. Starting with established conventions can be a great way to learn but starting with bad conventions is only a hinderance. Keep your mind open and explore these art gallery websites below.
David Risely Gallery *Closed
What do you put on an artist website?
There is no rule about what needs to be included on your artist website but if you look at the examples above then you will see that most artist websites have similar content categories. You can choose to follow what others have done, change it up and have all white text on a white background, or fall somewhere in between, using some conventions and putting your creative spin on them.
You make artwork right? Show it to the world. Your website is the most viewable exhibition you will ever have. Anyone, anywhere, with an internet connection can see your website. Make sure that you have good images, video, sound, representations of your creative work.
Think about how you will present your work. Will it be large full screen images? Grids of thumbnails? Organized by creative projects? A random mess of jpgs and text? It’s all up to you. Remember that your artist statement should be about your work and not about you.
Super important if you want to work with others on creative projects and get paid. Make it easy for people to contact you. Email spam filters are getting better all the time so it is a good idea to have your email on your contact page. Phone number spam filters seem to not exist in this universe so it is up to you to include a phone number. There are plenty of phone forwarding services you can use so your actual phone number is not on your site.
Social Media Links
Don’t forget about posting links to other online profiles that you have. Just because you have a website that you control the content of, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be a part of other online communities. Drop your social media information here so people can see what you are up to. You can also put social media links at the top and bottom of your webpages in the header and the footer.
Where have you exhibited your work? Have your received recognition for your work? Are there articles written about your work? Did you go to school? Did you write something about art? Where have you spoken about your work? All of these items and more go on your artist resume .
There is no rule but again there are general conventions. The best way to learn these conventions is to look at other artists’ resumes and see what is common practice. When you are starting your career you will not have much to put on your resume. That is ok. You still need a resume and if you make one it will be easier to add your creative accomplishments in the future.
Who are you? Where did you come from? What motivates you? What have you accomplished? These are questions that can be answered by your artist bio. Your bio is basically a narrative form of your professional resume. While your resume may list exhibitions and creative projects, your bio fills in the gaps with details that tell the viewer more about you and your career.
Bios are often written in the third person. Is it weird to write about yourself in the third person? Yes.
Do it anyway. Most venues and publications that ask for your bio expect it to be in the third person so they can just copy and paste it into their website or article. Don’t make people work to experience your art. Make it easy, write in the third person.
Get to the point.
I love art but do not like reading artist statements . Well, I don’t like reading bad artist statements. I want to know about your art. I want to know all the W’s and the H. The Who, What, When, Where, How? Tell me and your audience.
Don’t waste time with extra language. Tell me.
Many artist statements bury the lead. The real point of their statement might be the 4th sentence. As an experiment, just move the 4th sentence of your artist statement to the beginning. Is it better? I bet it is.
Use voice dictation to get your thoughts out and then cut, cut, cut. Don’t forget to periodically revisit your artist statement. It can be a tool for you in the studio, kind of like an instruction manual for your creative process. If reading your artist statement does not give you the slightest idea of how to start a new project in the studio then it probably isn’t a doo artist statement.
The good news is that artist statements are just made up words. You can make up new words and you should do so from time to time as your grow in your creative process.
Press About Your Work
Has someone reviewed your work? Is your work featured on someones blog? Great. Include a listing of the press and publications that your artwork has received. Many artists take screen shots of the publications and include them on their website with links to the originals. This is a good idea because most people don’t follow links and sometimes websites disappear. If a website with a review of your work disappears and all you have is a link, then you are SOL.
Design the Look of Your Website
In web design as well as most publishing it is best to keep the content separate from the design or look of that content. The content of your website is all of the text, images, video, sounds and other media that you created. The design and layout of this content is determined by the HTML and the CSS of your webpages.
What is HTML and CSS?
HTML stands for Hyper Text Markup Language and CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheet. All you need to know is that the HTML tells the web browser what the content is. It tells the browser if the text is a heading, a paragraph, a link, an image or any other content on the webpage. Although most web browser have default display styles for HTML content, the HTML should not determine how your site looks.
The CSS tells the web browser how to display your content. It determines typefaces, text size, colors, borders, column layouts, how the page looks on mobile, animations, transitions and just about any type of visual styling you can imagine.
In computer coding there is a concept of “DRY” - Don’t Repeat Yourself. This means thay if you find yourself typing the same thing over and over, there is likely a better way to do it. This is a good concept to apply to most things in your life, especially in the studio. If you keep doing a complex precess there is likely a way to streamline it or create an assembly line workflow.
Everyone is going to turn back to stardust, we have no time to waste on inefficient coding or studio practices. Let’s get to the art making.
CSS keeps the styling in a separate file. if you change the style rules in that file, then every webpage that uses those styles updates automatically. In the real world it would be as if you had 20 drawings with the style of “graphite” and then with a few keystrokes you changed the style to “ink” and magically all the drawings became ink drawings. It would be magical. Well, the web is pretty magical.
If you keep the style and content of your website separate, then in 5 years or next week when you decide that you do not like the look of your website, it is as simple as updating the styles. The old content will suddenly look new. You can experience this by going to a news website in the present day and then visiting an old archived website pages on the Way Back Machine .
What Design or Style Should You Use?
Use a design and style that fits with you, your art and your audience. Part of being a professional is surveying the past and contemporary literature in your field. In this case you should survey what other artists have done and are doing in regards to their online presence. Some strategies will appeal to you others may not. At the beginning it may be a good idea to borrow concepts and ideas from other artists. You are not copying but are being inspired and remaking ideas in your own way.
Some ideas do not belong to anyone. There are ideas and concepts that have grown collectively and organically in a community. These ideas include having images, using a navigation menu, using a grid to align items, having a header and footer on your pages and many more. Through your survey of other artists, tease out these conventions. Take some. Then add your special spice to the mix and get back to creating art.
Frankly, if you have images of your work online, with some text explaining the work and stating that it was created by your along with contact information, then the quality of your work will speak louder than the quality of your web design. Until you know that your work is rising above the noise, it is advisable to make it easy for people to find and understand your work by using good design principles.
Improving Your Website Visitor Experience
Fast loading images
Everyone loves slow loading websites. Or not. The internet is fast and is always getting faster. Even so, there is still a bandwidth limitation for the transmission of your website content to the end user. This limit continually decreases but the amount of stuff we expect to be able to view on a website also increases.
I recommend putting high resolution, images, video and sounds on your website. How high? For images, unless it is a thumbnail, I would upload at the resolution that the camera took the image. This doesn’t mean you can’t decrease the file size while maintaining image quality. After you are done editing the RAW files of your camera, you can save these high quality originals on your computer. Then you can compress them with the JPG, PNG or the HEIC algorithms to make a much smaller file size that humans won’t notice when viewing.
The mistake people make is keeping compressed images as their originals or editing a compressed image. An image that is compress has lost information that will never come back. The compressed image will still look good to a human but it should not be used for creating new content. Always go back to the original, high quality source image to make new content.
Good Sounding Audio
Don’t let the internet audiophiles fool you into gold plated connectors and super high audio sample rates. Remember that you are a human with human ears. There are limits to your perception. Luckily, audio engineers and scientists studied human hearing and determined the detectible range of human hearing. Then they used experimentation and math to come up with the Nyquist-Shannon sampling theorem that basically says how many audio samples you need to accurately reproduce sound over a specified frequency range. This means that if you have your audio sampled at 44.1 KHz then there is no need for more samples. You can’t take it up to 11. You can only take it up to 44.1 and after that it is wasted internet bandwidth that could be sending more pictures of grandma and cats.
Yes, there are reasons to record at higher bit depths and sample rates for making audio but not for listening. This is the same as taking photos in RAW format, making your edits, and then sending a JPG or PNG. Want to no more? This Wikipedia article is the beginning of your audio rabbit hole. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/44,100_Hz Beware of audiophiles trying to sell you on extra samples.
Great Looking Video
Most video you upload will be viewed on a mobile device. Actually, most of your content will be viewed on a mobile device rather than a laptop, see mobile first design below. The screen resolution of devices steadily increases but it hits plateaus along the way. For a while DV or 720 x 480 was a good resolution, then HD or 1280 x 720 was high resolution for years. Along came FHD at 1080 x 1920 resolution. FHD starts to reach a point of diminishing returns but even FHD will look as low res as DV in the future. Should you upload 4k? 8k? 16k? This will be a judgement call as technology progresses. It is not a simple linear line. By the time devices can easily stream and display 16k content there will be other technologies to present your work in. The goal is to present your content on your website at a quality that is reasonable for the bandwidth limitations at the time of upload and is a bit aspirational to the unknown increased bandwidth of the future.
The files you upload to your website will have a lot of inertia. As time passes you will focus on adding new creative projects to your website rather than updating the content of old ones. Try to upload the best quality media files optimized for display quality and file size, so your future self thanks you.
SEO: Search Engine Optimization
To visit your website, someone needs to be able to find it. Sure your can tell your friends and family your website URL but even friends and family are unlikely to remember it or even visit. Most of your visitors will find your website by searching the internet. We search the internet through search queries in search engines.
Search engines visit or “crawl” every webpage on the internet and categorize the pages into an index. Just like the index in the back of a book, a search engine is an index to the internet. How prominently your website fits into that index determines how many people will find it and ultimately visit.
There are some best practices that help your website “rank well” in search engines. These techniques also improve the accessibility of your website which should be the more important reason for doing them. Higher search rankings is an added bonus.
Label Images with Descriptive File Names
Don’t be spammy but also don’t upload IMG_0264.JPG to your website. What does IMG_0264 mean? Nothing. Label your image file, oil-painting-depicting-the-complexity-of-the-universe-by-awesome-artist.jpg instead. Substitute awesome-artist for your name. It is best to not have spaces in file names on the web and dashes are faster to type and easier to read than underscores, so use dashes. You would be surprised how many artists upload images of their work without their name in the file name. Remember to always label files for the people that will use them. In this case the search engines and visitors to your website will use the files. Label the files for them. If someone downloads an image of your work onto their computer and they see IMG_0264.IMG in their downloads folder, guess who isn’t getting a call back? You.
Do yourself a favor and label your images.
Use Descriptive alt Tags
To add an image to your webpage you need to use the img HTML tag. If you are DIYing your website, you will do this yourself. If you are using a website builder, the software will do it for your.
In both cases you must type in the alt tag. What is an alt tag? It is alternative content that represents the image in case the image does not display or if the visitor to your website is using a screen reader. Type your alt tags as if you are describing the image to someone who is not looking at it. That means a list of keywords or search terms is not helpful and is rather spammy. Write a brief descriptive sentence that captures what the image is.
Mobile First Design
Most visitors to your website will use a mobile device with a smaller screen. Your website has to look good on a mobile device. It also needs to look good on a desktop or laptop computer with a larger screen. Luckily this has been a web design consideration for a while so most website building services will make your website work on mobile devices. Also, most web design tutorials will show you how to design for mobile devices as well. Major search engines factor in the mobile usability of your website in their ranking algorithms. If your site doesn’t work well on mobile devices then a search engine will likely display it below other results.
The point here is to pay attention to web standards and best practices as you make your website. If you are DIYing, read web design blogs to stay up to date with web best practices. If you are paying a company, read web design blogs, so you know if the company you are using is still up to date.
By using best practices on your website you have the best chance of your website working well on future devices. What will the world look like in 10 years? 20 years? I don’t know. You don’t know. Don’t worry about it. Use the current best practices and then get back to making creative work.
Look at many of the example artist and gallery websites listed on this page. Many of them do not use https to encrypt their web traffic. This is a red flag to viewers and can make some people not visit your website. Make use you use https on your website and that you see a padlock at the top of your web browser by the URL.
Do it Yourself? or Pay a Company?
The internet is full of information about how to make websites. That is part of the greatness of the internet, the sharing of information. Some of the information is good while other information is less good. For good information the Mozilla Foundation is a good place to start https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/ reading about website best practices.
In addition, there is more information about coding and design websites than you could consume in a lifetime. Here is a tutorial video showing how to make an online portfolio website as well as a link to Search Results of web design tutorials to get you started.
- can do anything you want
- you are in control
- you are in control
- can take time
- has learning curve
- if something breaks, you have to fix it
Pay a Company
There are many companies that have ready made templates for you to drop your content into. You still have to make the content and decide where it goes on your website but most of the structure of your website is take care of for you.
Website Builder Companies
- design templates already made
- don’t have to learn the inner workings of the web
- get online fast
- can be expensive
- lack of customization of designs
- lack of control
- if something breaks, you have to contact someone to fix it