Creative Business 101 – Design Your Website

Since I’m designing my own website, I’ve going through the process from scratch. However, even if you hire someone to design your website for you or if you choose to use a service online where templates are provided…it’s still a good exercise for you to go through the design process in your mind. Having done quite a few web design jobs in the past, often clients just throw it over the fence, so to speak. Then I find out after the fact that they had something in mind or have certain preferences that they didn’t express previously. As with everything, we are going through the steps to make it a smooth and easy process for everyone. Ultimately, that will lead us to the end result that satisfies all our needs.

Building upon the purpose of your website which should never be compromised by the aesthetic or design decisions…think about the style you prefer. It’s honestly the most useful to think of a few adjectives to describe what you want. I would like a site that is simple, clean and direct. I want to keep it minimal, so the artwork pops and shows up the most…I don’t really want distractions in the site design because it doesn’t serve much purpose in the end. However, I think some artist might want to use their artwork in the design of their site…perhaps create the mood. Just make sure it doesn’t clash with how you display your portfolio.

Even when using a template or theme for your website, often you choose the colors and insert imagery. So it’s important to take your time in choosing a combination that works for you. One of my biggest pet peeves in artistic sites is the lack of usability. Folks like to have hidden navigation elements or animations flying all over and it just makes it hard to use your website! Unless it’s something connected to your whole purpose, or perhaps you are already famous and people are compelled to navigate your website no matter what – it’s just a bad idea. I know there are websites out there that seem to break all the rules, yet they are successful in their business. Sure, it happens…when the product sort of compels people to overlook all those other obstacles. But do you really want to start your business in that way? It’s much better to make it as easy as possible for others to use your website from the start. Don’t scare people away!

Think about your navigation elements and make sure it makes sense, easily visible and easy to use. From your sitemap, you should have a clear organization figured out already, giving some sense to your website structure. Otherwise, you’ll be adding things here and there, plopping them on left and right and suddenly your website is a mess of stuff. That’s when you need to step back and revise your sitemap. Here are a few guiding tips to help you out:

  • Follow your sitemap, so every piece of content has purpose
  • You can even include a sitemap page with direct links to each piece of content, if your website contains a lot of parts (like a table of contents for a book)
  • I don’t think you need the sitemap page if your main navigation does the same job though – like my simple website plan.
  • Make sure your site is organized with easy to use navigation that appears on every page!
  • Try to reduce the amount of clicks for users to reach content…basically as simple and flat as possible for your purposes
  • Avoid flashy, animating or extra graphics “just because” – it needs to serve a purpose – remember!
  • Make sure your text or imagery is easily readable or viewable – not clashing to the eye or taking away from your work pieces.
  • When creating graphics for your website, make sure it’s saved for the web…

After creating your design, we can go into the development details and checking the download speed of your website. For visual artists, we often offer thumbnails, so that it doesn’t take forever to load large images of our work. However, you can always show one piece large first to get the impact and WOW factor for your work, then have all others as thumbnails. Again, just have to weigh your goals, the purposes and finding a balance for everything. I hope these tips have helped you move forward a bit.¬†You can check out this Art Biz blog post with important points about what people look for in an artists’ website specifically as well. There’s a nice list of amazingly one page websites that do the job here. Design sponge also have a great post going through setting up a website with WordPress in a weekend. There are lots of options out there and resources to help you get through the process.

Here’s the site design I created for my website…mocked up in Photoshop and ready for development. I also created an inner page to work out what that would look like…it’s always best to have things figured out before you dive into building…reduce the confusion and need for making immediate decisions while in the trenches!

Notice that I have have included my logo to brand my website along with my navigation, consistent on every page and clearly visible. There should not be any confusion when it comes to looking for my work or contact info, etc. Keeping with the minimal style, I kept it pretty simple and sleek…but I wanted to put in that kraft paper background as it is one of my favorite surfaces to work on and that adds a bit of me into the site without distracting from other elements. It’s also less boring than a solid color, for me personally. In the artwork section I’m just showing previews of collections with a note that full collections are viewable to interested parties if they contact me. Notice that I added the newsletter sign-up to the right side of my website structure as well, so as someone browses they can clearly sign up to receive mailouts when new work is available to review. I also added my mission and vision as the space was available and I think it’s nice to have that driving force sort of branded there. For me this is a great marketing tool, so I can directly contact those who are interested in seeing new work and see if they want it! It’s nothing fancy, but it serves exactly my purpose and goal. I’m already thinking it might be too busy in some respects…might want to work on the spacing and such…refining the details before diving into development. It helps to step away and look at your work after a few days, so I’ll mull over everything this weekend. What do you think and what have you come up with for your creative business?

  • Lisa @MindfulBIZ

    I love how you’re taking such a thoughtful approach to designing your website!

    So great to see a clear statement of what your site is about i.e., that you create artwork primarily for licensing (you may want to add info about types of products your artwork works well on) that will help visitors know within seconds if they are going to find what they’re looking for or if they are not your target market because they are not looking for art licensing.

    Good for you for having a related call-to-action that will generate leads. If your mailing list provider has the option to bring subscribers back to a custom page on your website upon confirmation of their subscription, then you could make that page a “goal” in google analytics and start tracking to see where those people came from (traffic source/referral site) and what content they were most interested in while on your website.

    • linda

      Hi Lisa – Thanks for dropping by my blog and commenting! I really appreciate your input and advice… sometimes we all sort of know what to do or what might be important, but it takes someone else to help push us forward either way. It’s easy to get all muddled up with so much going on in our lives.

      I will definitely have to look into the google analytics tracking…currently I just plop in tracking code and that’s it! I haven’t really delved deeper and I’m probably missing out on important info…

  • gretchen/juneatnoon

    It really looks great, Linda! You’re making such great progress!

    • linda

      Thanks so much, Gretchen! You’ve really been so supportive and I thank you for that. Just chuggin’ along :)

  • jacqueline

    Dearest sweeet linda, it’s wonderful to be back on the swing of things here on blogland. I’ve been following your creative business column via your newsletter. :) This is yet another wonderful topic! I love your approach and thanks so much for sharing it with us! I am truly learning lots from you about building a website! Have a lovely merry happy weekend and love to you!

    • linda

      Glad I could share my experience and help others learn a bit…thank you so much for following along. it’s an honor to be able to share my thoughts :)

  • Sarah

    Hey Linda,
    I bought a notebook from you a while ago and I just wanted to say thank you again, I treasure it everytime I use it or look at it, it is lovely and it always reminds me of Tuscany, which I miss a lot. I wanted to write/send you something in return, because the book made me experience something, I would’t have without it.
    May I send you something?
    I used to have this blog: and my etsyname is carameldreams, i am from germany, maybe you can remember me :)

    • linda

      Of course I remember you Sarah and I’m so glad to hear the journal I made helped you in some way – fabulous! I will email you back surely…thanks!

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