These days, everything is customizable. Popular blogging programs (like Blogger) and various online portfolios (used by artists around the world) are no exception.
Artists can change font colors, background images, and a lot more without ever needing to know how to program. . . but sometimes that’s not such a good thing.
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Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for customization—it’s just that when artists get too “creative” with their choice of font or page color they can end up driving visitors away rather than drawing them in.
The following list of don’ts is for anyone who wants to customize their art website (or already has) and isn’t sure if their changes are helping or hurting their chances of actually selling art online.
Usability and navigation
People have to be able to find their way around your website. If you make things even slightly difficult, they’ll leave and never come back.
1. Don’t hide your contact information.
The simplest thing in the world should be for visitors to get in touch with you. An average web surfer may not be able to guess that your About Page or Bio also includes your contact information, so don’t just stick it there and hope for the best.
A better solution would be to place a prominent contact the artist link on every page of your site (i.e., in the sidebar of your blog).
2. Don’t camouflage your links.
Links should always be a substantially different color from ordinary text. If users have to hover their mouse over a word to see if it’s a link or not, they’ll soon lose interest in trying to navigate your site.
To be completely honest, blue, underlined links are still the best choice because people are used to them. If you throw something different at your visitors don’t be surprised when some of them can’t figure it out.
Backgrounds, images and thumbnails
When people visit your site, there’s one thing that they definitely want to see: your artwork. Obviously, it’s important to make your images shine.
3. Don’t use vivid colors or complex patterns for your background.
Neutral, solid colors in the background make it much easier to view artwork (or images of any kind). This keeps the focus on your art, NOT on your web design.
4. Don’t upload photos which are out of focus or taken from a bad angle.
Whenever I see poorly photographed artwork, I can’t help but think that the artist has no regard for their own work—and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
5. Don’t make your thumbnails so small that people can’t see the image.
Thumbnails need to be large enough so viewers can decide whether or not to view the larger image—tiny thumbnails defeat the purpose of thumbnails to begin with!
6. Don’t be stingy with the size of your large images.
Going from a small image to just a slightly bigger image is extremely frustrating. The very first click on a thumbnail image should lead to as large an image as you can provide. (Within the size of a normal screen, of course.)
Font styling and text display
Perhaps the most abused element of web design is the written word. Remember, when it comes to text simple is almost always better.
7. Don’t use more than one font on your website.
Pick a font that’s easy to read and works on all browsers and operating systems, then stick with it. Your visitors will thank you.
8. Don’t use multiple colors of fonts.
There’s absolutely nothing—and I mean NOTHING—more distracting to visitors than seeing a rainbow of colors when they’re simply trying to read what you have to say.
9. Don’t make your text so tiny that viewers can’t read it.
Personally I’d avoid any sizes below 12pt, but it does depend on the font you choose.
10. Don’t use a lot of white text on a black background.
White text on a black screen is very painful on the eyes (as illustrated here). If you MUST have a black background, use a light gray color for your text and remember to break your blog posts into lots of little paragraphs.
11. Don’t let your text column expand sideways to fill the entire browser.
On larger computer screens, a short paragraph can turn into a single long line of text. Any photos inserted into the main body of text will cause huge chunks of white space to appear as well.
12. Don’t center large amounts of text.
Always use left-aligned text—when you do, long blog posts are much easier to read because each line begins at the same place on the screen.
And finally. . .
Don’t beat yourself up if your website is breaking some of these rules. The internet is a learning curve for everyone—just fix them and move on!
Of course, if web programming and design aren’t your forte, you may just want to pay for a website that’s already been professionally designed, and then not mess with it at all. In that case, I’d suggest taking a look at a company I co-founded called foliotwist. It’s probably exactly what you’re looking for.
Have any more rules to add? Let me know, I’d be happy to include them.