One high school summer vacation I worked as a Mobil Holiday Hostess—a fancy name for a gas station attendant in the days before self-serve pumps. The company trained me in a strict sequence of actions designed to make the customer glad to pay for the service. While we pumped gas, we were to clean the windshield, check the oil and water levels, and warn the customer of any other needed maintenance issues.
Three days in a row, I performed this service sequence for a regular customer. He was a traveling sales representative so time off the road cost him money and raised his blood pressure like the steam rising from his hood.
Midway through filling the radiator, a wasp buzzed past my face. As I jumped back to escape being stung, I noticed about 300 other wasps stuck in the grill. The wasps had hitched a ride as he drove the country roads from town to town, which eventually reduced the car’s cooling capacity by preventing airflow. Once the swarm of hitchhikers were removed, my customer went on his way, happy that he could present his wares again.
In many ways, your artist website is the vehicle for putting your wares in front of viewers. What’s under the hood of your website determines a lot about whether a viewer will spend more than a few seconds at your site.
I leave search engine optimization and some of the other more esoteric details to my web master, but I can still tell if there are problems with the “engine” of a website. For instance, I notice how easily I can move through the menus to find what I need, or if it takes too long for an image to load.
Below are several diagnostic questions that you might want to ask of yourself (or your webmaster) when you get a chance. Not all of them will be applicable to every website, but most of them will be.
I’ve also organized them into four categories for easy reference: speed, navigation, images, and text.
Does your web site load quickly?
Do your nested menus automatically expand so I can quickly scan the sub-menus?
Do links open quickly?
Can I enlarge images without a long wait?
Do your menu items follow a typical visitor’s path of inquiry?
Is your primary navigation menu visible on every page?
Can I easily get back to your home page from every page?
Can I click icons to visit to your social media pages or view your RSS feed?
Do outbound links open in a new window or tab, so I remain on your site?
Do you have a search box or a site map if you have a large site?
Do you have a prominent link to your shopping cart so I can get back to it easily if I get lost?
Do you have your images grouped in themes, e.g. local landscapes, international vistas?
Do your images have titles (even rollover titles work) as well as dimensions and copyright date?
Is there a slideshow option for large groups of work?
Can I enlarge the images so that I can see details in the art?
Can I use my browser, or shortcut keys, to enlarge the text on your page?
And, if I enlarge the text, does the rest of the page reload proportionately to avoid overlaps?
Some of these items may seem nit-picky, but they can be very influential in keeping visitors on your website long enough to find art that they love. As a visitor to any website, I simply won’t waste my time getting lost or confused. . . but I will linger a bit longer if everything just flows for an enjoyable ride.
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