As an artist, marketing and selling your work may not come naturally. You pour your creativity, passion and soul into your art and seldom have the extra time or energy to showcase it to the public. However, you should be aware that in today’s tech-driven world, it is quick and easy to set up your own website and display your art to audiences across the country and the globe. Having a branded online presence to feature your work can attract collectors and grow your career and reach as an artist.
Creating a website is not difficult. There are many user-friendly website builders on the market today, and anyone with a computer and a couple of hours (or less) can create and maintain their own individual website. Many website creation tools allow artists to market and sell their work entirely online. It is a different world than that which existed 20 years ago. You no longer need a gallery to promote and market your artwork.
But how do you know which website builder is best able to support your needs as an artist?
Key Features to Look for in a High-Quality Website Builder
When looking for the right website building forum to meet your needs as an artist, there are a few key things you'll want to keep in mind:
• Ease of use: Very few modern artists have the time or technical know-how to spend countless hours creating a website from scratch. Who has the patience to devote weeks or months to learn to code? Start your search by finding a site builder that offers the automatic creation of web pages that can be customized to fit your unique taste and style. Many of these sites keep an artist’s perspective in mind, and deliver a fast, reliable and visually appealing way to create pages and galleries for your site.
• Customized templates: Most website builders feature easily-customized attractive templates. Most allow you to add pages, images and design features to your site with just the click of a button or by dragging them into a building tool with your mouse. This capability allows even novice website creators to add multiple unique pages and stunning galleries that can be divided by subject matter, style or any other category that suits your desires and helps clients find and purchase your work.
• Optimized for mobile device access: Be sure to look for a website that is mobile-friendly, or shows up well for customers who access it from a smartphone or tablet. This is key to help optimize your site to reach the maximum number of viewers. This is how most visitors will search for, find, and purchase works of art.
• Search Engine Optimization: Some site creation tools even help by tweaking your webpages to make them rank high in search engine results pages. This search engine optimization, or SEO, can help tailor pages and give you the best chance of getting your work in front of the maximum number of viewers possible.
• Integration with social media: Chances are you already have existing social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and many other sites. Why not incorporate them directly into your website? This allows visitors to your website to automatically jump over to your social media pages to learn more about you and your work. Many site builders deliver this feature and make it easy to use with just the click of a button.
• eCommerce functions: When setting up a website specifically designed to sell your artwork, or prints of your artwork, be sure that the platform you use delivers eCommerce features. These can include a customer shopping cart, automatic calculations for tax and shipping costs on orders, and more. eCommerce features help create a smooth transaction process for customers and make them more likely to browse and purchase your work.
• Image Protection: Many artists are reluctant to feature their work online due to fears that images of their art can be copied or used illegally. While, by law, you automatically own the copyright on your artwork, many website builders make use of watermarking images to prevent their illegal use. A majority of sites also disable “right clicking” to make it more difficult for users to save images to their computers or mobile devices.
Special art-specific features
1) Prints-on-Demand (PoD) allows art buyers to purchase fine print copies of your art at a much lower price point than original artworks and then to mat and frame them. This is an excellent way for new buyers to become more familiar with your work and to become collectors of your work. It is a lot easier to sell to buyers who already own your art. This is a very important feature and we don’t know more than two providers offering this feature: Artspan and ArtStorefronts.
2) Augmented Reality (AR). Using this feature, buyers can live-preview art in the room they want to place it - at scale. This feature takes the guesswork out of purchasing art, and will have a big positive effect on sales. In fact, according to Houzz.com, consumers are 11 times more likely to make a purchase and 2.7 times more likely to stay engaged with a product when shopping while using AR. There are only two providers offering AR – Artspan and Art Storefronts. The latter charges up to $2800 for a setup fee with a top price of $59/month.
Now that you are armed with an understanding of the key features to be on the lookout for, let’s get started by exploring some of the leading website builders on the market.
For convenience, we’ve broken them down into three distinct categories:
• Category 1: Website builders tailored specifically to artists
• Category 2: Generic website builders
• Category 3: Generic eCommerce website builders
Category 1: Website Builders for Artists
Let’s begin with a rundown of several website builders that are uniquely suited to the needs of artists. Some of these sites were created by artists for artists.
Kicking off our list is a high-powered, user-friendly website builder, Artspan. Founded by an artist over two decades ago, and designed with artists’ needs in mind, Artspan delivers a fast and easy-to-use set of tools to help artists quickly create their own sites and gain more exposure. Artspan’s intuitive platform allows users to upload images of artwork, add descriptions and prices, and then use a variety of eCommerce functions to sell artwork.
Artspan pricing is quite reasonable: from $8.30 to $24.90 per month. There is a 30 day free trial. All the features are included at no extra cost. Reviews on Trustpilot: 4.6 out of 5 stars.
Artspan offers a wide range of versatile features including:
• Unlimited pages and galleries
• Unique domain names or free subdomains.
• Customizable and visually attractive design templates
• Social media integration tools
• Marketing guidance and tips provided
• Built-in SEO functions to help pages rank higher in search results
• Mobile-friendly web pages
• Artwork copyrights remain with the artist
• Customer email/chat/phone support functions
• Password protected galleries
• Automatic mailing list creation/branded email addresses
• Built-in watermark image protection
• Prints on Demand (PoD)
• Augmented Reality (AR) live preview – to scale – in any locale where a buyer might be.
• eCommerce functions like shopping carts and sales tax calculators
• Free SSL certificate
• Website Statistics
Finally, Artspan also has a Marketplace, with advanced search features allowing users to browse by artist, color, style, genre and more. Thus Artspan members can sell to buyers going directly to their individual sites. Buyers can also find their work using the intuitive Marketplace search functions.
Next up is BigBlackBag. This site is also user-friendly and has quite a few diverse design templates to help artists build a visually appealing space to host their works. BigBlackBag aims to help artists rank high in search engine results pages through a variety of SEO enhancements. They offer a 14-day free trial and 30-day money back guarantee for customers who are not satisfied with their service. Additional features from BigBlackBag include:
• Layouts which work well when viewed from any device, including smartphones
• User-friendly page development process
• Online customer support
• eCommerce features
• Integrated marketing tools
• Social media integration
Pricing: $9 to $30 per month. Some of the features have an extra charge.
Fine Art Studio Online (FASO)
The next website builder targeted to artists is the Fine Art Studio Online, or FASO. FASO helps artists start up their own online galleries with a variety of artful website templates. Some templates are minimalist in design; others are more visually complex. For artists facing technical issues with FASO’s tools, they offer an interactive chat and customer support to solve issues. Beyond basic site building tools, FASO helps artists take advantage of marketing ideas to promote their work and increase sales.
Artists also are eligible to participate in the monthly “Bold Brush” competition.
• PayPal button for sales
• Website statistics
• 1-3 Branded Email Accounts
• Email marketing available in higher-tiered plans
• Chat support available at all levels; phone support available at higher-tiered plans
• Free SSL certificates
• Free domain name at all levels
Pricing runs from $8 to $40/month.
FolioLink is a portfolio creation and management site for artists. Like most of the other site builders we’ve covered thus far, FolioLink has a nice range of unique page design templates to help artists get started. Artists can easily switch among multiple layouts at any time to find the one that best fits their needs. This tool also has a batch image upload feature to minimize the time spent creating a gallery, and has tools for resizing, cropping and adding borders to images.
• Designed specifically with artists in mind
• Ecommerce up to 100 images
• Website statistics
• Email marketing available in higher tiered plans
• Chat and phone support available at all levels
• Unlimited portfolios
FolioLink has a support team available to chat online or by phone to help users overcome technical hurdles.
Pricing: from $99 to $349 per year. It is not clear as to additional fees for other features. Ecommerce: sites can be integrated with your PayPal account.
Next on the list is OtherPeoplesPixels, or OPP. OPP aims to help artists build world-class websites to showcase their work by using their 10 years of experience serving artists as a small, independent and artist-owned business. OPP hosts a variety of features including:
• An intuitive user interface
• Personalized email addresses and domain names
• Customized site layouts and themes
• Mobile device support and social media integration
• Ability to embed sound and video into galleries
Only email support for problems. These seem to be pretty basic sites and unchanged for quite a few years.
Pricing from $16 to $26 per month.
Art Storefronts (ASF)
Rounding out our list of website builders for artists is Art Storefronts. Unlike the website builders covered so far, Art Storefronts functions more as an online consultation team to help clients start up a functioning fine art business. They offer marketing consultations to increase the number of visitors to a site and, like Artspan, Art Storefronts offers AR features to help customers try an artist’s works in their home or office instantly. As mentioned previously, this innovative feature can boost sales dramatically. Art Storefronts also has dedicated tools to help integrate social media accounts and has a variety of eCommerce features available.
ASF is not for everyone but for those willing to spend more and looking for a comprehensive marketing training program that will help shape their own efforts, this could be a good option.
• Designed specifically with artsits in mind
• Shopping Cart
• Prints on Demand
• Email marketing and website statistics available in higher-tiered plans
• Augmented Reality Feature (AR)
• Email account through G-Suite
• Marketing Calendar
Pricing: $44 to $59/month (prices have recently gone up but we do not know the details – they can be obtained by calling ASF who will return your call). Set-up fees from $1000 to $2800 one time fee.
Category 2: Generic Website Builders
This category of website builder platforms, while not targeted toward those in the art community specifically, can still be beneficial for artists looking to create their own site.
GoDaddy is a popular website builder that is very much targeted toward small business owners. It offers professionally-designed, ready-to-launch page templates tailored to specific industries such as automotive, retail, fashion and more. GoDaddy has a 24/7 tech support team and, as does almost everyone, guarantees a 99.9% uptime, or that their site will be online and functioning at nearly all times. GoDaddy says that they help users with making their pages rank higher in search engine results and that they offer marketing and eCommerce assistance.
Wix is a multi-purpose site creation platform for small businesses, bloggers and individuals wanting to showcase their work online. It features a tool, which the company calls the Wix Artificial Design Intelligence, to help users build a basic website design which can be tweaked to suit their specific needs and tastes. Customer reviews on Trustpilot give Wix a 1.5 star rating (out of 5 possible). Wix can show users a preview of the mobile versions of their sites and also offers:
• Tailored search engine optimization plans
• An online logo design tool
• Over 500 designer-made templates
• Drag-and-drop website building tools
• Video backgrounds, scroll effects and animation
• eCommerce functions to accept orders, take payments and more
• Free SSL certificates
• Free domain names
Wix's pricing runs from $13 per month (annual payment) for the Combo plan. It's ad-free, includes hosting, and a domain name for 1 year. The Unlimited plan costs $17 per month (again annual payment) and has no bandwidth or storage limits. The cheapest ecommerce plan is Business Basic at $23 per month or if you pay monthly, $28/month. Wix VIP at $39 per month cost when payment is made annually and includes priority support.
Weebly is a business-focused site builder with customizable web page designs and tools to help grow a business and build a large customer base. Weebly offers a step-by-step process that starts with unlocking starter guides and planning tools to help companies map out what they want their site to look like. Next, users access a customizable site builder and create the details of their webpages. After the site goes live, eCommerce tools can be added to help manage orders, decide on shipping options and accept payments.
Weebly’s sites allow for social media integration including the incorporation of Facebook ads and automated email campaigns. Beyond basic site setup tools, Weebly hosts a community of like-minded entrepreneurs to connect with and share ideas, learn and grow together. Despite these advantages, some users report problems when trying to solve technical issues with Weebly’s customer support team. Weebly was by reviewed by 348 customers as of January 2020 on Trustpilot and received a 3 star rating out of 5 possible stars.
• Free domain at higher levels
• Free website builder
• eCommerce tools
• Marketing tools
• 3rd party embed code
• Shopping cart for small processing fee
• Chat and phone support
Annual pricing for website plans is as follows: Connect at $60, Pro at $144, Business at $300 and Business Plus at $456.
Squarespace is another widely-used website creation tool that help people build a professional site, feature a portfolio of work or set up their own online store. Trustpilot reviews by 379 customers rate them at 2 stars out of 5 possible. No doubt people are more likely to review a service like this when they are unhappy but we feel Trustpilot is still a good example of common website problems. Common issues include difficulty in using the tools (not intuitive), and poor customer service, with some users entirely unable to reach the tech support team or receiving lackluster assistance. Design customization appears also to be very problematic. However, it should be noted that some customers rate them highly. Some Squarespace features are:
• Marketing tools for novices and seasoned business owners
• Social media account integration
• Advanced site search features
• Automatic email marketing content creation
• Tailored communication strategies to increase the number of visitors to a website
• Free SSL certificates
Plans are $16-$46 per month when paid by the month. Annual payments are discounted.
Ready to Get Started?
To sum it all up, as an artist, you have a lot to gain by creating your own website. A website can help gain exposure, promote your work and even lead to exciting opportunities to sell your work in today’s modern online marketplace. However, with so many choices at your fingertips, it pays to do your research and find the right website builder for your specific needs. Since most require only a minimal investment of time and little to no technical know-how, there is no excuse not to get started today.