Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Tangled Web

Before I launch into what I wanted to post about, I will tell you about my trip to the dentist. Apparently I broke part of the cusp. So they gave me an option, I could try something called a buckle patch, or I could have a crown. I went with the buckle patch since I really didn't want another crown. It has a 50/50 shot of staying, so I am in a holding pattern for the moment. He said if it wasn't going to hold we should know within the week. Keep your fingers crossed. I know a crown is inevitable eventually, but I would prefer it later rather than sooner.

I spent my evening with a stack of prominent decorating and craft magazines, the computer and a cup of coffee. I decided since I can't make up my mind what I want to do for this most recent layout, that I would go have a look to see what other people have done on their websites. I went through the ads and any that caught my eye merited a trip to their site.

I must say I was quite surprised by what I saw. While a few were truly engaging and delightful and held my attention...sadly many didn't.

So approaching this from a customer standpoint I will tell you a few things I didn't care for. Maybe that will give someone reading this some feedback. I don't want to hurt any one's feelings by any means, but I think feedback helps us all and I always welcome feedback about my site and how to improve it.

First of all some of them led directly to a blog that people were selling their wares from. Now I know a few of you do that, and I suppose there is nothing wrong with it really. But websites are extremely easy and inexpensive to create what with the software available these days. While I do know how to code, you really don't need to know any more.

From my perspective if you are taking an expensive ad out in a major publication, you should be selling from a site. It just seems more professional.

Another thing I came across were several sites that were one page with a picture or two and a link to their Etsy shop. I didn't click the links because I thought why did you bother doing a site if all you are going to do is send me to Etsy? And quite frankly I don't want to have to track you all over the Internet to find your stuff.

For the sites that I did go to that were actually sites, I noticed a few other things. Some people seem to put so much text on their front pages that I wasn't sure if I was at their site or at their blog. I don't want to read 15 paragraphs on the front page. I want to see your stuff...and maybe a nice little welcome note. IF your stuff interests me then I want to read more about you and your techniques, but to me that should be on another page where it's up to the guest if they want to take time to read that or not. If I am still intrigued then I will pay a visit to your blog. But the first thing you need to grab my attention is a couple pictures of your work that will draw me further into your site and inspire me to click the links so I can see more.

I also don't want to see tons of personal pictures and stories about your family or pets on your front page. Save that for your artist page or better yet, your blog which is like your house, not your place of business.

Which brings up another point. Some of the front pages I saw had tiny pictures in random sizes. That's fine if you're going for a specific puzzle-esque sort of look. But if it's unintentional then you might want to consider making things a little more uniform so it doesn't look haphazardly thrown together. Also many of the pictures were terribly dim. Tiny dim pictures don't tell me what I am even looking at. Thumbnails are fine if they can be clicked and lead to a bigger image of that item. But make sure what is in the thumbnail is discernable on an average computer screen.

Now for the tricky part. The graphics that support your stuff. I am going to say the same thing I have always said to people about their work when I have taught classes. CONTINUITY!

Chances are people who appreciate art or other artists themselves are going to be the bulk of who visits your site. Those types of people are visually stimulated. Make your site visually appealing. But make sure it is has something in common with what you sell. For instance, you wouldn't put graphics that look like they belong on the Facebook page of a 16 year old girl on a site that sells high end victorian antiques. (That was just an example I didn't see that specific thing. But I did see a few things that didn't make any sense.)

Since what I make has a vintage vibe to it, usually my layouts also have some type of vintage vibe to them. It has to make sense. That's not to say you can't make a theme and run with it.

Something else I found truly annoying was sold items. If you have A LOT of items that have sold take them off of your site please. I went to one site that had nothing but page after page after page of sold items. I finally gave up looking for something that was still for sale because even on my fast computer it was taking ages to load. If you want people to see your past work, do a nice gallery of past works, but please don't leave it all up there after it's sold. I would prefer a note on that page that says more items will be arriving soon and maybe a small montage or a group photo of what types of items that page would have, if everything is sold rather than waiting for it all to load and finding nothing available for the effort.

I came across one site that was so nicely done that I stared at their enter page for a full 15 seconds before I moved on. Their site was similar to mine in many ways, but honestly they did it better than I did. I bookmarked that site. I will be returning to it.

Now I realize you may not agree with my assessments of what I saw. But this is just my opinion. I feel that creative people need to express their creativity on their website as well as in their work. It's all an extension of ourselves as artists. That's the goal I keep working towards with my own site. Mine isn't perfect by far, but I keep trying to improve it so that you will enjoy your visit to my world.

I want it to be a fun experience and hopefully something unique that you will think about after you leave and want to return...although that is no easy task. Which is why I keep making new layouts and not using them. I will get there.

For me the perfect site is something attractive, with graphics that enhance but not overpower the work shown, and tells a little bit of a story about what's being sold and the artist who makes it.

Ultimately I think if you are going to spend a lot of time and money on advertising, then make sure you have something that makes the person happy they set their magazine down and went to the computer to have a look. I know it can be time consuming and difficult at times, but your guest deserves it and so does your work.


Heather said...

Part of my job is keeping up on web trends... and this is something that I have always found really shocking... the lack of good design out there, ESPECIALLY when it comes to websites of artists!

You would think, they... of all people... would have amazing websites. But no.

One of my favorite artists has what I consider one of the most annoying webpages ever... because the page with all of the update information is a 'blog' in which there is a scroll box within a scroll box... annoying. ( )

Can you post a link to the site that you liked and bookmarked? I would love to see it!

KellyJo said...

Nice input. I hope one day to get into having a website and to have this "food for thought" is great. Internet and computers is such a different "animal" than all the fluff and stuffing, I think people just don't know how to incorporate that medium to market their product. It takes looking at the "big picture" and it takes a unique artist to put it all together in a nice and interesting, creating a site that makes you want to come back. Thanks for the post and hope your tooth is okay too!!! :D

Katy Cameron said...

Great post. Unfortunately I think for many the web came along after their business started, and the computer phobic have put things off as long as possible, probably until collectors kept asking if they had a site to showcase their work. It takes time to learn, people get frustrated with technology they don't understand, and throw up a 'holding page', or a rough start until they learn more. Except then they don't really learn more, and don't update :o(

I am a software tester with a degree in computer science, and have had several websites that I've run in the past. For my business one I spent a couple of long weekends working out exactly what I wanted, but I was quite happy to pay a hosting template type company rather than try and code every page the same and risk it not being unified or anything like that. A friend is also a web designer and I ran it past him before I went live too, just to be sure. I think I've passed your tick list of tests, at least I hope I have!

Good luck with getting your design finalised so that you're happy with it. Hope your tooth feels better soon too, and you don't need the crown!

bensonbear said...

Oooooh dear, I really must get onto doing something with my website. Being a late-comer and a computerphobe, it's a hard task for me and I'd much rather be creating with my hands. I should collar my son some time and see if he can do something "noice" for me. Maybe during Uni hols he can be my webmaster :)Meantime, I'll get over there and update......

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Current copyright laws allow for all work to be automatically protected when it is created. All original artwork, photos, text, logo, descriptions, and derivative works from Blondheart are not to be copied, imitated or distributed in any way. All rights reserved solely by the artist, Kelly Dauterman.

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