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Foundation U: 5 Features of a Good Artist Website

It takes 50 milliseconds for a website visitor to assess a first impression. This first impression translates to an understanding of the level of professionalism in your approach to your business – including assumptions about your skill levels and what it will be like to conduct business with you.

To learn what it takes to make a good impression, let’s dissect a website from a Thomas, West Virginia-based creative business. We’ll be taking a closer look at Nellie Rose Davis’ website for her company Nellie Rose Textiles (www.nellierosetextlies.com).

1. Modern Design Choices

Navigation, Compelling Imagery

On Nellie’s site, we can take note of a few basic choices that follow modern best practices for website design right off the bat: bold, professional photography showcases her product with minimal distractions; images are placed front and center; the background color for the page is bright and neutral (in this case, white); and a large, clear font with lots of breathing room is used throughout all of the pages.

The design choices made here mirror Nellie’s brand, which, overall, has a very modern feel. However, it is still possible to carry out these best practices and communicate a more traditional, or even old-fashioned, feel with your website design. The Shepherdstown-based beard and body care company Mountaineer Brand is a good example of a brand that finds the balance between adopting modern best practices and maintaining a traditional feel. Visit their site at www.mountaineerbrand.com.

2. Simple Navigation

Nellie has 6 items on her navigation bar (Home, Lookbook, Shop, Wholesale, About, Blog). It is best to keep the items listed in your navigation bar to 7 or less. With a larger website, such as the Tamarack Foundation’s site, you may notice 6 items included in our primary navigation bar (Learn New Skills, Build Your Business, etc.), and then the inclusion of a secondary navigation bar (Visit Art Spaces, About, Sponsors, etc.) to help mitigate the large volume of information we need to present. Even though the foundation offers secondary options, we point the majority of our website visitors to 6 main areas.

Each item on Nellie’s navigation bar has a title that is brief and clear (Home, Lookbook, Shop, etc.). A website visitor wants to find the information they are seeking as quickly and efficiently as possible. Pick the less-clever option when coming up with these kinds of titles.

For example, a visitor comes to Nellie’s site to find out more information about the artist. The immediately recognizable “About” will likely answer the visitor’s question. If Nellie had chosen to label this section “Behind the Scenes,” the visitor would need to spend time questioning whether or not that page contains the information they are seeking.

3. Clearly Stated Purchasing Options

Nellie has 2 prominent sections of her site to match her 2 primary customer bases – individual consumers, such as a visitor to her site who is interested in purchasing a scarf (“Shop”), and wholesale buyers, such as galleries who are interested in purchasing products at larger volumes (“Wholesale”).

Shop 1

Under her “Shop” section for individual consumers, she clearly spells out the variety of ways a visitor may purchase her products – through a gallery, online, or by visiting her at a show. The e-commerce portion of her site offers 4 options for visitors who are interested in purchasing immediately, or a visitor may browse a complete list of galleries who carry her products if they are interested in viewing her work in person. Each gallery listing includes a hyperlink to the associated company’s website so the visitor may find out more information about the venue if desired.

Offering this variety of clearly-explained options to purchase Nellie’s work allows for an easier path to turn a potential customer into a true buyer.

4. On-brand Content

Imagery and Language

Content, in this case, is comprised of the imagery and language used to make up a website. Nellie uses imagery and language across her website that all works toward a similar end. For example, the image on her About page projects similar qualities to her product photography across the website. On this page, we also get a glimpse into a good example of branded language. Nellie’s biography reads as professional with a touch of whimsy, a unique voice that we see across all of her communications about the company.

Through the consistent use of calculated words and imagery about our creative products and ourselves, we paint a picture that comprises our brand. Consider the types of characteristics you want your individual or company’s brand to project – are you funny or serious? Whimsical or straight-forward? Always select language and imagery that supports those characteristics. Stationary and paper goods company HepCatz Design based in Charleston provides a good example of the consistent use of humor to develop a unique brand voice. Visit their site at www.hepcatzdesign.com.

Read this article from Code My Views about discovering and designing for your brand’s personality for more on this topic.

5. Mobile Responsive

A “responsive” website will shift its design based on the size of the screen you are using to view it. For example, Nellie’s website looks different on a desktop computer than it does on a smartphone. In 2015, Americans spent 51% of their Internet browsing time using a mobile device (i.e. tablets and smartphones). Choosing to have a website that reads well on a mobile device is now imperative.


Mobile ResponsivePro-tip: When you’re browsing the Internet on a desktop, move your mouse to the corner of the window you are browsing in. You’ll see the cursor turn into a double arrow. You’ll be able to shrink or expand the size of the window this way. Shrink the size of the window. If the design of the website changes, it is mobile responsive. This is a quick way to research the differences in design between desktop and mobile websites. Expand the window to normal viewing size again by clicking and dragging your mouse outward at the edge of the window.


About the Author

Emma Pepper is the Program Director for the Tamarack Foundation for the Arts.

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About Tamarack Foundation U

As part of Tamarack Foundation U, the Tamarack Foundation team dives deep into a training topic for three months – covering a wide variety of angles through blog posts, webinars, Q&A’s with experts, articles added to the Resource Library, and more. Join our email list as an Artist to keep up with these efforts.

Our first Tamarack Foundation U topic is the A to Z of Websites. On June 9, 2016, we will host our first Tamarack Foundation U webinar, Demystifying Website Building for WV Artists and Creatives.