In my last post I wrote about why an artist would need a website. In this post I would like to write about how you can do that. There are many website builders out there and the choice can be a little overwhelming. In order to choose the right one for you you need to figure out what you need and how much you want to do yourself.
Some website builders are easier to use than others. Some offer more flexibility. Some have beautiful templates, others require you to be a bit creative. Some are more expensive. You really have to ‘shop around’ and find the one that suits your needs. Ask others what they went for. Sign up for a trial here and there and see for yourself. Or if all fails, hire someone to do it for you.
What do you Need from a Builder?
Below are some of the most used website builders that I know of and I will try to add some of their features and prices so you can compare. This post is only intended to help you get on the way making the right choice.
A list of what an artist website needs:
- Domain connect : you need to be able to register or connect your own domain name with your site (usually not available with free packages). You do not have to have your domain registered with the website builder company. Your domain registrar can simply ‘point’ to the builder you choose.
- Unlimited or enough pages. Some builders only give you a limited number of pages.
- Plenty of (image) space. Most builders give you ‘unlimited’ space but some put a limit on it.
- Coding option. If you know a little HTML it is great to be able to tweak the coding a little. If you don’t know any HTML then you don’t need this option.
- Optimised template for mobile is a must. All websites must be able to resize on mobiles and tablets. So make sure you use a template that is optimised.
- Nice gallery options. The most important feature for visual artists is how you show off your art. Many builders have the same (limited) options of a thumbnail gallery with a pop up image, but some builders offer more options.
- Form builder (contact form etc). Instead of publishing your email address on your website it is useful to have a contact form. Make sure this feature is included in your package and think of any other forms you might need (sign up forms for example).
- Social media links/integration. Most of us are on social media and it would be nice if those familiar logos are included in your template.
- Blog feature would be nice, in case you might want to write a bit more about your work.
- Shop feature would be nice. If you are interested in selling products, check out whether your builder offers a shop function.
- Visitor statistics would be nice. Not a vital extra as you can use Google Analytics for this, but a nice little extra.
- Option to grow. if ever you decide to start that blog/shop/etc, it would be nice if you did not have to change website builder but can grow with it.
All of these website builders offer a ‘what you see is what you get’ (WYSIWYG) website builder where you can drag and drop elements into your web design.
They all have templates where you can simply replace the template content with your own content. They will have different designs for different types of pages. They will all have various gallery features, such as a pop up gallery with thumbnails. Some have more gallery options such as sliders and full screen backgrounds.
The pages you should consider creating are at least:
- Home page
- Gallery page with your art work
- About page with your bio, statement and/or CV
- Contact page with a contact form
You can add pages such as:
- Exhibitions page for upcoming shows
- News page
- Blog page
- Shop page
- Commissions page
Do browse other artists’ websites to get ideas!
I must admit I have been with Weebly for many years. I really like Squarespace as well but the cost has put me off so far. Although I have moved my site to WordPress I still run my mother-in-law’s business site via Weebly. I will explain why I like Weebly….
Compare Website Builders
I have been with Weebly for a very long time. I signed up for a free package which, back then, offered much more than free packages offer nowadays. Thankfully Weebly has allowed me to keep the package. But even though a decent package is not free anymore, I still think Weebly is a great website builder and would recommend it to anyone.
It is by far the easiest to use from all builders (and I have tried many). They have a good number of templates to choose from and you can move things around and change stuff endlessly. There are almost no limits to your ideas. You can make changes to the coding if you wish.
I am a fan. The only reason I left Weebly recently (read why I left Weebly in this blog post) is because I needed more blogging functionality. That said, Weebly’s blog function is ok and might well suffice for a simple blog.
The Starter package would probably do well for most artists. You would have no Weebly ads and you have unlimited space.
Weebly recently introduced the app centre, which works like the App Store: a place full of third party apps to integrate into your site. I am not a fan. I think the in-house functions work much better and many apps charge money for very simple design features that weebly should offer themselves. I am seriously hoping it is not Weebly’s excuse to stop offering design features.
- Free £0, no own domain connect, simple stats, weebly ad in footer (edit it away in the code), Blog feature
- Starter £5 pm, the above plus: connect own domain, stats, own footer, no branding, online store >10 products.
- Pro £8 pm, the above plus: HD video/audio players, password protected pages, site search, membership, online store >25 products.
- Business £17 pm, the above plus: online store unlimited. more e-commerce features.
Squarespace wins hands down when it comes to template design. Their templates are simply beautiful. Granted, you might be able to recognise a Squarespace site as there is a slight ‘brand style’ going on, but who cares when it looks that good.
A Squarespace site is packed full of features. Everything you’d ever need is there. I would really recommend it. The only negatives I can think of is that it is pricey and some of themes can be complex to figure out, let alone adjust. The templates are best used as they come. There is a CSS editor however.
Another potential negative is the limit of 20 pages. If you just use an image gallery with lightbox popup, you should be fine. But if you have bigger plans you might run out of pages. I am not sure whether your blog pages count towards your limit. Something to double check. You would have to sign up to the Business Plan to get unlimited pages, which is very expensive indeed.
Squarespace seems made for visual artists with beautiful image galleries, image effects and lots of white space.
- £10 p/m personal website. 20 pages.
- £15 p/m business website. unlimited pages.
Many people love Wix although I found it not as intuitive as Weebly or Squarespace.
Wix has loads of templates to choose from, which is great as it brings the huge flexibility of the system down to some sort of order. Wix takes a little longer to figure out but it is really very flexible and you can create anything you like.
Wix has five different packages ranging from £2.55 to £15.57 p/m (excl. VAT). The affordable Combo package (£6.28 p/m) could well be enough for many who are after a simple portfolio site.
It is a little harder to change your template without having to start all over again, which I find a huge minus point. I like to play around with design and not being able to swap templates easily was one of the reasons I did not choose Wix.
There are third-party apps available (not all free) that you can integrate into your site. Third party apps are always (like with Weebly) hit and miss: some are great other not so. I do prefer them to keep things in-house.
I am not a huge fan of Wix, as the editor is, although very flexible, not as intuitive as, for example Weebly, but many people do seem to like it so I suppose it is a matter of personal preference. Once you are familiar with the system, you might love it.
£40 p/y. I do not understand how a website builder wanting to advertise its own services for web design can have an ugly home page, but Clicpic (Clicpic via Jackson’s Art Sites) seems popular with artists.
Granted, their customer websites look alright, and it is very affordable, easy to use, and is aimed at artists. It has very limited choice in templates however that all look very similar.
A clicpic website is easy to recognise as they all look pretty much the same. But if you don’t care (it is hardly like the whole internet runs on clicpic), it could be a very good, affordable and user friendly option for you.
Jimdo looks nice, but I have never tried it. It has 15 templates to chose from. None of them look amazing but for basic features it is ok. Their Pro package seems ok although there are better builders out there.
- Free. 500mb bandwidth, no free domain (yourname.jimdo.com), no connect external domain, no email account, 1 password protected area, no stats, no custom footer, with Jimdo ads, no mobile express page, less SEO options, online store >5 products, Blog feature (no archive, basic tagging)
- Pro. £5 pm. 5gb bandwidth, free domain, connect external domain, 1 email account, 5 password protected areas, stats, custom footer, ad free, mobile express page, more SEO options, online store >15 products, Blog feature(no archive, basic tagging)
- Business. £15 pm. unlimited bandwidth, free domain, connect external domain, 20 email accounts, unlimited password proteced areas, stats, custom footer, ad free, mobile express page, more SEO options, online store unlimited products, Blog feature(no archive, basic tagging)
Other popular web site builders
What did You Go For?
I’d love to hear your experiences with these (and other) website builders. Do you agree with me or have you got totally different ideas? I’d love to hear!
This post is the 2nd post in a 3-part series on building websites for artists: