If you are serious about selling your art online, then you should be serious about developing your own website. I am not referring to those free website builders your Internet Service Provider gives you or any other free website providers. I am talking about a professional website with your own unique domain name: www.yourname.com.
There are good reasons why you should never use a free design service. The company that provides the free service owns your website space and they can do whatever they wish with your site, namely advertise on it.
There is nothing more unprofessional than unrelated banner advertising and popup windows that are usually associated with free websites. Not only are they annoying, but they also distract visitors from your art.
There is also the risk that your website provider may go out of business. That free site you spent all that time promoting is gone and your efforts were in vain.
With your own unique domain name, the worst-case scenario is you have to change hosting accounts. Your domain name remains unchanged and your customers can still reach your site.
Having your own website with a unique domain name tells your potential customers that you are a professional and serious about your business. It also looks wonderful on business cards!
Can you imagine handing out business cards at art shows or to other interested people with this printed on your cards: http://www.some freewebsite.com/artists/yourgallery/index.html. This is unprofessional and it's difficult for your customers to remember.
Having your own unique website offers convenience for you and potential customers. For instance, lets say you are traveling to another state, or another part of the world for that matter. You meet someone who is interested in seeing your work, but you don't have your portfolio with you. You may have just lost a potential customer. If you have a nice business card, with your website address printed on it, the potential customer can simply visit your website at his or her convenience to view your work, and it doesn't matter if they live around the corner or on the other side of the world! Your website is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
Now that you see the benefits of having your own website, you will need to take the first step, and that is to register your domain name (http:www.yourname.com).
Registering your own domain name is easy and extremely affordable today. My recommendation is to register through a site called Godaddy.com. They are amongst the lowest priced domain registration services online at around $9 for the entire year (this was the price at the time of writing this article).
Once you register your domain name, its time to begin your website design. You can either hire a web designer or do it yourself. Whichever method you choose here are some general guidelines:
My advice is to keep your site clean and simple. Do not load your site with lots of fancy graphics or long multimedia presentations. These only annoy and distract visitors away from your art and increase the amount of time it takes for pages to download.
Make your site navigation is easy to follow and consistent throughout your entire site.
Make it easy for your visitors to contact you. Put a "contact" or "contact us" link on every page in clear view.
Avoid animated graphics, moving text, or other animated features on your website.
Make all of the links on your site standard colors and underlined. Blue is for unvisited links, purple for visited.
Resources for do it yourself web design - There are many places online where you can learn HTML and web design completely free. One of my favorite sites is W3 Schools - http://www.w3schools.com/. W3 Schools is a wonderful site packed with lots of great information on HTML and web design. The tutorials are informative and very easy to follow.
If you are not the type who enjoys learning online, there are also a handful of great books you can purchase. "Learning Web Design" by Jennifer Niederst is a book that gives you a good all around introduction to web design. There are other great books. Just head over to a site like Amazon and a do a search for "beginner web design". Find books that have good feedback ratings from customers. Read through the feedback to make sure the book is the right fit for your experience level.
I hope this article has got you excited about getting your own website. I wish you the best of luck and God Bless!
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