The first step to building a website for your art is deciding which website provider (also known as a website host) you will use. This is a difficult choice because there are so many options.
Many providers are just fine and will get the job done. However, as you grow your art business, your website updates will be much easier if you choose a provider that can grow with you.
You should take the following factors into consideration when choosing a website provider for your art:
Ease of Use
Before you choose a website provider, it’s important to take a moment and gauge your technical skills. Be honest with yourself. Are you willing to learn new technology? Or do you just hate computers in general?
If the answer is the latter, it is better to go with a host that is easy to use. Hosts like FASO, Square, Wix, and Weebly are created for users who are uncomfortable with building websites.
The ease of use of these sites comes with some drawbacks such as limits, fixed design options, and the inability to transport the site to another host. However, a site that is easy to use is likely to get updated more often.
The time it takes your website to load is crucial. Visitors to your site will bounce off if your site takes longer than a second or two to load which means they will never see your art.
Even worse, if users are bouncing from your site due to slow load times, the search engines will take notice. Search engines like Google prioritize user experience when ranking your site. They won’t send new visitors to see your art if the previous visitors bounce off. This means even more people won’t see your art.
TIP: Before you choose a website host – test some of their example websites for speed. Simply copy and paste the URL into a speed tester such as Google Page Speed Insights or GTMetrix. If their example websites are slow, you can bet your new website will be slow too.
Did you know that about half of the visitors to your art website will be viewing it from a cell phone?
Because so many visitors to your site are on a cell phone, your website will need to be responsive. This means that your website will have a special format that is served just to the people on a small device that looks different than your desktop version.
Most website providers offer responsive design. Likewise, if you are using a theme, most themes are built for responsive design. But make sure to double-check before making your final decision.
Your domain name is your URL, or website address. For example, the domain name for this website is www.artandprosper.com. You’re going to need a domain name for your website.
Make sure that your website provider offers you the ability to register your domain. Check to see if that’s in your pricing package. Some website hosts seem less expensive, but may not be if you have to pay extra for things like a domain name or custom email.
In addition, some free websites will give you a free domain name that looks like this: “www/hostname.com/yourname” This is not really a domain name. It’s a directory on their site with your name on it.
Using a directory name as your website URL is not optimal. Search engines use links to your website as a ranking factor. Those links will be broken when you upgrade from a directory name to a real domain name. Your domain authority will decrease when you upgrade to a real domain name until you re-establish links which will take many months or even years.
From time to time, servers get crowded with unexpected traffic or have errors. This can cause the server to “go down.” Or, basically shut off. This downtime will result in your artist site being unavailable to users.
Website providers usually provide you with a guarantee of uptime. Look for a host that guarantees 99.9% uptime. Although you will experience short outages from time to time, a provider that gives a guarantee will be proactive in keeping their servers working.
Ability to Transport Site
The ability to pack up your website and move it somewhere else is where a WordPress website shines. With WordPress, if you’re web host goes down, you can simply upload your backup onto another host and be back online. This is particularly helpful if you become unhappy with your host’s customer service, their servers go down and cannot be fixed immediately, or if your host is the victim of a cyber attack.
Whatever solution you’re looking at, make sure you fully understand what you will need to do to move your site in the future.
Did you know some website hosts will throttle your site speed if you are getting more traffic than usual? This is a real bummer if your site is finally getting attention. If you get a spike in visitors after some publicity, make sure your website host will handle it. If your site speed is throttled, you could lose valuable eyes on your art.
There are two security considerations when picking out a website provider: SSL Certificate and Back Ups.
Make sure your hosting comes with an SSL Certificate. This is encryption software that secures browsing when you visit a website. It’s also used to encrypt credit card transactions. Websites with an SSL certificate start with “https.”
Even if you aren’t selling your art on your website yet, you still need an SSL Certificate to safeguard your visitors from hackers. Search engines will deprioritize your website if you do not have an SSL Certificate.
Regular backups are crucial to your security. Even the best security software can be hacked. If this happens to you, you will want a backup that you can reinstate on your website.
Some artists will only want a portfolio website, and some will want to sell their artwork on their site. Either way, look for a provider that offers a secure shopping cart so that you have this feature when you’re ready to sell. If not, you will have to find another solution to integrate into your website.
Check the website provider’s customer service ratings before you commit. If your site goes down, or if you have technical problems setting up, great customer service is essential. Are their techs easy to understand? Will they answer a phone call or only help through chat? How fast is their response time?
Some (but few) website providers also include a free domain email address within their pricing plan. This is a worthwhile feature.
Email inboxes prioritize domain email addresses when filtering spam. This goes for your newsletter along with your email correspondence. If your email is sent from a free account (such as Gmail), your carefully crafted email is likely to land in a spam folder.
Price is a consideration for most business people, including artists. The most expensive is not necessarily the best. However, low-cost web hosting is often linked to slow speeds and low security. Purchase the best plan that you can considering the factors mentioned above.
If price is a major factor for you, check out this article on free websites for artists which includes my recommendation on the BEST free website hosts.
If you’re ready to invest in your artist website, check out this article for my recommendation on the BEST website solution for artists.