Thursday, 28 December 2006

Going dotcom

The idea of having a website for my drawings had been brewing for a while and, after the protracted grind of filing a tax return, it took on the appearance of rather enjoyable and straightforward project. The internet is an important marketing tool for the artist, we hear. How, otherwise, are people supposed to believe you are an artist if you don’t have an exhibition on or they haven’t seen your unsold paintings lying around your house? A website means your work can be seen anywhere from your next-door neighbour’s house to Kazakhstan and Peru. This is the theory, anyway.

Art is, in some ways, ideally suited to the internet. A good website will give potential buyers, gallery owners or curators some idea of which direction an artist is coming from. It is now the easiest way of letting people see your work, but what about selling it? Let’s be realistic. You wouldn’t agree to marry someone by meeting them only on the web, and you wouldn’t buy a house just by reading the estate agent’s details online, so why expect people to do something really important, such as buy a painting, after just seeing it on a website? But going dotcom should, hopefully, make some potential buyers interested in seeing the real thing.

So I spend time checking out other artists’ websites to get ideas about what may work best for mine. Some are like stepping inside the thatched Cotswold cottage of a major purchaser of Beatrix Potter collectibles, with flowery borders and the effect of pixellated potpourri. Others engulf with a blitz of shifting graphics that are as disorienting as travel sickness and draw more attention to the art of the designer than the artist. Some are fantastic, but there is no way I could adapt a similar approach because I am not as prolific, or well exhibited, and am not frequently asked questions of any sort.

The simpler and more direct a site is, the more I like it, and this is good news for my old mate Colin Bowling, who is designing it for me. But there are questions to ask myself first. What really is the point of having this website? Who do I think will view it, and what questions about me as an artist will they want answered by it? What images do I want included? How detailed does my CV have to be? It isn’t a ten-minute job to get together what I want to go in, and although I can improve things in time, it is important to get things as right as possible first time.

Another vital thing to do is register a good address for a site. The best, I think, is a simple yourname.com, but it is likely this has already been taken by a large tractor dealership in Wisconsin or a classical guitar tutor in the Scottish Highlands. Sure enough, other James Hobbses have got in there before me; I have to settle for james-hobbs.co.uk.

So Colin designs it and we spend a week or so bouncing emails to and fro until we have something we are happy with. Soon after he has finished, and it has gone live, I email the people in my address book with its details. I check the statistics page that comes as part of the website package: a generous wave of people logged on as it launched. Someone even contacted me expressing an interest in buying a drawing.

But within a few days the number of people logging on has dropped to a handful. A website is just one club in the bag to take around the artistic golf course. Rather than preparing to employ a full time framer and retire to the coast, the struggle to get people to look at the website has only just begun.

And you can see it at www.james-hobbs.co.uk.

Contact Colin Bowling at info@colinbowling.com.

4 comments:

Alistair said...

Hi James, Congratulations on your new web site, nice and clean and functional. I would like to make an observation about functionality. I browse many picture sites as I am sure you do. One thing that drives me mad is having to click each picture to see a larger version. even more irritating when you have to close a popup to move to the next image. Much better to offer a Slide Show option so you can view all the images in succession.
Love your work. Cheers
Alistair

vivien said...

your website looks good and this blog is fun - I've bookmarked it :) and will check in regularly

I agree a slide show option would be good - only as an option though as some people click away from a site that opens as a slide show. I originally had a slide show on my first page and following that advice moved it

JohnHarrison said...

James.
You're probably wondering what I'm doing, commenting on a 6 year old blog post. I am at the moment,almost exactly where you were back then, and the (extremely well-written) post summed up my feelings exactly: I have
a body of work which has drawn some modest praise and comments about selling, I have a techy son who's put together a web site, but although I have started to populate the empty spaces where my work is to go, I'm starting to wonder if it's too complex: your own site is clean and functional, and your insight about buying something off 'tinterweb is so true...mmmm thanks for the prompt to rethink!

James Hobbs said...

John - thanks for the kind message. Colin has just tweaked my website, and I'm feeling rather good about it. Now I can't imagine being without it. If you want to know about something or someone, you search it online, and if you don't find anything about it, you tend to think it doesn't exist. Wrong, but true.
Good luck with your site. Let's hope for sales.
James