Making an Art Site Useful

I’ve been rethinking my web page: How to make it more useful – for visitors and for myself. And I want to start it as a project: Learn as I go and share what I learn.

It hit me recently that although I add content to my website since over a decade, it never has been really useful. I simply never considered what I’m aiming for – and just added my pictures and thoughts, because that’s what everyone does, hoping somehow people would find it and like it. But there is no clear reason to actually seek the site.

I want to change that. I will make a proper plan for the way forward: What do I want to reach and how do I get there? And as I work through it, I will share my efforts and results – maybe making my statistics public. Would be fantastic if I can get fellow artists to join, and share their opinions and own experiences.

art page mind map

I tried to make a little overview of how my site content connects in the web…. yeah it wasn’t that useful for me either.

It’s not that my site is pointless. When I show it to potential clients, they’re often impressed with the content and presentation – and that helps me to convince them to hire my services. But that’s not really what the world-wide-web is for, right? This should scale globally: I should be able to get much more visitors and get them engaged enough to eventually make some income: Either through the site, or through selling on the site – or though finding more clients.

If my art would just make everyone swoon and fight to buy it, then all this might just go by itself. There are artists like that – but I’m not one of them. People like my art, I get compliments and I sell semi-regularly. But people like a lot of other art as well. To ever live just from selling my personal work will be a tough challenge. I’m working of course to improve my art at all times – but a good website is simply part of the job. Let’s see it as a piece of a puzzle – and let’s start sorting the first pieces:

The Situation

  • Right now I receive on average 1500 unique visitors per month. That’s 50 per day.
  • I tried ads, but with the numbers above it’s not even bringing the hosting costs back.
  • I have the webshop, but it’s actually still a bit of a hurdle. Again: With this number of users and the fact that they’ll actually have to need an artwork – and then go through the hoops to order – it would just not be enough for a steady income.
  • In other words: I didn’t have a clear and working “call to action” – something I could ask of my users, so that I could sustain this site. That’s actually the core of the problem I see – I was aimless, and the visitors didn’t get an aim either.
web stats 2015

Monthly unique visitor statistics for one year until today. Averaging at roughly 1500 per month.

The Goal

At the end it is all about fixing the call to action – if I don’t have that, then even having visitors would be useless. … and I’ve already started working on that recently since I discovered patreon. That’s a website for asking for monthly support by users – and this really lit up the light bulb in my head. Some weeks ago, I’ve added prominent buttons here as my call to action. And that should be the part I’ll lead my users to, if they’re happy with the content.

Of course the more people that visit, the more they can see my “support me” request, and click the red button. So next I need to to drive the visitor amounts up. I’ll have to look into Google and Search Engine Optimization – how can I be found more often by users in my target group…

Call to Action

My current call to action in the sidebar.

… and for that just paintings aren’t enough. First off – google doesn’t work just with images, it needs a context it can understand. And it’s unlikely that art-lovers would just type “ink painting” for example, to find nice art. I myself come across art I like when searching for other topics, or reading articles about the craft, and then fall in love with what I see around it. So I think that’s the way I have to go here: Create something that people look for, and then give them content they’ll appreciate a lot and show my art around it – so that some might feel it’s worth supporting me.

Which brings me to the aspect of conversion rate: How many of my visitors will go through and do the action I call for? Since I added the “support me on patreon” buttons, one or two people click it per day. That’s a 2 percent click-through rate. Though it’s not the actual conversion yet. The users then would have to sign up there and pledge, so it’s an extra hurdle no visitor has taken so far.
Let’s say it like this: To get 2% to click the button you want ain’t a shabby first step. There was some interest there to support me. If I could just ten-fold the visitors, then that should give room for actual conversions.

The Steps

So these three things I want to figure out in the coming time: Have people seek my content, have google list it for them, and then covert some to supporters.

Part 1: Offer something people seek

For the first “offer something people seek” part, I want to create tutorials – especially about the ink and line-art works I do recently. I had to read up a lot anyways.
And in an recursive twist I will use this series to publish my steps of making this site useful. including about my efforts to enhance my patreon project. What I learned about the technology and about user behavior might be interesting for other artists.

Part 2: Make people find the page

That means optimizing for search engines mostly – how to make google see your content, and rank it for good keywords. I’ll have to reshuffle my links and page-layout a little bit. Some aspects of social sharing and such will be part of it as well.
But I’m not starting from zero here, I have 10 years of looking at my web-stats after all (metrics can also be something to talk about).

Part 3: Convert!

Let’s see how my new call to action will fare. A-B testing about different buttons is something I already started, and I can share the results. My patreon art site itself will be part of this. I will have to enhance it to make people that check by there also pledge.

That covers it for now. I’ll go into the exact steps in other feature articles. I hope this all sounds interesting. That I’m writing this from the bottom of the mountain looking up rather than already standing on top of it, means that readers should take my ideas with a grain of salt. But it also means that I can honestly test my theories – and should they not work, it’s a useful lesson as well.