What are important things to have on your website?
I remember reading the rants on Twitter almost a year ago from different agents about the dos and don'ts on artist websites. Much of what they were bothered by I did not retain in my brain because I was unaware of what they were referring to at the time. Some of the vague things I remember is them wanting an email address rather than a form that will email you through the website ( I hope that is correct).
Anyone have any good advice on this subject? I am about to get my site up and running, and want to do it the best way possible.
I would love to see the repiles on this one I really want to do the same once I have a bit more of a collection to put up. Also where do you get / how do you get a site?
If you're looking for something specific to children's books, there was a Third Thursday discussion about that very recently that's on the website for download.
If not, then what genre/area are you looking to get into?
@ambiirae I built mine in WEEBLY, using a premade template, and I purchased my domain name so it wasn't www dot Weebly dot my name, it's just my name. I pay a yearly fee of $80 to keep that domain up.
@withlinesofink what was the 3rd Thursday? If it was the agents episode, I have seen it, but from what I understand, their focus wasn't really on the details of what to have one your site. I have just seen a lot of comments from agents about the hownthey just pass by certain sites because of common irritating things such as how one shows their email and so forth.
I built my website as part of a class assignment, so that was ages ago and I do not remember everything. I then got a paid portfolio review from an AD of children books later on to refine it further. What I remember is:
- Art only, text can be limited to the title or completely absent;
- Either a consistent style or an easy way for an AD to separate different types of work (some ADs like to see different styles, others don´t - that is a personal choice of the artist). Different styles or types of work can be on different pages or be separated by a filter function on the main page.
- Get rid of ALL students work (figure studies, etc...) throughout the website. Some ADs like to see development sketches of finished illustrations, though.
- If you are going for children books stay true to the genre as much as possible. Will Terry has a very extensive video on what must be in a Children illustration portfolio. Especially avoid adult content and horror.
- If you are up to running it, a blog can help traffic (you can link your posts from social media and regular new content makes your website more "searchable" by the internet critters). Same is with SEO, but my attempts at both have been quite feeble so far.
- I remember my teacher was adamant about the background being white. I don´t think that is such a hard rule, but it was for him.
- I do not believe the contact form vs e-mail is such a big deal. But I do have both on my contact page, just in case.
- In general, clean and simple is the way to go. ADs are busy people and want to get a fast overview of the work. Thumbnails plus gallery seems to be the golden standard.
Hope that is of any help!
@smceccarelli Regarding the email, I recall Giuseppe Castellano (Twitter | Website) taking issue with the email address not being present on the site. He was fine with a way to minimize spam, such as:
"Name [AT] Website [DOT] com"
But he wanted to at least be able to put the email address into a spreadsheet for future contact (and maybe some other reasons)
He had made a good enough case for it that I immediately went and added that to my contact section.
I think @Rich-Green had read/heard that same discussion too and may remember more (or where/when it was said)
@smceccarelli excellent list! This is exactly what I was looking for.
@QuietYell yes, that is what it was. Thanks for the clarification.
@quietyell yes you are correct Guiseppe had stated that he wanted to have a record of "sending" the email - and he would not have that if an artist only had a contact form on their website. So he liked to be able to type in their email address or hit a button that launched a new email with their address, much better instead.
Here was the post I had shared here about the contact form thing: http://forum.svslearn.com/topic/2620/artip-from-exec-art-director-regarding-the-contact-page-on-your-website
@smceccarelli @QuietYell @Rich-Chabot I also am wondering if EricCastleman.com is a good domain name? I've noticed most have "illustration" attached to their website URL, and am thinking there must be something to it.
AH, I was reading this thinking you were asking for portfolio advice!
I used to have to look for and hire concept artists when I was working in video games and so I'll come from a personal experience view, though this is the same advice I've received recently from the few publishing contacts I've made as well (and am now having to re-do my website because it definitely doesn't fit the bar).
SIMPLE. No flashing text or complicated heirarchies. my favorite websites are ones where the art is in simple squares on a clean background with a few characteristic embellishments, and it's easy to read. example: http://www.nicksilvaart.com/
Menu- the text should be easy to find and read and laid out in a way that makes sense for what you're trying to get work in. For instance, if you want to be a children's book illustrator, you might have a few subsections like "Book covers" "Book Illustrations" "Magazine Spots". Having genres like "Comic books" and "robots" may only clutter things up, unless you are really hoping to get some robot comic book work. Do NOT use my portfolio as an example of this. Here's a good one- because Natalie has been published, she has "projects" (published work) and "Portfolio". http://natalienourigat.com/
Contact Information - Make it easy to reach you. An email address and a few social media links.
Remember, anyone looking to hire will decide if they like you within the first 30 seconds of looking at your work. If it takes 30 seconds to find your art, they'll move on. If you hook them in, they want to be able to keep devouring your work easily.
More examples of great portfolios:
@eric-castleman My website is www.smceccarelli.com. This is also my e-mail address handle, so it keeps things consistent (I have not been that good with the social media handle, but that cat is out of the sack now). I think putting "Illustration" at the end only makes sense if there is another person with the same name or with the same website domain name doing something else.
Nowadays, nobody really types web domain names in the browser, and if they do, I think it should be as short and simple as possible. The issue is more with the search engines, but at the beginning, when you have little traffic, you are anyhow on page 15 or 20 of a google search. When you become famous and have hundreds or thousands of visitors per day, Google will place you in the first page anyhow (also to people who are not looking for illustrators but for the Eric Castlemann that does process consulting or sells airplane parts ;-)). It is more complicated that this, SEO plays a role too, etc..Once I hired a SEO agency for two months, but it was too expensive to keep up and then I found out that they bought "visitors" from Latin America (500 per day), which I did not like. Of course it makes sense if you are trying to up the ranking of a webpage on Google (and probably all SEO consultants do it...), but it made me very uncomfortable, so I fired them. There is now an organic growth that spikes nicely with social media posts or conference visits...
@smceccarelli my only competition is a heart doctor who has my exact full name "Eric James Castleman" and he lives a city over from me lol. What are the odds. So I assume I will have to compete with him, because typing my name in and my location will most likely result in his info coming up first for a long while ;-(
Lot of great advice/info in this thread... I am actually looking to migrate my site to a templated site (leaning towards SquareSpace at this point) because I wrote the code originally myself, and while I like the look of it and the function of it overall (though it's no longer up to current standards and not technically mobile ready)... updating and maintaining it is a pain, since I have to drop into the code level every time. I would be more likely to update (more often) a site that doesn't have these barriers to be concerned with.
I think most of the major issues have been touched on here...
• Lean and clean is a good approach. Allow the art to do the talking and the website exist only as a vehicle to serve up the message.
• Using your name is never a bad thing... YOU are the artist/illustrator/author/so-on-and-so-forth... without sounding crass, you are selling YOU as much as you are selling the art/services you provide. I went through having a "company" identity (and still own the URL), but I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be known (by name) for what I was doing, rather than a faceless entity. I am fortunate that my name was available in a .com.
• The separation of "sections" is a really hot topic... "What do I show? and "What is actually going to end up being dead weight or even detract potentially?"
I see the logic in getting rid of your life drawing/student work/sketches/character studies (unless the job you seek specifically wants to see those things) from your portfolio and relegating that kind of stuff to a blog were it is considered acceptable in the name of being "real/transparent" and where glimpses at process are appreciated.
I have finally decided on where my focus lies, so I plan on building a site that services the 2 specific industries I am most interested in (Table Top Games and Children's Literature)... BUT, I will likely always have a section of my site devoted to Graphic Design work because it has proved to be a nice accessory to a lot of the jobs I have been doing lately. Right now, my site is the simplest it's ever been... HOME, ILLUSTRATION, DESIGN and INFO... every page has my email address.
I may eventually add in some sub-sections again (Logo Design, Book Covers, etc.), but for now I like the simplicity of it all and the ability to send potential clients section specific links relevant to their needs (they can always explore my site as a whole if they want to).
"What sections should I include and how many?" seems to have a wide variety of answers and most of them can only be answered by you... just try and trim the fat as much as you can and always be updating with new pieces (said the hypocrite).
• BRANDING MATTERS... I'm a graphic designer by trade, so naturally I put a lot of stock in branding and identity... the question of, "who are you?" and "what does your site/art say about who you are?" are valid questions (even if you do feel silly asking yourself those questions). Consistency is king... all of your communication will only be stronger if it carries consistent/strong branding that speaks clearly who you are and about the kind of work you do and want to do.
I think about this stuff WAY TOO MUCH... and can almost get petrified in my concern for how to "do it right" or get caught in an endless revisions loop... so, while I think our websites are of monumental importance, I also think we can't let them stop us from making new and interesting art and stories.
END OF RAMBLING
@smceccarelli Your website is perfect and I adore your work! I agree that keeping it simple is important. You want to be easy to remember and find by even the busiest, most exhausted, most tech-deficient client.
@andyjewett I've been trying to revise my website for a year. I still haven't published the changes because I can't stop revising it. D: The struggle is real.