How to make an artist website?



  • I 'm a recovering web designer and developer. There is absolutely no reason not to use online solutions like Wix or Squarespace for your online portfolio. Avoid Wordpress at all costs—it's not worth the maintenance headaches.

    I currently host my portfolio sites with Squarespace.



  • @NessIllustration

    How much is domain and hosting and how would I go about getting it? I have no income coming in at the moment so I was planning just go free all the way till I figure things out for the future.


  • Pro

    @Heather-Boyd I host on SiteGround and if I remember correctly it's $3.95 per month or thereabouts. As for a domain you can get one on Namecheap or Google Domains at $15-20 for the entire YEAR. Then you need a theme, there are a ton of free ones. I use Blossom Fashion from Blossom Themes for my website, it's entirely free with an option to upgrade to premium for extra features which are absolutely not required.

    When it comes to affordability, you can't beat Wordpress. Services like Squarespace really bleed you dry for the "no hassle" of not having to update your plugins once in a while.

    For not having any knowledge in building a website, building my portfolio really was a total breeze. That being said, I'm currently building a second website for my business which will be a shop site, and for the first time I'm starting to see why some people might want to go to Squarespace or Shopify to save themselves the trouble. Wordpress can get quite a bit trickier than I thought when you're setting up some more complex stuff like carts and checkouts, client accounts, email opt-in pop-ups and memberships. It's giving me quite the headaches these days! But just for setting up a portfolio site (about, contact, some galleries and maybe some social links) it's really very simple.



  • @NessIllustration @Heather-Boyd Squarespace doesn't "bleed you dry"—It's a one-time yearly subscription fee that covers everything you could possibly need in a web site. In fact, Wordpress jumped on the web-hosted site bandwagon too and their pricing is actually more expensive than Squarespace.

    I've built enough custom Wordpress sites to know how awful that platform really is ... Especially if you are installing it on your own hosting account and managing the platform yourself using the "one-click install" option so common to hosting services. It's incredibly misleading. Without a basic knowledge of PHP and CSS, you are effectively trapped in a system you can't customize beyond adding plugins. And the more plugins you add to the system, the more likely you will run into problems down the road.

    There is really no point in building and maintaining your own web site any longer with options like Wix, Squarespace, Big Commerce, Etsy, and Shopify (among many many others). If you have any knowledge of coding and styling pages, Squarespace allows a substantial amount of flexibility for customization.

    Site maintenance is easy until it's not. The question you have to ask yourself is, "how much time do I want to allocate to maintaining my website?" I used to do this for a living and my answer is "as little as possible."


  • Pro

    @Paul-Burton I do agree SquareSpace's pricing is reasonable for what it is, with plans between $144 to $480 annually. For some people though, especially illustrators at the beginning of their career and just putting together their first portfolio website, this is not an expense they can afford. SquareSpace is pretty much a luxury service where you pay a bit more and don't have to do the maintenance yourself. For you it seems clear the expense is worth it because you don't want to deal with that. For anyone who can't afford that though, they can make a Wordpress site and pay around $50-60 annually for their hosting and domain.

    It seems like you were dealing with much more advanced stuff as a developer, but to make a simple portfolio site you really don't need to know code or install a hundred plugins. On my site I literally just installed my theme, picked my colors and fonts from the theme's customization options (no css), put in my images and text, picked my sidebar widgets (from theme options) and I was done. Later I got a little fancy and decided to install a gallery plugin for my portfolio page to do a masonry style grid with my images. That's it, and when you think about it there's really no need for much else for a portfolio site.

    We're talking about basic stuff, but so many people make it sound like a hassle so terrible that we artists could not possibly figure it out or maintain it so we have no choice but to spend a lot for a website-in-a-box service like SquareSpace. That's really not the case. I'm sure SquareSpace is an easier and more pleasant experience, but I want to reassure anyone who can't afford it that it is definitely POSSIBLE and even EASY to make a simple portfolio site on Wordpress.



  • I used wordpress but wouldn't say its any better than wix or squarespace (for beginners). you can do a whole lot more with wordpress from an SEO perspective and have a ton more flexibility (and its cheaper too if you get the proper hosting). Its very intimidating and can be frustrating but there are lot of people (even on here) that im sur can help if you have any questions.

    im happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability if you want to talk.

    here is my wordpress site


  • Pro

    @pagurcia Beautiful site, looks very professional!



  • What I did was marry someone that was a professional coder. Now that I think of it, that was sort of the round-about way of doing things. 🤔

    Seriously, though, at first I made a basic site on Wordpress.com. It's a little convoluted at first, but once you get used to the Wordpress interface, it's a really great way to build a website. Plus, it's free! Then, when you want to get your own domain, Wordpress can help you with that, too.



  • Clarifying a few things for posterity ...

    Cost

    WP
    If you self-host [a wordpress site] your upfront costs will include hosting fees, purchasing your domain, and security (SSL) certificates. All of these costs add up.

    You will also have to consider your time spent installing and building out your site ... if you do not have basic coding skills, you will not be able to customize your site much beyond the free template and free plugins that WP offers. Factor this into your decision.

    In the end, not only will you likely not save money, it may cost you more in time spent trying to figure out how to maintain your site or add functionality. If something breaks (and trust me it will), unless you know someone willing to give you free troubleshooting help, you'll be forking out cash to hire a WP developer.

    Webhosted Platforms [eg Squarespace, Wix, etc.]
    With a hosted site like Squarespace your costs will include the subscription fee and purchasing your domain name. You don't pay additionally for hosting or software updates and you never have to worry about PHP server updates, whether a plugin remains supported, or your site going down. If you want to sell your work, all you have to do is upgrade and start building. All the tools you need are right there. It was also originally built for photographers and designers (artists) in mind so many of their templates are geared specifically toward showcasing portfolios.

    SEO
    "you can do a whole lot more with wordpress from an SEO perspective" This is a myth.

    With the self-hosted version, Wordpress does not offer built-in SEO tools. Accessing advanced SEO tools and premium plugins are only available starting on their business plan for $25/month. Advanced plugins will cost you more.

    Squarespace's SEO tools are built in and cost nothing to optimize. Wix has the same SEO features out-of-the-box as Squarespace but you also have the option to purchase plugins that can supercharge your SEO.

    Assuming you know the basics of good SEO and how to properly improve your website's SEO using available tools, Squarespace is the better and cheaper option.

    In the end, it's not the platform, only what you have the skills to make of it.

    Web design and development adage—Free is never truly free.


  • Pro

    @Paul-Burton It's not free, but when you're not sure where your next paycheck is coming from $50 a year is a lot better than $144. You obviously know a lot but you're coming in a little bit with an attitude of "if you're using Wordpress you're an idiot" which is a little insulting considering many of us here use it. I think they're all good tools and it's only a matter of what's a good fit for each person and what they can afford.

    I've made my 2 sites using only free plugins including very good free SEO plugins, my sites have never broken before including the one I've had for years. Once a month I log in to add a few more images to my portfolio and while I'm in there I update my plugins, then go on my merry way. It's really not the "nightmare" maintenance big deal you're trying to make it out to be...


  • SVS OG

    @Paul-Burton I’m no WordPress expert but I do know for a fact that you don’t need to know code to make a WordPress website. In the instance that you do, there’s youtube. Everything is learnable nowadays with the internet.


  • Moderator

    I'm personally quite happy with both of my sites through Portfoliobox. I pay $7.00 a month. It's a WYSIWYG alterable-template thing, but it's web-based. They include free e-commerce, practically all the images and pages I'd ever ever need, hosting, my domain name, and look good on mobile (which I've heard WIX is not so good at...). I'm sure it's similar to Squarespace and such.

    I like it because it is clearly specifically image-based for creatives, not a general catch all mechanism that tries to do all things for all people.


  • Pro

    @Coreyartus I've heard great things about them also! For a simple no hassle portfolio site it seems they're the obvious choice and most affordable option 🙂 I heard they don't offer many templates or customization options, but lot of artists want something really clean and simple to put the focus solely on their illustrations.


  • Moderator

    Clean and simple indeed. But the images are clearly at the forefront of whatever template you're adapting (the usual stuff like line weight, fonts, text size and color, general layout, etc). I'm often kinda daunted by the scale of the images in their templates... It's like , "Woah, that's so much bigger than I drew it!! Good grief, it's an embarrassment of riches! Turn it down, turn it down!!" They really really REALLY wanna show off your visuals. I can't just insert a video--it's like HERE IS MY VIDEO SPLASHED ACROSS YOUR ENTIRE SCREEN, YE LOWLY PEASANTS!!!

    So, I guess they're actually a good thing in some ways. I've not heard of a service that actually privileges visuals like that before. It's kinda... flattering in some ways. I guess it worked on me, anyway. LOL!



  • @NessIllustration I apologize if you found my contribution to this discussion offensive. But please don't interpret my words to mean something I did not explicitly say.

    I'm simply trying to help anyone who has zero experience designing or developing or maintaining a web site make an informed decision. Take it or leave it.


  • SVS OG

    At my day job, and personally at home, I’ve had a chance to build several websites. I’m not a programmer at all, and when I used Wordpress it would take weeks of fiddling, looking up problems, research, learning, more fiddling...I wasted a lot of time and usually didn’t get things looking how I wanted.

    We use Wix now at the day job, and I love it. I built a multi-page website complete with bells and whistles in a few days.

    For me personally, the choices either saving a bit of money on Wordpress but spending a LOT of time trying to get the website set up , or spending some money and getting the website done without frustration and lots of time, so I can go back to drawing.



  • End of the day there are pluses and minuses to both.

    WP gives you a lot more flexibility if you have the time to do some research and is most likely going to cost a bit less than the other platforms nut will take a lot of your time

    Squarespace and Wix and others like it will help save you a ton of time but might cost a bit more month to month.

    Its safe to say either way, there are good options on both for beginners and experts on both platforms. its all about time and money and level of effort at the end of the day.



  • @juliekitzes Thanks for this info I never thought of using the Adobe Portfolio, but your portfolio looks amazing I am going to give it a try now.



  • I am also using Adobe Portfolio (portfolio.adobe.com) together with my own domain ( about 11€ a year for the Domain name) https://www.heimlich-illustration.de/ . It is easy and free if you have adobe subscription.



  • Adobe Portfolio user here too. It suits me fine for now and beats paying monthly site fees on top of the CC subscription.