Designing Fine Art Websites

When presenting to artists about their online presence I always preface my remarks about designing fine art websites with…

There’s a reason why galleries have white walls and minimalist environments.

Artfirm Fine Art Website
That reason is that nothing is to interfere with the viewing of the art. Nothing!

I started using WordPress in 2004. At that time minimalist websites just weren’t done . When searching the WordPress theme depository, I found many themes that showed off the graphic designers prowess but did nothing to put the focus on my fine art.

WordPress Art Themes
I used search terms like art, fine art, photography and even design and architecture. Invariably this is what I found .

Since I could not find what I needed for my fine art, I started to design fine art websites and themes. Themes that were simple and clean. Themes that allowed the end user to make their art the focus of the site. In the design world this style was called “vanilla”.

Now a days the minimalist vanilla theme is trending!

Vanilla fine art website
I really like Verna’s site because the images showing the tools she uses in her work are very intriguing.

Even though a vanilla fine art website will work for all types of art, I’m not saying that the design for fine art websites has to white. It doesn’t! There are many shades of gray, soft pastels or the use of graphics that relate to a body of work.

For example Warbrides.com. This is the website of Canadian artist and Royal Canadian Academy of Arts inductee, Beverley Tosh. Bev’s work is about WWII war brides and she wanted the site to reflect that era. We used simple graphics and typography but used larger thumbnails so the focus stayed with the paintings. We also used one of the installation images from Bev’s One Way Passage exhibition as a background.

Bev-Tosh-warbrides.com
Graphics are okay when they reinforce the artwork. I like to use the artists actual work for graphics when designing custom sites.

Taking in to account the artists’ work is also very important when designing fine art websites. Take for example the wonderfully delicate work of Mary Lou Blackledge. Mary Lou’s series Soul Stories has very fine line. When placed on a white background it washes out. The solution was to place the work and only the work on a darker neutral ground.

Mary Lou Blackledge Fine Art
Mary Lou has a unique signature which we turned into a graphic and used as a header image. Her site name is also presented in plain text in the upper right corner.

Coloured backgrounds are okay so long as the colour doesn’t compete with your art for attention.

artbiz_blue-murder-site-color
Example of overpowering colour choice

I call the above image “blue murder” because the colours are killing what otherwise is a decent abstract painting. This is one of those do it yourself sites that artist pulled the colours from their palette thinking it would enhance the painting. Unfortunately the colours are overwhelming the image. Here’s the painting without the coloured background. It’s much easier to appreciate.

artbiz_blue-murder-site-no-color

I’ve seen 1000’s of art websites over the years and have developed a pet peeve about the lack of content. Words are really important, not only for search engine indexing but to educate site visitors about what your work is about.

 

Follow this list of design suggestions for your fine art website that will provide a good visitor experience.

  • Design to show off your work not the graphic designers prowess
  • Simpler is usually better
  • AVOID bold coloured backgrounds and complex graphics
  • Take into consideration the nature of your work and what would be suitable to make it stand out

Your Fine Art Website should…

  • have a responsive design
  • work on all the major web browsers
  • load quickly
  • be easy to navigate and use
  • have image portfolios
  • have attractive, fast loading, professional photos
  • provide examples of what your work looks like in context
  • have information on how a sale works if you have an e-commerce site
  • provide links to any social media sites

There is an art to design.
Design for fine art websites should reflect your art.

Looking for a fine art WordPress theme, please go to WordPressForArt.com 

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