Elements for Successful Art Websites  – interview with Mckenna Hallett

 

Mckenna Hallett has been helping improve marketing skills and selling skills for over three decades. She is especially dedicated to the artist community. In this interview, we will tap her knowledge base about the role that an effective website plays in encouraging sales. To learn more about her and the services she provides the artist community, visit her website. https://www.mygoldenwords.com

 

We recently had the opportunity to interview McKenna Hallett about website development.  Here are some “pearls of Wisdom” that she had to share.

What advice do you offer someone who is just getting started with a website?

Mckenna:  I wish there was a magic wand, but artists need to understand that to thrive and find loving homes for their art requires a foundation of marketing and being a “business” co-equally with being an artist. For those that are self-taught or those who have MFA degrees, the advice is identical: marketing is a verb and you must learn to get your work into the “market” place. And the marketplace must include a very savvy and well designed (for marketing) website.

Ideally, for the best search results, you should be actively changing information (a blog, events page, new work added) at least monthly in order for Google to consider you an active “resource”.  If you have an older, untouched, site, it’s very likely that you need a fresh start. There are incredibly simple building tools available today. Starting over is often easier than trying to apply CPR to a site that is outdated and using really old technology.

Assuming they need to rebuild, what is the foundation of a good site?

Mckenna: I am going to sound like a broken record, but marketing is a verb. And so is selling. Buying is also a verb. These three actions need to be at the core of a website. The website must be entertaining, educational, and enticing. Leave out one of those components and you will have a tough go trying to make a sale. As for selling, you are definitely not in business if you don’t have a way for someone to buy from you online.

What do you mean by entertaining?

Mckenna: Good question. I am not saying be a comedian, but we must be interesting, right? Every encounter we humans experience starts in our egos. We need to know, first and foremost, “What’s in it for me?” and we hunt (pretty much all the time) for validation of our needs and what we can get from nearly every experience. We are not curious about the art per se as much as we are curious about what the art will be able to do for our hearts and minds in the long term. Therefore, if you don’t include a “wow” factor, you won’t wow anyone into taking time on your site.

I was on a consulting call last week with an artist who still works in a darkroom. That fact didn’t show up anywhere on the site until reading the third paragraph of the about page. I advised this artist to create a quick 15 to 30 second video for the home page. A video that filled the page showing a photo being processed in a dark room – red light and all! That is a WOW story. That video will instantly entertain, educate, and entice all in fewer than 30 seconds – all within seconds of arriving on the site.

What else can be educational?

Mckenna: Being “educational” is drawn with a fine line. You must educate on the specifics – size, shape, color, materials and so forth of individual work – AND you want them to be educated about your “wow factors”.  This line is crossed when there are pages full of words about the process. This will kill momentum.  Instead, a page devoted to FAQ’s – which can include process details – is still the tried and true way to keep people on your site and considering a purchase. Anyone who clicks to see the FAQ’s is considering a purchase. Therefore, you need to think about every question you can imagine. People don’t need and probably won’t read all the answers, but they want to know the answers are there if they need them. Put the questions in a most important to least important order on the page.

Many artists struggle with an About page or an Artist Statement. What do you think is effective? Do artist need both?

Mckenna: Same as before, this is a selling opportunity. As such, it’s important to “entertain, educate, and entice” on these pages more than any other. An About Page might need to exist if your process is complex. So a page devoted to “about the process” might really be important.

Just because it’s called the “About page” or “Artist Statement”, it’s still not about you. Once again, you really don’t need to dig too deeply into your history or background in the actual Artist Statement. Create a separate CV and place it under your artist statement.

And this is really important: The Artist Statement must be your thoughts, in the first person, about your art. By the way, the entire site needs to use first person voice and be authentic. Record what you might say to someone who you meet at a gathering in answer to the age-old question, “What do you do?” Just tell people what you do and then why you do it in plain English from your heart.

Bottom line: when they are done reading your Artist Statement, they should be refreshingly excited about viewing your collection and want to remain ON your site.

When you say entice, this is the result?

Mckenna: Exactly right, Ed. They entered the site. They saw work that resonates. They want to know who you are and where you are from and a little tiny bit about your motivations or methods. What we want to do is create a funnel to the possibility of buying. So naturally we need to entice a person into digging deeper about a specific piece: How much, how big, what medium? They like you and now they need to find a piece of art that they like and can afford.  Your collectors need to be able to point to a piece of art in their collection and say something about it that “wowed” them – that thing that motivated them to buy. We all have that story ready to share about everything we buy and art is no different.

Should an artist have a shopping cart? Isn’t that too commercial or too manufactured feeling or even a bit crass?

Mckenna: Unless they are fully represented by galleries and don’t want to appear to compete, they should make it easy for people to find and purchase art to add to their lives. To avoid “crass”, I counsel artists to remain independent of cookie-cutter shopping websites. I also never recommend people put their original fine art on sites that have that in-your-face “buy now” button mentality – think Etsy or some of the sites that offer print-on-demand products to sell; coffee cups, tote bags, et al.

That said, some art is really suited to phone cases and pillows, so go for it! However, if you use a site like that as a default because it’s easy to set up, you need to rethink what “easy” is in today’s world. To be in control of your appearance and reputation, I highly recommend using the ridiculously simple site builder called WIX.

Even Google recommends WIX. You own your domain in full and that means you control your SEO. It’s as easy as anything else you might consider using. It’s as easy as using any social media site. If you are already using WordPress, then add the shopping cart plugin Woo Commerce and you are good to go.

 Are there any other things to avoid when getting a website up and running?

Mckenna: I think the number one thing to avoid is to make your site so complex, with lots of words and very few pictures (or vice versa!) that people just click away.  Over 50 percent of visitors to a page “bounce” away from the entire site within 15 seconds. If they have to digest too many choices of where to go, they just get overwhelmed and leave. You are the tour guide. Funnel their interests into the consideration of ownership.

What about the “do’s”?

Mckenna: Do be authentic. Use your personality everywhere on your site. Avoid “corporate” speak and multi-syllable words. Have pictures of you, your pet, your studio, your spouse and kids if that feels okay to you. You are a big part of what they are falling in love with. Be lovable.

And even if you don’t have a shopping cart, yet, do have prices. Do “ask” for the sale – that is to say, use language that encourages ownership and avoid passive or “wishful” sentiments, like, “I have a goal of creating wonderful art for people to buy.” Change that to, “You will see wonderful art on this site that is finding homes just like yours. Click to enjoy my newest pieces here” and link to a page with images to view – with prices. I repeat: with prices.

If someone is interested in getting their site reviewed, do you offer that service?

Mckenna: They can visit https://mygoldenwords.com/website-review-services/  to learn more. I offer free reviews. I generally only offer it to those who are on my email list, but I am making an exception for your audience.  However, people should join my list to get notices of offers and be alerted to new blog posts, too.

Ed: Thanks for taking so much time to address these issues for our readers.

Mckenna: My passion to help artists made this as worthwhile for me as I hope it is for your readers. If they want to add questions in the comments, I will stay tuned for a few days to try and address them.

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