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Are you making these 6 art sales killing mistakes on your artists website?

by Helen Aldous

Poking around the internet a lot, as I am wont to do, means that I look at a heck of a lot of artist’s websites and in my meanderings round the corners of cybespace I have found that there are some issues that come up again and again.

Without wanting to be overdramatic, I would say that there are a core of common mistakes, all of which have the potential to seriously damage if not kill the possibility of selling any art on the websites that make them.

So here in no particular order are my top 6 sales killing artists website mistakes. Check your site to see if you have any of these issues, and if you do, sort ‘em out quick to ensure you are in the best possible position to sell art online.

{warning. I may get ever so slightly ranty in this post as I get so frustrated at the amount of sites and artists scuppering their own chances of success when their work is great. Don’t let it happen to you.}

1 } Hidden prices give us “The Fear”

There is nothing more guaranteed to prevent a sale than looking for a price and seeing “price list available on application”. It brings out in us all “the fear” of going into an expensive shop and dealing with a snotty assistant who assumes we can’t afford it and looks at us like we crawled from under a hedge.

Most people {especially us Brits} would rather pull our eyes out with spoons than ask the price.

If you are happy with your price structure you should be happy to show people the price. Make it clear on your site so that people don’t have to hunt for it.

How does it kill sales?

People will just not contact you for the price out of embarrasment in case they have to make an “Ummm, Oh yes that’s fine but I think I have just strangely changed my mind” kind of excuse. Just tell them.

2 } Muzak

Putting music on your site is really offputting to a visitor as the chances of them liking the same music as you are VERY slim. Then it just annoys them whilst they scrabble around to find a mute button. Even worse, if you haven’t included a mute button they will harbour feelings of deep and steaming resentment towards you that you inflicted Richard Clayderman on them at 6am when they were having a quiet surf and woke up their sleeping husband so he got grumpy at them [or maybe that's just me].

How does it kill sales?

As well as the aformentioned deep and steaming resentment build up prejudicing sales, music also stops people having a sneaky look at your site at work.

3 } Splash screen lunacy

A splash page is a web page placed at the front of a site that contains a big image or an introductory flash animation, possibly of artwork swishing in and whizzing round.

They were popular about 10 years ago but can still be seen on some sites. I did think they were dying out but just this morning got a link to an artists newly launched site which had one.

Splash pages annoy and frustrate visitors [Have you ever watched an animated one through without clicking “skip intro”?] and confuse search engines, even if they are static by putting an extra, unnecessary and empty page between them and the content. It can make the site unusable on smartphones and just generally gets in the way.

How does it kill sales?

Splash screens frustrate the viewer before they even get to consider buying your work, driving them away from your site and off to look at other artists work.

See this post Artists Websites and the Attack of the Toddler Brainz to see why.

4 } Google adsense chaos. A site cluttered up with advertising.

It’s quite common to find a site where the work is lost amongst columns of Adsense ads [little text ads from Google] as well as flashing banner ads taking up half the space of the site. As these ads will be related to art [Google places ads relevant to your content] it can be hard to see where the ads end and the art begins.

Its very off-putting to users if your pages consist of large chunks of advertising. Its also very difficult for you to make money this way unless you have a very popular site with thousands of visits and constantly updated content. You won’t just get free money for cluttering your page up with a few ads. For most artist it’s better to concentrate on selling your work rather than advertising space.

How does it kill sales?

The advertising devalues your work making your site look more “bargain basement” than “Saatchi Gallery” This makes visitors far less likely to want to part with good money to buy your art.

5 } The anti-Zen. An imbalance between form and function.

The best websites keep a good balance between looking good and functioning well. A site that does either at the expense of the other will perform poorly.

We have all come across them. The beautiful sites that take ages to load and then crash your machine or the extremely functional sites that look terrible. Good website design should balance both elements to create a harmonious whole. [Ooh, I have come over all zen!}.

How does it kill sales?

An imbalance either way can prevent sales. Too much form can mean a deficit on the technical side and issues with the user having difficulty with the purchasing process. Too much function and you can devalue your artwork by placing it in an unnatractive setting {back to the "bargain basement" again}.

6 } Weird Navigation involving fairies

Visitors to your site just want to be able to view your work easily and quickly. They don't want to play a game where they have to discover an invisible hovering fairy on the page and then chase it around the screen until a menu unfolds out of its tiny wings {I have actually seen this navigation, I'm not making it up!}

At this point they will have gone off to have a cup of tea and a lie down in a darkened room. Just make it as easy as possible for them to get around the site and find out more about you and your work. Don't make them have to work for the information.

How does it kill sales?

Going back to the Toddler Brainz post, people have the attention spans of 3 year olds on the web. By the time they have found the hidden fairy menu they will have wandered off to do something else, thereby not even looking at your work for sale. Just make it easy for them to find it and then they have more chance of buying it.


So there are my top six sales killers. Removing any of them from your site should definately mean an improvement in your results and a general improvement in the user experience of your visitors.


Do you agree that these are killers? Has removing any of them improved the performance of your site? Do you have any more killers that annoy you? Please share your comments below.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Jan Clifton Watford November 20, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Your information is very helpful. I think that when viewing art online splash scenes are very annoying. It is important that people are comfortable viewing your work online because if they are then even if they don’t buy the first time, they might return if they have a pleasurable experience.

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Christine Marsh October 8, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Why does anyone still use auto play music? I wish there was some kind of automatic thing in every auto mp3 player that tells people that they will annoy 99.99% of the people who come to their site.

I am guilty of some pages loading slow.
They are on my list to fix.

I also have to get my purchasing options easier and more consistent. I have been using paypal buttons, but want to use a better more streamlined shopping cart system.
Does anyone have any recommendations? I am using Wordpress.

I WAS thinking of fairy navigation with little sparkles that fly around when you move the cursor. :-D
I guess I won’t add that in now.

Thank You! Great info!

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Helen Aldous October 9, 2011 at 8:25 am

Thanks Christine.

I have heard good things about the Shopp plug in for Wordpress although I haven’t tried it personally yet. http://shopplugin.net/

Instead of the fairy navigation and sparkles you could have one of those bonkers little animated gifs that distracts your eye from everything else on the screen and gives you a migraine ;-)

Thanks for dropping by.

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Christine Marsh October 9, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Magnificent Helen,

Thank you for that suggestion.
I will look into Shopp.

I am off to go work on some
crazy GIF navigation animations!

:-D
Sending you large ladles of joy soup…
Christine Marsh recently posted..Barefoot Artist

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Helen Aldous October 10, 2011 at 6:56 am
EducatedSavage June 19, 2011 at 8:37 am

Ugh. The music thing gets me scrambling for the tab close button! I don’t even look for pause or stop buttons anymore. I normally have my volume up loud and sometimes also wake up my other half. I especially hate if I’ve opened up multiple tabs and then I have to figure out which one is the bad one. Sometimes, I just close them all and all those people associated with the music player’s site get abandoned. So you’re not just hurting yourself, but your friends too!

Gads I hate auto playing music…..

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Helen Aldous June 19, 2011 at 9:00 am

I HATE that. When you cant track down where the music is coming from and have to close everything to find it. Does not generate goodwill when you do eventually track it down! LOL

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Atalaya May 15, 2011 at 8:36 pm

Absolute valuable info! One that annoys me is a 10-minute newspaper article as opposed to a brief product/service description. Thanks!

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Helen Aldous November 16, 2010 at 6:33 am

lol. You pre-empted me Drew. Thats my next post
“10 ways to add winsome navigational fairies to your artists website” ;-)

Fi. Absolutely. When you sit and wait whilst the image appears grindingly slow line by line like its coming down a 1980s modem!. I will skip off elsewhere too. It’s also not good as the artist has then handed out a high resolution image of their work!. Pays to get the size right.

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Fi November 16, 2010 at 12:50 am

And may I add to this list, massive full sized images loading as the default view. What’s wrong with lower resolution, quick loading images for an overview of a body of work, with the ability to click through to a large, high resolution image for a closer look? Grindingly slow websites make me close that browser window pronto. I’m sure I’m not alone.

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Drew November 15, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Based on the six deadly sins you listed here, I am beginning to suspect that you’ve spent a great deal more time on my site doing research for this article than I realized. . .

Having said that, I have been looking for a way to incorporate invisible navigational fairies into my website for some time. You failed, however, to mention in your article how I would go about this. . . . Is there a WordPress Navigational Fairy plugin out there somewhere or do you have a tutorial on site? Please advise ;)

Awesome stuff as always!

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Helen Aldous November 10, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Really good point Nicole. The pricing thing with galleries can be really tricky. Some galleries do also ask artists to remove prices or even their work or website altogether so it can be a horrible balancing act to try and walk along and keep everyone happy. Not easy at all ;-(. I suppose it comes down to the individual relationship with each gallery.

One good thing to do may be to link each image directly to the gallery where the work is for sale so that an interested person could at least carry on along the buying chain more easily.

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Nicole November 9, 2010 at 12:56 pm

I agree with all points above apart from the price thing. I know what you are saying as if I walk into a shop and there is no price, I would rather walk out than ask – and the same applies to galleries. If there is no prices on items, I automatically assume it is exhorbitantly expensive… However, I have excluded prices from my website as I supply galleries around the country (South Africa). Some galleries put on higher markups than others and some frame whilst others dont’. I take pics of my paintings and place them on my website. Some of the paintings have already been sold and some are at galleries. I don’t want to “jam” or “upset” any of my galleries by having a pricing structure on my website which is different to theirs in the shop (according to size, etc).

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Helen Aldous November 8, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Monette and Peter, both brilliant points. Those expandable video ads that spread all over the thing you are trying to read are terrible and the mysterious unfindable music browser tab is torture, and its always a site with extremely bad music that you can’t locate and have to close the entire browser to stop it! LOL

Bonnie. I think anywhere you have the price is fine as long as its on there. A shopping cart with buttons is really the best way as it makes the process of seeing an image you like and buying it there and then seamless. Anything you can do to make the process as easy as possible will help sales.

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Bonnie Hamlin November 8, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Questions, should an art web site that features original paintings have “buy now” shopping cart?
Should the price be on the thumbnails or is is OK to have all info on the enlarged image?
Enjoyed and totally agree with your six mistakes to avoid. Thanks for sharing

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Peter Ahrens November 8, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Yes, the music is very annoying, especially if I have left my volume on loud, scaring the daylights out of me. People all have different tastes in music so usually the music the artist picks doesn’t resonate with me.

Also, I can have a lot of tabs open and I have to go through them all to see which is causing the horrible music!

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Monette Satterfield November 8, 2010 at 4:00 pm

All great points! Can I add auto play video? I HATE those things!! (Really – see the two exclamation points?)

Now that advertising has glommed onto video, they show up more frequently now. It’s like the worst combination of autoplay music and eye burning banner ads – Yech!

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Dan December 13, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Thank you, Monette. Even if I know I want the product, if there is no control to pass up the video, which is often TWENTY minutes(!), I develop a dislike for the seller and never want to contribute to their well-being.

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Helen Aldous November 8, 2010 at 6:47 am

I think that is the hardest one to get right Phil. Such a fine balancing act. Easy to fall off either way ;-)

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Phil Dawson November 7, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Useful to read though thankfully I had never thought of toying with any of these irritating things when thinking about creating a website. The one for me to watch is number 5 – getting the balance right.

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Helen Aldous November 4, 2010 at 5:45 pm

The music might be my personal bugbear as I always wake my other half up with it in a morning and make him grumpy ;-)

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Helen Davison (Arty Aitch) November 4, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Ha ha, I actually agree with all of these – the worst one in my opinion is the flash animation/splash screen menu or home page, closely followed by leaving prices off! The music I can live with, as I only switch on my audio connection when I need it, so it never actually interferes with anything I’m currently doing, but I do agree it’s not a good thing to have on your art web-site!

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