Artist Website Guide
Planning and implementing a website can be challenging. In this guide, I’d like to help you organize the process.
Before jumping into the general guide sections, It’s good to have an idea of some challenges you might encounter. While creating your site, you’ll need to make decisions around several items. Many of them will affect how you handle the day-to-day management of your online art business.
This guide will expand on the topics below in order to provide a clearer picture. It should allow you to arrive at solutions easier while avoiding unnecessary frustration.
- Choosing a Platform
- Choosing and Integrating a Fulfillment Service
- Technology Skills
- Implementing Page Structure / Content
One of the first things I’m going to outline is the different platforms available. I’ll talk about the pros & cons of each, then go into further detail about integrations.
The goal of this guide is not necessarily to tell you which is the best choice for you. I realize the same solutions won’t be ideal for every artist. So I am going to provide as much information as possible to help you make an informed decision.
Brief Platform Comparison
Main platforms compared: WordPress / Shopify / Squarespace
Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses. In this section, I’ll highlight those key aspects, and will go into further detail later on.
Key distinction: Ownership
Between the 3 platforms, this aspect makes WordPress stand out. I wanted to highlight this distinction, because I think it’s important as it relates to your business.
Shopify and Squarespace are considered “Software as a Service” and WordPress is not. You can download WordPress to customize in any way you choose. Shopify and Squarespace run on their respective companies servers. There is no customization of the core software, limiting its flexibility.
What this basically means is that with WordPress you have more control of your site. You own every aspect, from the code to the content. WordPress can be migrated to other hosting services if needed as well.
Primary Difference between Shopify / Squarespace
As the name implies Shopify is designed at its core to be an e-commerce website. Squarespace does have an upgraded e-commerce plan, that allows you to create a shop as well. If you are interested in starting out with a basic website, without a shop, Squarespace offers an inexpensive plan to get you started.
If you are looking to start with a basic website prior to setting up shop, you might want to start with Squarespace or WordPress. Squarespace allows you to get started quickly, without as much need to learn website skills. There are many resources available to learn WordPress though. If you wanted to put in some time, you would be able to get started with WordPress without spending much money.
One last thing to consider is user experience. When you are building your online business, you want to make sure the service you are using will be easy to manage. I am not sure how well the reviews reflect what you’re experience might be, but it’s something to be aware of: Shopify / Squarespace
Note: When you are researching these platforms, be aware of potential affiliate sites. It’s challenging to get an honest review because website owners will make affiliate income by recommending specific platforms. I do not currently have affiliate links on these guide pages. Though I may later offer links to WordPress based themes, plugins, or services.
Flexible Open Source Website Software
WordPress was originally designed as a tool for bloggers back in 2003. Since then it has evolved over time with the help of a community of dedicated developers (seriously, WordPress enthusiasts love this software).
Since it was designed for flexibility, there are thousands of plugins that can extend the functionality of your site. There is also an extensive library of themes, both free and premium, that can be used to quickly style your site (as well as add drag-and-drop building functionality).
- Highly Flexible
- Many Well-Designed Learning Resources
- Good Community of Developers
- Thousands of Templates,Plugins, and Integrations
- Higher Learning Curve
- Can Be Costly Depending on Desired Customization
- Potentially Vulnerable to Hacking
Full disclosure, I have been a WordPress developer for the last 10 years. I am partial to this software, because it has been a trusted tool in my web development toolbox for a long time. With that being said, I recommend it wholeheartedly knowing the alternatives and potential pitfalls. Due to the flexibility and control it offers I think it the best platform for serious business owners. It can serve you well and grow with your business for years to come.
Designer Website Platform
Squarespace is an all-in-one platform designed for ease of use. When Squarespace launched in 2003 there were not a lot of options for drag-and-drop website builders. There was also (and to some extent still is) a lack of high-quality design. Squarespace focused on offering premium design templates to the creative space – artists, designers, and musicians.
Overall it’s a good tool for non-technical users who want to create a simple website fairly quickly. It also offers blogging functionality, and has grown to include e-commerce functions as well.
- Beautiful Website Design
- Ease of Use
- Not Very Flexible
- Poor Multilingual Support
- Limited Payment Options
If you are looking to establish your online presence quickly, then Squarespace is a decent place to start. You’ll be able to find a good looking template and setup your pages without much technical knowledge.
E-commerce Website Platform
- Many Payment Integrations
- Currency Options
- Multilingual Functionality
- Shop Functionality Ease of Use
- Not Designed to be Flexible
- Limited Customization Support
- Small Extension Library
One thing to keep in mind with both Squarespace and Shopify is that you’ll often have to resolve issues around customization on your own. Support is limited to issues related to the core platform. There are a lot of reviews saying that customer support will refer to documentation more often than not. For developers this is familiar territory. But if you want to focus on your business and your art, you probably don’t want to spend much time there.
If you are looking to spare yourself frustrations related to the website, it’s a good idea to find a developer to help you. I’m not certain how easy it is to find a developer for these platforms, since they are not designed for flexibility. Though I have seen Squarespace focused developers become more popular. On the other hand, I know WordPress has a larger community of developers (which I personally am a part of).
This is something important to account for when considering which platform you’ll build your business around.