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Five things not to do on your artist's website

By Paul Watson on .

1. Disabling right-clicking

JavaScript that disables right-clicking (to prevent people “stealing” your images) is wrong on so many levels. But it’s such a prevalent mistake that I feel the need to tell you why it’s wrong:

Small screen-sized digital images of your artwork are your most basic form of marketing, and (thanks to the wonders of the internet) can be reproduced and redistributed at no cost. If you think that trying to stop people from distributing your marketing material is a good thing then you need to rethink everything from scratch.

It doesn’t work anyway – anyone can disable JavaScript in a matter of a second. Which means I’ve still got your images, but now you’ve annoyed me as well, so I’m less likely to rave about (i.e. promote) your artwork.

2. Flash websites

Now I know this one tends to get Flash evangelists in a tizz, but I hate Flash websites. Part of the reason is that they often completely fail to work on my PC (I’m running 64-bit Linux, and there’s no official flash plugin for 64-bit Linux, so your “website” is rendered as an inactive 800×600 pixel dead-grey rectangle).

Flash websites are also favoured by linear-minded control freaks to dictate how a visitor views a website – they restrict choice. For example, they restrict the visitor from entering the site on anything but the “front” page (which invariably contains a painfully tedious animation that I’m forced to watch before the “enter” link appears).

They also seem to be used as an over-engineered “solution” to people attempting to help market your artwork (in that they prevent you from right-clicking and saving an image). Again, it doesn’t actually do anything but slow your visitor down for a matter of seconds (print-screen will capture that images easily) whilst pissing off your potential customers.

The worst Flash artists’ websites always seem to say to me “I’m a self-important wanker who demands that you see things my way – you will not deviate from the true way to appreciate my artwork” (in 8pt type that I can neither read nor resize). I know I’m ranting here, but it’s a pet hatred of mine.

I should add that I’m not opposed to small bits of Flash embedded within an (X)HTML website, where rich content or animation needs to be delivered, such as using YouTube’s Flash embedding to drop a video into a webpage. That’s fine – that’s what Flash is for.

3. Tiled wallpaper behind the artwork

Galleries have plain walls so that the viewer’s attention isn’t distracted from the artwork. Your website should too. It’s just visual noise that gets in the way of your artwork.

4. Arty Navigation

While I may be inclined to spend my valuable time analysing and building an understanding & appreciation of your artwork, I’d rather not spend that time analysing and building an understanding of your website’s navigation/menu – I don’t care enough and I’ll just go somewhere else.

I want a menu on every page of the site with the main menu items should be in writing and not icons/symbols/images whose meaning I can only deduce by clicking on them and seeing where I end up. I don’t care how “clever” they are.

5. Splash pages with “enter” links

I used to make this mistake many years ago. I had a splash page with an impressively large image and an “enter” link.

It comes from an over-extension of the analogy that an artist’s website is their personal gallery—with a door through which you enter—but that analogy is wrong.

A website is a gallery—and much more—where all the artwork is hung on the exterior walls facing out into the world, rather than being contained in a space for which there is only one entrance (this is a mistake frequently made by aficionados of Flash websites).