FinePrint Newsletter, Fall 2000

Web Presence by Design:
An Interview with Larry Berman 
of Berman Graphics Web Site Design and Imaging

"Do you have a web site?" 
That seems to be the hot question in art circles. As if somehow having a web site is the measure of success. But as many of you already know, having a web site doesn't ensure that you'll sell anything. So, how do you make the best use of your web site? What makes a web site work? Is it better to have your own site or be in with a group? We recently interviewed Larry Berman of Berman Graphics, and learned what makes a successful web site.
How does your company differ from the other web page designers out there? 
We are geared toward artists and photographers. After 25 years selling my own photography at art shows, I have an understanding of the needs of photographers and artists. We don't just build the web site and push you out the door; we teach you how to promote your site.
What are some of the ways artists can promote their web sites? Artists can collect e-mail addresses from people who visit their booths at shows and through an e-mail collection feature on the web site. We recommend starting this even before the web site is built. These people can then be e-mailed upon completion of the site. Imagine being able to contact hundreds of people who are interested in your work and start selling from the first day. Artists should prominently feature their URL on all collateral material - business cards, letterhead, postcards, brochures, ads.
Besides the site design, what other services do you offer? What additional fees might a customer incur beyond the initial design charges? 
We start at $550 for a web presence to get you started collecting e-mail addresses. For $1500 you get a fully functional web site with a unique design that captures the essence of the artwork. We will create twelve individual product pages to showcase your work, professionally scanned and optimized images, galleries of thumbnail pictures, detailed picture pages, ordering information, an artist statement, bio page and the initial submission of the web site to the major search engines. In addition, we offer "a la carte" services such as additional gallery pages, guest book and secure shopping. For more specifics, visit our web site http://BermanGraphics.com.
There are so many sites out there -, mind boggling, really. How can an artist/photographer ensure that their site is easily found? Promote, promote, promote! The adage "build it and they will come" does NOT apply to web sites. We always recommend having an easily remembered or identified URL. If the name you want is already taken we can suggest alternatives. Links are another way to bring in traffic. But you have to be careful. Your potential customer can get lost from your site if external links take him away. When a client requests a links page, we recommend having the external links open in a new browser window so they don't actually leave your site.
Do people really purchase art photography over the Internet, or are sites more like an on-line gallery for viewing work by a particular artist photographer? 
People do purchase over the Internet, but usually not without first seeing the artist's work at a show or in a gallery. Again, the web site should be viewed as a marketing tool to augment other promotional materials, not as the only marketing an artist needs to do. What other marketing efforts do you suggest artists photographers use to augment their site? You need to keep your name and your images fresh in prospective buyers minds. E-mail is a free way to keep in contact with collectors and prospects and keep them apprised of your show schedule, new works, or awards. I recommend having an artist's signature (most popular) image printed on a business card, along with a prominently placed web site URL to hand out at art shows. That way, your web site and image style is always fresh in, the minds of your customers. Mailing out a postcard (again, feature your web site URL) once or twice a year to everyone on your list also keeps you in their minds.
Do you think an artist just starting to market his or her work would be wise to invest in a web site, or is it more for the established artist? 
An artist just starting out could begin with a basic site of best sellers and begin amassing e-mail addresses. The, fact that someone has a web site gives the perception that they are "established". The other thing to consider is that a web site is not a static entity, it can change as your work changes, not like a printed catalog which costs a fortune and is outdated as soon as it comes off the press.
What do you think turns a viewer into a buyer? 
On a web site, a quick download time is critical. The images need to be clear and bright enough to give the viewer a good idea of what the original work looks like. A site needs to be easy to navigate, with all the ordering information for each piece listed underneath.
What do you think is the biggest turn-off when viewing a web site? 
Slow loading images and confusing navigation.
Many of the large art web, sites are not turning a profit - any ideas? 
Most of those, sites operate under the premise that "if you build it, they will come" and buy. Buying art is different than buying furniture. Most people want a connection to the artist - that is why art shows are successful. The large sites have so much art to choose from that people can get intimidated by too many choices, and nothing to make one piece, or one artist, stand out above the others. So they buy nothing. Think of it this way. If you send potential customers to a site to see your work, do you want them to purchase from your competitor?
Where do you see the future of marketing art and photography over the Internet? 
Aside from more and more photographers and artists using the Internet as a means to promote their work, I don't know what the future holds. I think the Internet will become more useful to artists in ways we haven't imagined before, such as the art show jury process. If instead of flying jurors in to view slides together, each juror could view and vote on the images in his/her own home using a computer, that might allow each juror more time to look at each piece. With 3-D graphics programs getting more and more sophisticated, I think we'll be seeing more sculpture being showcased.
Any last thoughts? 
Although we don't know where the Internet will take us, it is here to stay and is an important way for artists and photographers to promote their work. It levels the playing field a little - an artist from a small town has as much chance as an artist living in a metropolitan area to get his or heir work seen by thousands of potential buyers. Having a well-designed and well-promoted web site will increase your chances of success. Unless you thoroughly understand the language and art of web site design it is crucial that you form a partnership with a webmaster who understands and is sympathetic to your needs.     -KD

Larry Berman is a photographer and web site designer. 
He can be reached at http://BermanGraphics.com 
E-mail: larry@bermanart.com 

All photos on this site are available for stock or fine art sales
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