Thursday, November 03, 2005

Gallery Web Design (Open Thread)

Art Fag City has an excellent post on what makes for good design in a gallery's website. Although I don't share all AFC's criteria*, I think overall the post offers some solid guidelines:
The AFC grand prix goes to Sikkema Jenkins & Co whose site design by Kyung Jeon is virtually flawless. The design is simple, elegant and versatile, (meaning, you could upload the picture you took of the floor by accident and it would still look artful). Straight forward and easy to navigate this sight sets itself apart from a great many gallery sites. But what really earns the site a gold star in my books is it's management of artist images. On this site each artist has a section called works which displays thumbnails of the all the available works. This method of display is preferable to the commonly used large single image that then links to a pop up window, because the user can see at a glance how many works are available and what they look like. One of the pitfalls of the single image pop up window is that it assumes a user who is savvy enough to know that the image represents a link to additional works. Since there are plenty of people who barely know how to turn their computer on, it makes sense to lay a page out this way.
I'm currently re-designing our gallery's site and so this feedback was well-timed and very helpful. But I'll open up a thread to seek even more feedback. Ignore our current site, it's going, but what do you find helpful/annoying about other galleries' sites? What are your favorite gallery sites, and why? I don't want to insult any galleries here, so if you have negative criticism, please genericize it somewhat...if you have positive things to say, though, by all means provide a link.

*After years of struggling with cumbersome html, the number one criteria for me is that our site be easily and quickly updatable, so Flash is out and so are complicated image/text combinations.


Blogger Mark said...

Simple, simple, clean and easy, sounds like a dating requirement, but that's most important. The only flash i think necessary is the version that lets you cuser over an artists name and an image of that artists work will appear on the same page. It's frustrating to go back and forth. Also keep the site fresh, a reason to return often.

11/03/2005 01:00:00 PM  
Anonymous chris said...

Great thread. It is apparently something of a challenge to have the perfect website. My favorite is probably David Zwirner's. Simple, no frills and very classy. Everything occurs within the page. There are no frivolous pop-ups. My only criticism is in the formating of their artists page. I think it's visually very important to have a consistent grid of thumbnails. Nothing looks more awkward than when the selected works are all different sizes and viewed over numerous pages. While I don't love Bellwether's site, they do a great job on the layout of their thumbnails. So does Sikkema-Jenkins for that matter.

11/03/2005 01:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are a few artists that have good, simple web sites. Mostly, however, they are overy complex and frustrating to navigate. One example of a nice simple site here in Montreal is this one

11/03/2005 02:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Martin said...

How about some fun and color? I like this one much more than those conformist whitey-whites -

11/03/2005 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

Quick load time is one of my personal demands. Flash, of course, slows any site down and generally I like think simple is best. The Sikkema site is a good example of a working, clean site, so it wins in my book.

There are some more colorful sites that I find attractive, but more often than not, Flash is called upon to screw up what looks good.

11/03/2005 03:30:00 PM  
Blogger rb said...

clapham art gallery is simple and fairly intuitive with click-throughs to b.a. large image sizes

and site maintenance without fuss is really the only way to stay current

11/03/2005 05:28:00 PM  
Anonymous jc said...

I only have a minute now, but one thing I don't like about the Sikkema site is the back and forth you have to do to go from artist to artist. Better sites have the artist list above or to the side, with the selected artist's info, work, etc. appearing when that artist is selected.

More comments to come later (I've done some web design, so have definite opinions about these things).

11/03/2005 05:42:00 PM  
Blogger dubz said...

chris is right - zwirner has the hottest site. whoever maintains it is a genius. no, for real - the most important thing is logical formatting and simplicity. most gallery sites either look too serious or too silly. and those pesky flash animations have got to go... totally distracting. i think most necessary are simple, clean pages with no scrolling necessary, not too many fonts or logos, and quick image loading time.

11/03/2005 05:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Sky said...

Elizabeth Harris Gallery has a decent site, as far as the setup for viewing artists' work. No pop-ups or flash. Also, Hemphill in DC has a clean site. I don't mind the homepage slideshow since it gives a good idea of what the gallery looks like.

11/03/2005 06:29:00 PM  
Anonymous JL said...

No frames! If I click on an image of an artist's work, I don't want to see it cramped into a tiny viewing space that won't let me see it properly. Yes, I know I can generally open it in a new window or tab, but I don't want to. And it bugs me when people make me, as far too many galleries do. Popups of the image are bad, too. A nice, clean, new page - that's what I want. Monitors aren't so big I have viewing space to waste.

11/03/2005 07:18:00 PM  
Anonymous tachad said...

i sift through galleries and their artists and google artists almost daily.
it is absolutely wonderful when you come across a gallery with an easy straightforward setup. to me fancy/schmancy is stupid and a waste of my time. i am NEVER impressed.
it's heaven when galleries show thumbs of a painting WITH the artists name. and there are 3 or 4 variations of this. that saves SO much time.
generally what's really annoying is all the clicks you have to do to get where your going. when i go to a gallery i want to see the artists works. so why all the clicks and pages to get there ?

11/03/2005 07:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one of the best artist sites out there. Check it out

11/04/2005 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous barry said...

I think erring on the side of minimalism is a good thing for art sites. I don't like looking at gallery sites that have distracting flash or wacky color design. Save that for the portfolio sites of those who do flash for a living.

I have a fledgling artist/gallery website business myself, including the site of Joe Ovelman.

Ed, maybe once I have the gallery system up and running by the end of the year (for someone you know by the way) Plus Ultra can sign up.

11/04/2005 11:36:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

happy to check it out Barry...god knows I'm spending years of my life trying to do it myself.

11/04/2005 11:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In addition to specific gallery related suggestions the website needs to follow general usability guidelines for websites. There are hundreds of articles you can google about website usability. They are worth spending the time reading if you are unfamiliar with this area of technology.

For example - having to do a horizontal scroll is annoying - users will generally put up with vertical but nothorizontal scrolling. If it's too hard to use then users won't waste their time.

There are dozens if not hundreds of little things like this that can trip up an many a webdesigner (and some pretty pricey ones at that). Spending a week learning basic web usability rules is well worth it.

After you have redesigned your site watch a few people that are completely unfamiliar with it try use it. Say absolutely NOTHING and just observe what they do. If they are having problems, fix them before going live with an unusable website.

As to specific gallery content - it's a gallery - I want to see art! How many clicks does it take to get me to the art? Better be only 1 - the one it took to get me to your website ("enter here" pages are to be avoided like the plague) or I'm going to get bored and leave. There should be compelling content on page 1 of every website out there - we've got short attention spans - don't assume we are willing to work to find the content.

Same advice holds for artists - if you don't have art on the front page of your website why should I waste time hunting around trying to find it? Do you want to show me your art or not?

I personally found the sikkema gallery site hard to use becuase it took too many clicks to switch between the artists. A menu with all the artists names accessible from every page is much easier to use. Think minimal mouse clicks to do everything.

And yes - skip the flash - it's not impressive or compelling - it's simply annoying to have things move around when you click on them. As Mark mentioned mouseovers (which can be done with javascript - you don't need flash) are okay but honstly I find those annoying unless very well done.

Ditto for pop up windows - they are annoying - you already have a window - use it.

11/04/2005 11:42:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...'d the comment thread switch to Spanish? Cool! (is everyone else seeing that?)

I don't think I have the solution to this, but based on the general feedback here, it's clear that my goals for creating the site and those of folks visiting it are not actually the same. Folks (and most in this thread I believe are artists), want to see artwork on a site. Lots of it. Easily navigatable, etc. I get that. I want that from other galleries' sites too.

But remember that my goals with MY site are slightly different. I don't want to give everything away for free...I want to show just enough to entice you (especially if you're a collector, curator, etc.) to come in and see it in person. It's a balance obviously. If I'm too stingy, you'll move on.

What I'm getting at is one very intriguing image might be enough to achieve my goal (getting you in the spaces).

11/04/2005 11:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hm - if your goals don't match your audience's goals then maybe you should rethink your goals? Or find a new audience.

The internet is about globalization. If I'm in paris I'm not likely to come to your gallery. Are you telling me you have nothing to offer me and I should move on?

Who is your audience? A very small number of collectors and curators in New York? If so maybe you need to think a bit bigger - this is the internet - which I hate to break it to you - is a LOT bigger than new york. You aren't doing your artists any favors by not wanting to prominently feature their artwork on your website.

This is the era of globalization for everyone, not just coprorations - you can either embrace it or you can ignore it and be left behind.

11/04/2005 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


No matter how well intentioned you meant that comment, Anonymous, you should know it comes off as more than borderline offensive.

I have a background in the international commercial use of the Internet, believe it or not.

Whether it's popular among my blogs' readership or not, the primary reason our gallery has a website is marketing, not education (that comes second, or third even...maybe that's short sighted, but we also have money and time constraints to consider here and so far that seems right).

Our current thinking is we have one central goal in mind with our primary target audience (collectors or curators): to get them to contact us and either purchase art or include our artists in other exhibitions.

It's widely accepted now that, generally speaking, you'll never sell much artwork over the Internet (and any curator worth their salt will want to see work before placing it in exhibitions). You usually have to meet folks face-to-face to do that, especially with more expensive work. So, again, the goal of the website, as with all marketing efforts out of the gallery, is to encourage that face-to-face sort of meeting. No offense to our hypothetical Parisian websurfer, but unless he's going to contact the gallery somehow, his desires in visiting the site are not relevant.

I don't mean that to be dismissive. I'm just being honest.

Even if it were feasible, which it's not, I'm not convinced publishing our entire inventory online is a good idea. I agree the our artists work needs to be more prominent, but not that all of it needs to be more prominent, or even online. Right now, I'm convinced the site should be the bait, not the fish. Getting folks to contact us for more information is the goal.

11/04/2005 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Todd W. said...

No time to weigh in on the larger issues, but short thoughts:

It's all about your audience, however, audience can be defined in different ways. If a gallery caters to the NYC crowd, the site should reflect that. If the gallery has an international clientle, the site should reflect that, too. And it should help that audience acheive its goals - and there may be several. Some visitors may want to learn enough to determine if a visit is warranted. Others may be looking for a specifc work to buy. There should be ways of allowing the different audiences to acheive each of their discrete goals.

A few great sites, in my opinion are Robert Mann Gallery and Foley Gallery

11/07/2005 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

By the way, despite my slightly grouchy response to anonymous, which I thought better about only after I posted it, I really appreciate all the feedback led to me totally revisioning our new site and will make it much better. So thanks!

11/07/2005 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger AFC said...

Just a note: I do agree that the Sikemma site suffers because you have to click between artists. In that way, the bitforms site is superior.

BTW, I think the dialogue on this post about web design is really great!

11/11/2005 02:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i work on and i would love to get feedback.
great thread.

1/19/2006 11:46:00 PM  
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