So, you think you want a Web site, huh? Why? Those were the words that led off yet another (two in one week) day-long workshop I attended yesterday at our local community college. This one was on "Artists on the Internet." And unlike the other one this week, this one wasn't nearly so informative for me personally. In fact, I could have led most of the sessions. But it was a good chance to network with other artists, pass out my business cards, and show off my Internet experience to all the newbies for whom this workshop was primarily aimed. Sessions ranged, literally from how to turn on the computer to very basic HTML. I guess the thing that amazed me most is how LATE so many artists are in coming around to computers and the Internet. One female artist with a nationwide reputation was considering her own web site for the first time because people reported being disappointed when they entered her name into search engines and found her work was not available on the net. Now THAT'S a good reason to have a Web site.

The question still stands. Why do you want a Web site? It's critically important because it's the primary key to designing a Web presence. But all to often for many artists, it's that LAST question that comes to mind. "Because everyone else has one," is the wrong answer. Yet unfortunately, this is often one of the first thoughts on the part of artists contemplating such a move. The "why" question allows a Web site to be designed from the outside in, rather than the other way around--putting up some paintings, a little text, then trying to figure out what the hell to do with them. A Web site should be seen as a marketing option, and only one of many at that. It is a MEANS not an END. It shouldn't be seen as a status symbol. It shouldn't be seen as an artist's plaything. It's not even necessarily a good way to sell artwork. It is JUST one tool in a marketing plan. It's a very powerful tool, but yet, only one of many.

Okay, so, your marketing plan calls for your showcasing and presenting your art for sale World-Wide. An effective Web site is the primary, economically viable means for doing this. The next question that arises is, how valuable is your time? Can you afford the hours, days, weeks, even months needed to learn and do it all yourself, or is your time in creating and producing too valuable for that? Must you be in control of every aspect of your online presentation, or are you willing to relinquish this responsibility to a trusted, well-paid, independent contractor?

And then, having made that decision, either way, you next have to decided what type of impression you want to make. Is the site to be a slick, laid-back, high-end showcase or an online catalog with price lists, freebies, special offers, klieg lights, credit cards, and shopping carts? Is the style going to be high-tech, ultra-sophisticated, cutesy, educational, flashy, informal, or country common?

These decisions, of course, depend upon the artist's personality, style of painting, and self-image. Is the site going to have only the artist's newest work, only his or her BEST work, only the most salable work, or every stroke he or she every painted? Will it be one page, or one DOZEN pages? Will it be a homepage on a free server or a state-of-the-art, JavaScript laden, masterpiece domain with enough bells and whistles to compete with Amtrak? Are you going to spend hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars to build and promote it, or shyly mentioned it to a few close friends during a lull in their conversation? Before the first image is ever digitized, before the first HTML tag is every cut and pasted, long before you chalk up your first "hit," these questions have to be answered. WHY do you want a Web site?