How to Make a Good "Art Licensing Website."

by Kate Harper
Some artists are so overly concerned about getting new manufacturers to go to their website, that they completely forget about them, once they get there. Manufacturers are busy people and when they go to a website, they want to see a lot of art fast, without running into navigation obstacles. Is your website "manufacturer-friendly?"

Website Quiz:
How many of these "Manufacturer-Friendly" things do you do?

  • Your art is on your homepage, and your overall style is represented.

  • The manufacturer can find your portfolio in one click from the homepage.

  • From the moment a manufacturer lands on your homepage, within 30 seconds, they can locate and view at least 30 images. Use a stop watch and test this on a friend: If they can't do it, then it means either your images take too long to load, are too hard to find, or are on too many different pages. Consider making your images scrollable like in Sara Henry's website below.

  • Your contact information is no more than one click away from any page.

  • A 10-year-old kid can guess what information your link names will lead to.

  • Your site is only for Art Licensing. It is not a mix of 2-3 other businesses.

  • Your pages load fast, in 1-2 seconds, because you know slow-loading-pages are the #1 reason people leave websites.

  • You don't have spontaneous animation, because you understand not all computers can support the software, and it often slows down page-load time.

  • You don't force manufacturers to listen to audio, watch video, or view animation, and you don't expect them to click "skip it" or "turn it off" as a default.

  • You don't have text that blinks, moves, or change colors uncontrollably

  • Your logo is in the upper left of all pages, and links back to the homepage

  • You avoid pdf links, since they require downloads in order to view.

  • You have a super-easy way for manufacturers to sign up for your mailing list, such as a form that only requires a name and email address.
Here is an example of an  art licensing website that fulfill most of these guidelines. It allows the visitor to find the art quickly. Notice how it doesn't use any fancy bells and whistles, and yet is effective at showing a large body of work in an elegant way.

Sara Henry Design

Another Artist's Homepage



Web design Canada said...

Designing is very tough work and when you have to design greeting it becomes much tough.

monica lee said...

Oh this is a good post! Great job Kate!

BJ Lantz said...

Great post, Kate. I took all these things in consideration when designing my website and *hope* I succeeded :-). And, as the first comment stated, web design is tough work. When did we start wearing ALL the hats? :-) But I really wanted something I could maintain & change easily myself and am fortunate I have a friend who is much more tech savvy than I when it comes to the web and he helped me a great deal to set it all up.

I would say the only roadblock I have is that my entire portfolio is password protected. While this might stop somebody randomly visiting, I find that the manufacturers that I work with and the ones I market to (and provide the password to on a regular basis) have no problem with it. While it took a long time to develop and now time to update regularly and maintain, it has been a great, great tool to have my entire portfolio a click away.

As much as I'd love for there to be no roadblock at all, for obvious reasons, I would not want my extensive entire portfolio available to just anyone who wants to view it.

Kate Harper said...

I think BJ makes a good point. An artist does not want to put "all" of their designs on their website. It's best to just put a sampling. Also, once a manufacturer knows the artist, they can make their own independent arrangements to see the full portfolio. I think I will add the word "new" in the first sentence of the article, so it is clear that I am talking about "new" manufacturers that we currently have no relationship with. thx BJ!

Unknown said...

Great post!! Do you think it's alright to have a "shop" on the site? Know you say not a mix of other businesses. I figured that manufacturers can see some of my images on preexisting products. I also have a page for mural commissions. Maybe I have too much on one site. It's very simple to navigate I think, but I am new to licensing and would hate to scare anyone away ?? Thanks again Kate for such helpful info!

Kate Harper said...

Allyn, I have the same problem. I have both manufacturers and customers coming to the sight. I put one tab for "shopping" so those people can get to where they want to go, but personally I think the websites in this article are a model of what a licensing site should look like. For all we know, they also do graphic design, sign painting or teach classes, but they know that trying to include all this might only make the manufacturer ask "what business are they in anyway?" I think it's great to show a finished product on your website as a model of how your art can be applied, but maybe it's best to avoid the site looking like a store. Maybe a second website or facebook fan page is a better place to feature products? I try to ask myself: How can I make my art licensing site relaxing and not too busy? Is the visitor clear I have an art licensing business?

Deb said...

Fabulous tips, Kate! This was a timely post as I am presently thinking of all the things I'll need to do (or not) for my new art licensing site. I'm thinking of adding a password protected option for manufacturers. I believe there is a WP plugin for this - do you happen to use password protection yourself?

karyn servin said...

Great post Kate. I redesigned my site a year ago and still haven't implemented it because I keep laboring over how to organize art in a meaningful way for manufacturers. I also struggle with how to have 'bread and butter' art on the site (new to licensing so my other work that pays the bills) AND art I want to promote for licensing. With that said, I am thinking that I rename myself for licensing and have a second site JUST for licensing. Since I am new I figure I don't have a lot of brand recognition yet anyway. Any thoughts on this?

Kate Harper said...

Karyn, I don't think you have to make any major decisions about branding or name changes. I'd just make sure that when a manufacturer goes to your website, they can find what they need -- and remove anything that is not about licensing.

I know a lot of people try to have a ALL-IN-ONE website and it can come across as "let me pull a rabbit out of my hat, I too, can fix your plumbing and paint a picture at the same time."

I probably change my website once a week and try things. I think it's OK to play around with it and get feedback. Don't be afraid to ask for feedback on linkedin professional groups. People are really helpful.

Kate Harper said...

Deb-There are different schools of thought on password protection. In fact just today I was commenting on another blog about this. I said:

Awhile back I became quite frustrated to find much my blog content lifted off my blog without credit or links.

I’ve also found my art reproduced on etsy and zazzle and it’s an endless task keeping up with it all.

The truth is, if I spent all day looking for it, I'd probably find my content lifted all over the web. My joke to myself is, "I just hope whoever takes my art makes a lot of money because my attorney would love to sue them on their way to the bank."

I've had things taken many times and I’m still alive and somewhat calm. Most of it is unintentional clueless people.

I tend to look at it this way: I have about 800 visitors come to my blog a day, but if 800 people showed up to my house every day, I’m sure I'd lose some silverware out of the kitchen drawer, but I also might meet my favorite actor Jim Parsons.

So you get to pick your own odds: 100% Safety or the chance to meet Jim Parsons?

-with a smile, Kate

Wendy Martin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Shameless Propaganda said...

Greetings, artists.
I'm a manufacturer, I source and license a ton of artwork for greeting cards. Be very careful of passwords. I understand that you have to protect yourself. However, when I'm in my "search" mode looking for artwork for the cards we make, I usually keep on going if I have to take some action to see the artist's work. LIke request and receive a password.

If you do use a password, be absolutely sure to show me what you do so I can make a judgment as to whether it is worth my time to ask you for a password.

Good luck in your make the commercial market go around.


Laura Nikiel said...

Hi Kate,
Excellent post and discussion! I'm just jumping into the licensing biz and working on my line of images. I have a website for my illustrations for the children's publishing industry and planning on a 2nd website for licensing only. I'm going to link the 2, so my published illustrations add credibility.

StaceyMDesign said...

Hi Kate:
Thanks for this great info. As for the "30 image" rule. Why 30?


Kate Harper said...

Stacy-I'm no authority for why "30". I try to put myself in the manufacturer's seat and ask: "What's the minimum amount of images I want to see to evaluate an artist. I think 30 is a good sampling. Basically my numbers are 1 image per second, so if you had 60 images, I would say 60 seconds. I base this off my image searches for blog photos from image databases. There is a magic "sweet spot" where image viewing is fast enough, and where it is just too slow. To me, one image a second is actually not that fast, but acceptable. Anything more is great. What do you think?

Leyla Torres said...

Thank you Kate, great points to keep in mind for designing or updating our websites.

As for my own web presence:
•I have a website showcasing my children's books school visits and other activities:

•I decided to create one website dedicated exclusively to art licensing.
This site has four main and clearly placed links: [a] Home (which acts as the "about" page too and shows work) [b] Portfolio, [c] Blog, and [d] Contact (Which acts as portfolio preview also).

I have agonized about how to show my portfolio and decided, as BJ Lanz, to have it in a password-protected area.
When my visitors click on the portfolio page they can read the categories and kind of art they will find inside and they are invited to click on a *portfolio preview* link. This link will take them to a slide show which shows my style and type of images I create and has a contact form to send a message or request a password if they wish. How this portfolio set up works for me remains to be seen. I will evaluate as I interact with visitors and will change if necessary.

Mary Lou said...


I'm developing a licensing portfolio. As others have mentioned this article is excellent and timely. At this time, offline, I've been setting up an all new website dedicated only to artwork available for licensing.

The password information was mega helpful. Both points of view regarding sending a password along with the submission of new artwork uploaded and also Kathryn's comment regarding requesting a password if she wanted to see more of the artists work were good.

Do you change your password periodically? Or does changing the password cause confusion?

Thank you for writing this article. Mary Lou LaBerge

Kate Harper said...

Jeannene- I do a mix of using dreamweaver and also my own coding. I found it saved me an incredible amount of money to learn coding (not that hard) and also I can change things everyday if I want. I only mentioned 30 images as a minimum, but definitely the more the better. Phone numbers? Most professionals have one, but I'm not a phone person, so I don't really want phone calls. I've found 99% of what I do can be done through email. If I were selling a product directly to consumers, then a phone number would probably be more important. Does this help?

Sharon Kurlansky said...

Thanks for the excellent post, Kate. Have been thinking of developing a beefed-up licensing section of my website, but given this information, that may not be an effective approach, especially since several artists will be presented. Ah.. so much to do.. but well worth the learning curve.

Gabriela said...


This is such a great thread! Very interesting information from manufacturers and artists.

My question would be how many images would be enough for a prospect client to have a good idea about what we can do?

Thanks so much!

~ Gabriela ~

Kate Harper said...

Gabriela, Personal opinion: a minimum of 30, but it would be great to have 50 or more, especially if you have a variety of styles. Look at the website samples in the article and see how many images you think they have.

Periwinkle Paisley said...
This is my favorite site, I think it achieves all that effectively and with style.

Periwinkle Paisley said...

I just want you to know that this post helped me a lot setting up my design blog. I appreciate that you share your knowledge with all of us :)

Fellow Fine Art Fan said...

Favorite Art Licensing Website :

Unparalleled variety, styles, subjects and mediums by Lowell S.V. Devin, new American artist.