Today I’m reviewing Gabriela Szulman’s site.This site has given me more of a headache than any other site I’ve looked in (in a good way, not the lying-down-in-a-dark room sort of way), and I think it’s because there are so many different solutions.
Gabriela is an artist who makes incredible collages that combine memorabilia (photos, objects, postcards) with painting. She lives in London but is originally from Buenos Aires and her prints often contain wonderful vintage images from South America.
Take a look at the homepage below:
At first glance, the website looks very nice and Gabriela’s own images are beautiful. Gabriela has started a blog and writes about travels, exhibitions, and her creative process. There are some fascinating pieces here, not only on the blog but also in Gabriela’s account of recent commissions.
There isn’t a huge amount wrong with Gabriela’s site. The main problem I can see is that it can be confusing and repetitive. There is lots of similar-looking content in different places (with some broken links). And, although there are lots of calls to action at the end of each piece, I was left unsure about Gabriela’s real goals for the site. Is it about selling the work, or providing a nice artistic experience for the reader?
So my general recommendation is to tell a much simpler story. But what story exactly? Here are the steps I would go through in thinking about the future development of this site.
1. Think about art, selling and blogging
There are lots and lots of different things that Gabriela could do.
Her blog entries are inspirational and visually delightful. Some artists who like to write take a blog-first approach, with new art highlighted in passing. Right now Gabriela’s blog is buried under all her other lovely stuff.
But how does it all fit together? Have a hard think about your site visitors and art customers, the relationship you want with them, and whether this tends to be repeat or one-off.
Do you want regular customers who are informed about new exhibitions and sales?
Do you want a stream of Memory customers for your bespoke service?
Do you want supporters and family who will read your blog posts and cheer you on?
Or maybe you want to speak to a bigger audience (customers, supporters, would-be artists) about the creative process (and in that case, if you want to sell something what will they actually want to buy?)
I say all this because I think an art site needs fans and buyers, and there is a slight tendency to acquire fans and non-buyers. Especially if the site feeds the need for inspiration but doesn’t create desire for the work itself. Personally, I think an art site needs to maintain a bit of distance between the artist and the reader (unless you’re really selling teaching). Gabriela’s recent post on travelling to Bilbao does that beautifully, as does the piece on her home.
2. Where do you want to focus the business?
What does Gabriela want to lead with?
Is it the Memory Print service, making art from customers’ own pieces? (it looks wonderful)
Is it her original art and cards?
Or is to provide general inspiration for other people, as artists?
(There is a lot of detailed information about the Memory Print process in the blog, which also makes me wonder whether people would like to learn how to make these in a workshop setting, OK, I would).
(This is such a stunning image.)
Right now, the site features absolutely everything and there’s no particular hierarchy. Everything looks equally important. It feels to me like a more structured organisation would help visitors to pick their way through.
3. Simplify the Homepage layout
There is a lot going on here and as a result it’s quite difficult to work out exactly what Gabriela offers and how to access it.
I would reduce the categories listed in the top navigation to something like Home, About, Collections, Shop, Journal.
And I would consider a blog-first (blog on homepage) style. It needs some thinking about. The alternative is to choose a visual layout which focuses on some of these categories more than others – so rather than 8 little squares, the viewer sees one big image and some smaller ones. You provide signposts to important stuff rather than letting everything be important.
4. Improve the basic SEO
A Google search on Gabriela’s name brings all her sites up but a search on ‘Art made from Memories’…nothing.
The absolute minimum required here is that Gabriela adds a longer, SEO-focused Title tag to the homepage.
You’ll see the title above the browser window. For this site, it currently says ‘Gabriela Szulman’. To get it right you need to think about what your site vsitiors are searching for and amend it to be a bit more descriptive… something more along the lines of ‘Gabriela Szulman | Mixed Media Artist, Making Art from Memories in London, England’. That is a bit shonky perhaps, but you get the picture. Think about how people search for what you provide.
5. Write an editorial calendar
The final piece is to create an outline calendar for the blog which is built around external events such as exhibitions, open studios, and major festivals. Then you can fill in all the other things that give the visitor a peek into your world and a cue to buy your work – featuring new work, talking about travels, going behind the scenes and so on.
There are so many different ways Gabriel could go: great talent and a lovely individual voice.