I first reviewed Fine Art America in January 2009 (link to article). Fine Art America is similar to Red Bubble and Imagekind in that it enables you to sell both originals and prints of your work, using Print On Demand (POD) technology. Since that initial review, FAA has added a great new feature: websites for artists. Art you upload to FAA’s site becomes immediately available on your website, and vice versa. FAA and its POD program are free. Adding the website is a mere $30 a year (most sites charge that much–or more–per month). So FAA, which already offered more than its competitors two years ago, has added even more to help you get your work out there. Their visitor counts per month are over 500,000, which is 100,000 more than Red Bubble. Imagekind’s numbers are much, much lower. (See the chart from Compete.com, below). If you’re depending on your art marketplace site to get you visitors, these numbers are a very important consideration. Nothing says you can’t sign up with all three, of course, and it might be a good idea to do so, as long as they are free.
I decided to take the new website function for a spin, and write about the experience here in occasional articles, beginning today. I invite readers to comment about their own experiences with Fine Art America, RedBubble, and/or Imagekind. What’s working for you?
Well, shrinking down the page from Compete.com to fit on the blog probably renders it unreadable, but there it is. I’ll summarize, in case you can’t make it out. The blue line represents FAA’s monthly visitor count for 2010, hovering around 500,000. Below that, in green, is Red Bubble, at around 400,000. Imagekind, in orange, is around 160,000. So this gives you an idea as to how busy these sites are, and which is the leader. I should point out that traffic numbers alone aren’t the whole story. For instance, even though Zazzle has over 5 million visitors a month, I’m willing to bet that nearly all of the visitors are sellers, not buyers. There’s no way to tell, however, what the ratio is. And that’s what you really want to know: how many buyers will be visiting. I don’t believe any of these sites is publishing their sales figures, unfortunately.
I decided to begin concentrating on selling prints of my digital and traditional artwork. One of my considerations was that I own my own domain name. This made FAA very attractive, because I could tell my domain registrar company to redirect all links for “www.bobnolin.com” to my new FAA website. This was easy to do, and meant that I wasn’t going to lose anybody who already had me bookmarked. After enrolling in the “premium” member plan for $30, a website is created for you. The URL is “www.xxxx.artistwebsites.com,” where xxxx is your name, with a hyphen in the middle. For example, mine is www.bob-nolin.artistwebsites.com. You can’t change it to something else. Your new website is clean and simple. Not exactly Web 2.0 (or are we up to 3.0 by now?), but it looks professional.
The banner across the top (a) has a few color choices, but the design is the same. You have three font choices: Courier, Times Roman, and Arial. Luckily, you can create and upload your own banner art, which is what I did. (See below.)
The navigation tabs (b) are not changeable. Even if you don’t want to use, say, the blog feature, you are stuck with a “Blog” tab. The “Login” tab is for the website owner’s use only, so your customers may click on it and wonder why it’s there. They may wonder if this is a membership-only site or something.
The page itself (c) has a “profile image” (mandatory, though you can use an image of your artwork, if you prefer — I’d rather people look at my work upon entering my site, not my face) on the left, and your name and bio on the right. And to paraphrase Henry Ford, you can make the background any color you like, as long as it’s white or black.
And finally, the artwork (d) is here twice, once under the “Artwork” tab, and once under the “Galleries” tab. You can’t turn off one of them. I would prefer to just have Galleries, and have them right here, without requiring a click on a tab. I like the way Krop.com has designed their profile page, and hope that FAA can take a few design pointers from them. Krop also has a nice tool for modifying the thumbnails for each image. Here’s a look at my Krop profile page:
This is what the header of my new FAA website looks like. I’ve created a new banner image, and (forgot to mention this) you can change the colors of the tabs. You can choose any hex number for them. Background is strictly #000000 or #FFFFFF.
I hate to end on a negative note, but I do need to mention that during this week of trying out FAA, their servers have, apparently, gone down at least three times. In one week. Sometimes, for an hour or more. Another time, parts of the website (the part where you go to buy a print) weren’t working.
This problem led me to find out that FAA has very poor customer service. I’ve sent several emails to “email@example.com” to ask about the server being offline. As of today, I have not received a response. I also sent an email asking a technical question, but again, no response. There is an FAQ page, but it is mostly a sales piece, with little “how to” info. If you’re not technically savvy, you may want to stay away altogether, unfortunately. The lack of support also means that your customers are not getting their questions answered. According to the owner of FAA, he is the one and only employee running the whole shop (he subcontracts the printing and framing). So bear these caveats in mind when deciding whether FineArt America is for you and your business.
That’s all for this week. I’m still uploading images. I will say that, when it’s working, this is a very impressive piece of software. The search facility is probably the best I have seen. FAA really stresses the importance of using keywords. Take a few extra minutes to put in as many as you can think of, and then your work WILL be found by willing buyers. Best of luck to you!
For more information, here’s an in-depth interview with the owner of Fine Art America, dated March 2010. It’s very informative.