5 Essential Features of an Architecture Firm’s Website
As an architecture firm, your website is often a prospective client’s first introduction to your body of work. It is vital that the first meeting be a harmonious one. The goal of an architect’s website isn’t to dazzle with whizbang and doodads, but to sit back and allow the beauty of the architecture to stand out.
Your website needs to accurately reflect your firm’s values and mission, as well as the style and type of projects you’re known for. You want prospective clients to immediately feel as if they’ve landed in the right place. In this article, we look at five features your architecture website needs to succeed:
1 – Pictures
More important than getting your logo right, more important even than spelling the name of your company correctly (although you should do that, too) is ensuring your website is bursting with vibrant, beautiful images of your buildings and designs.
The images of your work serve as your portfolio. Potential clients browse these images looking for that certain undefinable something that means you’re the right architecture firm for them. It’s vital your website images are designed to stand out and look amazing:
- Your design should incorporate images as the focal point on every page. If you’re using a template site, look for sites that are designed for photographers and artists – these make clever use of photo galleries and background.
- Keep fonts and formatting simple, and background plain white. Let your images do the talking.
- Use high-res professional images. If you have to, hire a professional photographer to go back to your top projects and photograph them – if you have a budget for your website, this is the best investment you could make.
- Add a watermark. Don’t make it too intrusive, but include a mark in the corner of images with your name and website URL. If someone likes one of your images after seeing it on social media, they can easily find their way back to your site and contact you.
- Only use your best work. It sounds obvious, but too many architects “bulk out” their portfolio with their less impressive projects. But remember, it’s better to have a handful of stunning projects showcased than several lackluster designs.
2 – An About Page
The About page is usually the second or third page on your site that a reader will visit. Your About page gives you a chance to express your personality and tell your story.
How do you craft a stunning About page? Here are some tips:
- Add an image: A smiling image of yourself or your team help potential clients to feel at ease. They know they’re dealing with people, not a faceless company. Especially if you’re a small firm, your advantage is the “human touch,” so play to it.
- Talk up your achievements: I know you don’t like to brag, but the About Page is not the place to be coy. If you’ve won awards, been featured in a high profile publication, or achieved some other career milestone, then talk about it.
- Be personable: Don’t ramble on about the history of your company in a dull, “corporate” tone. Write in a lively voice that’s easy to read and relate to. It can help to write up a “bare bones” biography, and then give it to a copywriter to jazz up.
- Answer the client’s question: If I were a client looking for an architect, what questions would I have? I’d want to know that architect was qualified, that they’re experienced in design and running their firm, that they’re passionate about the type of design I’m passionate about (whether that’s environmental, brutalist or Scandinavian) and that they’re going to be easy to get along with. Your About page should leave me satisfied I’ve answered all these questions.
SEE ALSO: Top Trends in AEC Marketing for 2015
3 – A Useable Site
Usability isn’t just a buzzword, it’s an essential part of your website’s design. In the digital age, buyers have a wealth of information readily available to them. A website that isn’t user-friendly will quickly deter prospects. Here are a few tips for enhancing the user experience:
- Create a responsive site. “Responsive” means your site will change shape and dimensions so it can be easily read on a smartphone or tablet. As more than 80% of smartphone users now use their device to browse the Internet (Go.Gulf Web Design), having a responsive site is an important way of capturing this market dataset.
- Use a light background. A white background with black text is the easiest to read. Using a dark background with white text makes your site appear dated.
- Keep design minimal. Minimal design is in vogue right now. Use simple shapes, fonts and layout, and let the images be the focal point.
- Create descriptive alt tags. You already know that images are essential, but did you know that alt tags help people with low vision and print disabilities discern what’s in your images? The alt tag also helps search engines to index your images so people can search them. It’s a vital part of usability to get alt tags right. Describe what’s going on in your image in a way that creates a visual for someone who can’t see, as well as using words that Google searchers would employ. A specialist copywriter or SEO expert can help with this task.
- Avoid flash. You may think websites made in flash look smart, but flash presents all sorts of usability issues. Screen readers can’t navigate flash sites, search engines may struggle to index your pages, a visitor can’t email one of your images to a friend or save it on their desktop for reference, and certain smartphones/tablets can’t access them.
4 – Educational Content
One great thing you can do on your website to help potential clients make wise design decisions is to provide relevant and educational content that address prospects’ issues and challenges. This content could include videos, articles, downloadable sheets, eBooks, or infographics. What’s more important than the format is the fact that this content provides some useful information for potential clients.
Why would you want to provide information for free? Search engines love content and providing educational content builds trust with your audiences and demonstrates your firm’s expertise. Here are some content ideas you could include on your architecture firm’s site:
- A list of resources for local building projects
- A guide for what they can expect in the design process
- A funny infographic describing different architecture styles and periods throughout history
- A series of design tip guides for specific areas – such as “10 Tips for Designing a Usable Kitchen” or “5 Principles to Keep in Mind When Designing Outdoor Living Space”.
- A downloadable construction budget spreadsheet to help your clients manage their new build.
5 – Contact Details
You’d be surprised how often businesses forget to add their contact details to their website, or bury them so deep in text and images they’re impossible to find.
- Avoid contact forms: Yes, I know they help prevent spam, but they also deter legitimate prospects. Too many people have filled out a contact form only to never hear from the site owner, so when they see a form, they’ll automatically click away. If the only way you present for contact is a form, you’ll find you won’t get any enquiries.
- Give different contact options: Different clients like to reach out in different ways, so give options – a phone number, mobile number, email address, and even social media pages. Don’t forget to regularly check for correspondence – there’s no point asking people to contact you on your mobile and then never turning it on!
- Include your company address. If you don’t have an office, and you don’t want to include your address for privacy reasons, add a note about the area you’re based in.
Of course, there are many other elements you can use to create a unique website, including video, social media, a blog, and detailed lists of services. But it’s vital to get the basics right first. Whether you’re using a cheap template site or a fully customized interface, having these five features in place will ensure you’re ready to receive web traffic and direct prospects to view your projects online.
And to learn more about creating a website, download a free copy of The Professional Services Website Planning Guide.
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