Every architect knows that first impressions are essential. But when it comes to designing their website, first impressions will only take a firm so far.
The Hinge Research Institute has found that 9 out of 10 professional services buyers will rule out a firm before ever speaking with them and more than 8 out of 10 will check out a firm’s website to evaluate them as a potential provider.
If you’re an architecture firm, your website needs to accomplish three things: present your body of work, demonstrate your expertise and clearly communicate your ability to address a buyer’s challenges. While architects understand good design, their websites need to deliver more than aesthetics.
In this article, we’ll explore eight essential components of good architecture firm websites. Let’s dive in!
1. Strategic design
The best architecture firm websites use their brand strategy to inform their design choices. Strategic design means using imagery, typography, color and layout to tell your story and engage your audience in a way that builds credibility and trust. Strategic design also allows you to communicate important brand attributes visually and reinforce your positioning, differentiators and key messages.
Ultimately, design strategy forces you to take your brand in a more innovative direction and deliver a user experience that is sophisticated and rich in meaning. At the end of the day, prospects will be more likely to remember your website and firm. And in a competitive talent marketplace, it helps attract top prospective employees, too.
2. Breathtaking imagery
Beautiful, vibrant photography plays a critical role on an architecture firm’s website. We are visual beings, and gorgeous, compelling images convey credibility and stimulate desire for your services. While many of the images on your website will illustrate your portfolio and showcase your body of work, others may serve a purely aesthetic function. Because of the visual nature of your industry, your website imagery should be of the highest quality.
You should invest in a professional photographer with extensive experience shooting architecture in daylight and at night. This is one of the best investments you can make. If you simply have no budget for custom photography (it’s not cheap!), try reaching out to partners you worked with on key projects to see if you can use or license their photos. This can be an affordable way to get top-drawer imagery.
3. A project portfolio/case studies
Project photos are important, but don’t forget the descriptions of the projects themselves. Be sure to explain the client’s challenge and how you solved it. Try to tell a compelling story. You may even want to connect your case stories to the appropriate team bios, putting faces and specific expertise to your best work.
Powerful case stories or project descriptions can help establish the credibility of your firm and highlight your team’s expertise. When a client is trying to choose a firm to work with, the perceived strength of your past performance can make a tremendous difference.
Don’t skimp on the details. Photos, testimonials, videos, key accomplishments and specific results and metrics will all help bring your stories to life and persuade those who might be on the fence.
4. User experience
From site architecture and content organization to broken links and slow-loading pages, a great user experience is one of the most critical elements of any architecture firm’s website. Simply put, a website that isn’t user-friendly can frustrate and deter potential clients and job candidates. Architecture firms often focus far too much on the dazzle of the design, leaving their website visitors to puzzle out hard-to-find navigation and make their way through a confusing and poorly marked labyrinth of pages.
And as more and more users access websites from their phones, architecture firms need to build sites that are just as beautiful and functional on mobile as they are on desktop computer screens. Responsive design—building your site to adapt organically to a wide range of screens—is more important than ever.
5. A blog for educational content
Your blog is not the place to feature recent hires, project awards or press releases. Instead, your blog should be the distribution channel for free, frequently produced educational content. Posts should address the design issues that are most important to your firm’s target audiences, trends that are facing the industry and other design insights that your clients and prospects will find relevant to their business challenges. By producing educational content, your team can demonstrate their expertise and build a reputation as a resource for smart, timely advice.
Once you’ve mastered blogging, you can develop other valuable educational content for your audiences, including executive guides, whitepapers, webinars, research studies and more. You can put some or all of these “high-value” assets behind a registration form to capture leads and grow your email list.
6. An SEO strategy
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through search engines like Google. By optimizing pages for specific keyword opportunities and applying a variety of strategies to build your website’s domain authority, you can develop greater reach and credibility over time.
Now, the competition for the best industry keywords among architecture firms can be tough, but according to Hinge’s 2021 High Growth Study, only 36.2% of professional services firms reported that they use SEO activity as part of their marketing strategy. Having an SEO strategy is a great way to increase your visibility and set you apart from your competitors.
Applying an SEO strategy will help the blog posts you write and the services pages on your website become more findable in search engines. And by optimizing your thought leadership content with keywords that your audiences are searching for, you can make your expertise more visible to prospects seeking that information.
7. Team member bios with headshots
Architecture firms sell expertise. You should want to do everything in your power to highlight that expertise and showcase the very capable people on your team. And yes, that means headshots all around! Putting a face to a name is incredibly important in an industry where a firm’s most valuable asset is the knowledge of its people.
On average, after the About Us page, a firm’s team page is the second most visited page on their website. Prospects want to know who they will be working with. And you want to establish trust with an audience who probably hasn’t reached out to you yet. Your people’s expertise is the key to building that credibility. If a visitor can’t find any bios of the people that work at a firm, particularly those of the leadership team, they are less likely to include your firm in the bid.
Furthermore, from an employer brand perspective, the development of an professional’s personal brand has gained importance over the past few years—particularly to that ambitious mid-career employee who is looking to carve out his or her place at an up-and-coming architecture practice. Prove to your employees you are invested in their success by giving your top experts the opportunity to build their reputation.
8. Call-to-actions/Offers for more engagement
What good is your architecture firm website without a mechanism that will excite the user to take a next step or action? While a “Contact Us” button is a call-to-action (CTA) of sorts, you can do better.
The most effective architectural websites from a marketing perspective feature various offers for further engagement. Maybe it’s a free consultation or an offer to download a premium piece of content, such as an in-depth guide. Whatever you offer, require the interested party to provide contact information—their name and email address at the very minimum—so that you have a means to contact them in the future with additional content and offers. But don’t hound them with sales pitches. Instead, nurture them over time with more free, valuable content. That way, when they need to hire an architect, your firm will be top of mind.
Many architecture firm websites are visually stunning but do little to build their business. They are wonderful brochures but utterly fail to meet the needs of today’s buyers, who increasingly rely on the internet to find and evaluate firms. What’s more, traditional referrals are in a slow but steady decline, so architects that want to build the thriving business of tomorrow need to start developing their online reputations today.
And there’s no better place to begin than by building a website that not only meets your high aesthetic standards, but addresses the needs of the modern buyer of architectural services.