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Creating Better Websites for A/E/C Firms

Launching a new website, while exciting, can also be quite daunting for any professional services firm. The tendency is to immediately get caught up in “what will the final product look like”.  For professional services firms the journey to that final product is a bit more complicated than expected; for A/E/C firms the journey is the most daunting.

Websites for the architecture, engineering and construction industry (A/E/C) have another dimension that adds a level of complexity – the project portfolio. A project portfolio is often times the body of work that initially defines the craftsmanship and innovation of a firm.

As clients (owners, institutions, government and end-users) seek out experts, they are frequently finding experts that our outside of their geographic proximity, and thus a well-structured online project portfolio becomes the critical initial impression.

What makes a good website online portfolio? Here are three areas to consider:

Information Architecture – The information architecture of a website is not the place to get creative. Use labels that are clear and easy to understand and make sure that this structure reflects how an outsider would look for information. Said another way:

If your internal organizational structure (internal view) is commercial unit  | government unit, don’t use this same structure for your website. Instead, consider a website structure that has a more external viewcommercial interiors | education | government | hospitality | mission critical. One structure is going to translate much better to those visiting your site for information about the type of work you perform. Also, consider using direct language like:

> Who are you? (About pages)
> What do you do? (Services pages)
> How do you do it? (Case Stories pages)
> How can I contact you? (Contact page)

 Photography – The quality of your photos is critical. Does your website showcase your projects in a professional manner? Lighting, composition, image size, these are all critical to demonstrating your craftsmanship. Consider GHT, a 45-year old MEP firm or Quinn Evans Architects, a 27-year old architecture firm, each of these firms has taken a different approach to showcasing their project portfolio. However, in both instances the photography plays a key role in demonstrating their craftsmanship and innovation.

Message – How clear is the messaging on your website? At Hinge, we like to use the 3-second test. Basically, if you look at a professional services firm website, can you tell what they do within 3 seconds? Many architecture, engineering, construction firms have a website that could easy pass for a general management consulting firm. Does your messaging speak to the type of work your firm wants to do? Does your message speak to your firm’s positioning? Finally, is your unique value proposition clear and concise to pass the 3-second test? Or does it showcase work that is old and not aligned to the growth of your firm?

At the end of the day, a website for an architecture, engineering, construction (A/E/C) firm should have an architecture that is easy to navigate, communicates a messaging that immediately tells you what the firm does, and have photography that showcases the craftsmanship and innovation of the technical professionals that make up the firm.

For more information on creating engaging websites, download our latest guide: The Website Planning Guide

Author: Sylvia Montgomery, CPSM A Senior Partner and the head of Hinge’s A/E/C practice, Sylvia collects many shoes and wears many hats. When she’s not traveling around the country for speaking engagements or client meetings, you will find Sylvia creating marketing and branding strategies for clients, supervising her A/E/C team, developing new business, or working on her personal brand. With a 20+ year career spanning visual communications, strategy, and marketing, and over a decade working in the A/E/C sector, Sylvia brings a creative, business-focused approach to her client engagements.

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