5 Website Design Tips for Architects
I’ve been designing websites since 1997, and in that time, websites have changed quite a bit. With all the changes over the years, it’s no surprise that I often find some firm owners don’t understand how architecture website design really works. While you might know a bad website when you see one, you might not understand what makes a good site work. This article will change that.
Start your architecture firm’s website design project by identifying your ideal client and what problems you solve for them. Make sure your message underscores the value you provide to them.
You’ll also want to determine clear goals for your website. Back in 1997, most people looked at websites as online brochures. Today, we expect our websites to be a critical component in our business development pipeline. Of course, you’ll want to include your firm’s portfolio of work, but the best architecture web design solutions are about building a site that helps you attract and collect qualified sales leads.
6 Architect Business Development Strategies to Grow Your Firm
We have found that the best approach is to workshop your website requirements with your team and a lead generation professional. You’d be surprised at how your website can help in attracting, nurturing, and converting visitors into bonafide sales opportunities.
I cannot overstate the importance of involving professional help in building your website. The internet is littered with failed in-house web design projects, and it ain’t pretty. In fact, a poorly designed website can hurt your business. Have you ever had someone say, “By the way, did Joe Smith call you? I referred him to you and gave him your website address.” If you never heard from Joe Smith, it was likely because they visited your website.
Architects seem prone to view websites as a design problem when that could not be further from the truth. A website that does not help you produce leads is a waste of time and money. A great design that shows off your work is a given, but your website needs to appeal to your ideal client, and it has to provide a solution to their problem. If you try to design your website to impress other architects, you’re going to waste your time and money.
If you’re ready to get started designing your website, pay attention to these five factors to ensure your website is a success.
I’ve seen visually beautiful websites that didn’t work well, and other sites that lacked appealing visual design but outperformed the better-looking sites because they got these important factors right.
1. Design for Mobile First
We’re no longer living in the desktop and laptop era. Mobile browsing has surpassed desktop browsing. In fact, Google now uses mobile-optimized design as a key search engine ranking factor.
It’s easier for a browser to scale a small website to a desktop than vice versa. A site viewed on a smartphone or tablet might look squished or require some strange stretching to be viewed correctly.
This makes for a poor user experience and can result in a higher bounce rate. Think of your users and design for the most commonly used devices.
You also need to ensure your site looks great on different devices. Just because it looks good on an iPhone doesn’t mean it’ll look good on a Galaxy or an iPad. You can test your website by using online tools that can emulate the view on different devices.
Remember, digital-first firms need to also be mobile first. Be sure to optimize your site for mobile use.
2. Prioritize Speed
Modern website design must be optimized to load quickly. While you might want large, high-quality images to show off your portfolio of projects, big images take time to load, and that means lost visitors.
Rather than uploading 10 MB files all throughout your site, first take time to resize and fit images to the widest possible dimension of your text body. Resizing your photos is the easiest way to ensure higher website speed.
We recommend keeping files to 1500 pixels or less on the longest edge. We also recommend having image file sizes at 200 KB or less. One of our favorite apps to use for reducing image size is Squash. Once downloaded, all you have to do is drag and drop your images into the app and it will automatically compress them. Super fast and easy!
Learn more about designing for mobile, site load speed, and other architecture firm website best practices in our article on the Five Reasons Architecture Websites Fail.
3. Content is Still King
Your website should be a showcase of your expertise and skills as an architect. However, and contrary to popular belief, your project portfolio is not the best way to communicate that expertise.
Your portfolio certainly answers the question of whether or not you can design great projects, but for most clients, your aesthetic is just one part of why they will hire you. They have more pressing questions, like ‘how do you work,’ ‘what’s the timeframe,’ ‘what’s the cost,’ and many other basic questions. The more you are able to answer the concerns of your target audience the more time they will spend on your site, and the more likely they are to contact you.
A great place to start is to write down the typical questions that you get from your clients when you are in the initial stages of working with them. By answering these questions on your website, you will solve several problems at once:
1) You’ll help them to confirm that they have come to the right place,
2) You’ll save time having to answer the same questions over and over, and
3) You’ll attract more search engine traffic because these are the same questions that clients typically try to research when they go looking for answers on Google.
Just like a building’s design has to create a sense of harmony and consistency, your website design architecture must follow suit. However, architects often struggle with the website design process, because they try to translate their three-dimensional architectural style into a two-dimensional world. This rarely has the intended effect and usually results in confusing visitors.
Your website’s design should be a reflection of your brand, not a reimagining of your body of work. Let your work stand out on it’s own, captured in high-quality professional photography.
If you have not already developed visual branding guidelines for your firm, get that done before diving into a website design. Keep things simple. Do not go over-the-top with crazy font and color combinations, and do not try to adapt someone else’s style as your own.
To get some deeper insights, read our Architecture Portfolio Tips article. It features five ideas for making your portfolio stand out.
Once you are happy with your website’s style, you’ll also want to see how you can spread that style across your social media and other online channels. Design consistency at every point your prospects and clients find you will reinforce your position and make it easier to remember your firm.
Content can take many forms, there are blog articles, FAQs, podcasts, videos, infographics, slide shares, and many other ways to communicate your expertise. Find a format that works well for you, and try to add new content to your website on a regular basis.
5. Clear Message
When someone visits your website, it’s important to keep your messaging clear and concise. Within 10 seconds of someone visiting your site, they should know exactly what you do and who you do it for. You want to capture people’s attention, then draw people further into your website:
- Get their attention. Your home page is where users will first get a glimpse of what kind of company you are, what work you do, and who you do it for. The simplest way to communicate your message is to use captivating images and concise text. For example, if your firm specializes in custom-designed residential architecture, make that the main message on your home page.
- Draw them in. This is where you can tell your story and what makes your firm different from the others.
- Show and tell. Now is the time to showcase your best work. Portfolios, case studies, and client testimonials are great examples to put on your website. This helps establish credibility and trust.
- Have a call to action. Now you’ve drawn them in, be sure to give them direction for what to do next. A simple ‘Contact us to get started’ is typically the best way to get them to take action, and gives you important information from them so you can stay in touch.
Getting the messaging right on your website will also help create the kind of keyword-rich content that attracts people to search for what you do. For more on how to get the right traffic to your website, check out our article on how to improve SEO for architects.
Modern Website Design Flows Page to Page
As your website design comes together, one of the things you’ll notice is when something just seems natural and when it doesn’t. An effective webpage architecture will easily move site visitors from page to page with intuitive menus. Include only one call-to-action on each page so you can see what works best.
Is your website up to speed? Go through our quick checklist to find out!
- Is your website mobile optimized? Mobile optimized means that the site will reformat itself from desktop, tablet, and smartphone devices.
- Do the images on your website load immediately?
- Does your website reflect your brand and architectural style?
- Are your icons, fonts, and graphics consistent across your digital platforms?
- Within 10 seconds of someone visiting your website, is it clear what service you provide and for whom you provide it?
How did you do? If you answered NO to one or more of these questions, you need to update your website.
This article was originally published on Archmark.
Bryon McCartney is the co-founder and Chief Creative Strategist at Archmark Architect Branding and Marketing [https://www.
Bryon has more than 30 years of experience working with major clients, including Clavin Klein, General Motors, Lipton Foods, and many others. He considers himself an ”Archi-Geek” having traveled to more than 160 cities seeking to experience architecture of different kinds around the globe. Bryon is a featured contributor and speaker for Archipreneur, Architect Marketing Institute, Business of Architecture, Entrearchitect, Zweig Group, and many others.