Architecture Website Design — 5 Pitfalls To Avoid
5 Architecture Website Design Pitfalls to Avoid
Is Your Architecture Firm’s Website Design Losing You Business?
Architecture website design might not be the highest priority for firms that rely on reputation and relationships to keep their project pipeline full. However, there are a total of 20,836 architecture firms in the United States, and the chances are pretty good that you are facing some stiff competition. There’s also some compelling evidence that your website can give you a competitive advantage.
In a recent survey, 84% of architecture service buyers responded that they will visit a firm’s website prior to making a decision to work with them. It’s important to note this includes word-of-mouth and referred decision makers.
More importantly, that same survey revealed that those same buyers responded that they also eliminated firms from consideration because of their websites.
We recently evaluated 405 architecture firm websites. In 75% of cases, we found major issues affecting the performance of those sites. In fact, based on our observations, while architects may be great at designing buildings, it's a different story when it comes to designing effective websites.
Clearly, an obvious way to get an edge over your competitors is to have a great website. But designing a great architecture firm website isn’t necessarily as easy as it used to be. It wasn’t that long ago that simply by having a website, your firm could stand out. However, what makes for a good website has changed, and it’s time to up your game. That starts by first understanding how to avoid the five common pitfalls in architecture website design.
Pitfall #1: Designing Your Website like Other Architecture Firms
The key to great website design is not just great functionality but also originality.
The last thing you want to do is base your sites’ content and design on what other firms do, so why do so many firm websites look the same?
Don’t be shocked, but the first thing most architects do when thinking about designing or redesigning their website is to head to Google and search for “best architecture website templates.” The problem is that many other firms have done that as well, so it’s quite likely that any given firm’s website is a knock off of another firm’s knock off of some other firm, and so on and so on.
So, where do you start?
Tell Your Story
The easiest way to make your site unique is to think about content first. The one thing that only you can do is tell your firm’s story.
What many firms don’t realize is that the about page is typically the second most popular page on their websites. Potential clients want to know more about the firm, the team, and the story behind them.
Yet many firms miss the opportunity to effectively share their story. Often, we find that this is because they don’t know what to say.
A great place to start is by answering your ‘Why?’ by starting with these six questions:
Why does your firm exist?
Why does your firm do what it does?
What does your firm do really well, what are you best at?
What skills and expertise separate you from others?
What values are important to your firm?
What do you stand for or against in your profession?
The more honestly you can answer these questions, the more unique those answers will be, and the more they will help you stand out from other firms.
But don’t stop there. Three more great questions to consider include:
How do you help clients?
What makes a project successful to you?
What are your goals and aspirations? What does success look like three years from now… five years from now?
Using what you learn when you answer these questions can help you create clearer, more engaging content on your website. That will help you be more unique and more memorable, and help potential clients understand what makes your firm tick and how you can help them.
Answer Your Visitors’ Questions
Another way to make your architecture website design unique is to first think about the audience you want to work with and why they are on your site in the first place.
Contrary to popular belief, they are not there to look at endless portfolio images. They are there to decide if you have the experience and expertise to solve their problems. The best way to show them they are in the right place is to answer their burning questions.
Imagine you are meeting an ideal client to discuss a project. What questions do they ask? What are their key concerns? What challenges typically arise as the project moves forward? The more you can get inside the head of your clients and preemptively answer their questions, the more convinced they will be that your firm is the right firm for their project.
Pitfall #2: Not Including Case Studies and Testimonials
Architects are always proud to tell us, “I get all my clients by word of mouth.” Yet, when we visit their websites or look at their Google or Houzz listings, very few have client testimonials.
Project case studies and testimonials help build trust between you and your prospective clients. Too often, we see architecture firm website rely on galleries of project images to represent their work. Beautiful pictures are great. But where websites are concerned, a beautiful picture WITH WORDS is even better.
Case studies and testimonials are ideal ways to use words to go with the picture. Here’s a quick breakdown of the differences between a case study and a testimonial, and how you can use each:
A case study is your opportunity to tell the project story, and should answer these questions:
What was the client's situation or key objective?
Did you have to overcome any challenges for this project? What was your solution?
What were the specific measures that contributed to the success of the completed project?
Case studies let you demonstrate your skills and show real-world examples of your architecture design capabilities.
Instead of having large galleries of project photos, consider expanding on a few projects with case studies to help your website visitor understand the context and importance of the project and the value your architecture services delivered.
A testimonial is typically personal account of your work from your client’s point of view — and in their own words. Positive testimonials attract the attention of potential clients, and help build their confidence and comfort as they consider working with you.
These can range from short reviews on Google My Business and social media pages to video interviews you create with your client.
Testimonials provide proof of how you position your firm and add credibility to what you explain in your case studies.
Look through your Google My Business page, your social media pages, and your Yelp page for reviews and display those positive comments on your website.
Look for opportunities to feature quotes from clients throughout your site. For example a quote about your attention to detail or the value of planning would be a good addition to the page that describes your services. A happy client quote is also a important to include in a case study.
Pitfall #3: Making Your Website All About You or Your Firm
I can hear you already, “Wait, what do you mean my website’s not about my firm?” Don’t worry, it is, but at the same time, it must connect with your ideal prospect. Too often, we see architecture firm websites that are more about “show and sell” than about “building relationships.”
Of course, your website should promote your architecture firm and represent what you do. BUT, to attract and engage visitors, your website needs to answer prospective clients’ questions and concerns about working with your firm.
The best way to do this is to look for ways to tailor your website to the needs of your ideal target clients. This makes it more likely they will be interested in your website’s content and information, and more likely to take the next step toward engaging with your firm.
Start with your homepage!
Your homepage plays a critical role in this process. When someone visits your site for the first time, you have about 5-8 seconds to grab their attention and convince them that they are in the right place.
When we evaluate websites, we look to see if the homepage passes “The Grunt Test.” In other words, does the website quickly answer three basic questions that visitors need to know at a glance:
What your firm does best?
Why should the visitor care?
What is the next step?
If your website does not answer these important questions at first glance, most visitors will leave your site, for good. A great way to evaluate the effectiveness of your homepage is to review your analytics reports. If you are seeing high bounce and exit rates on your homepage, then it likely needs some work.
Designing A Client-Centered Website
Writing your site’s content to answer your prospective clients questions is the best way to attract and engage your potential clients. However, the designing a client-centered website is vital to creating a great experience. Keep in mind that your clients are likely not designers themselves. They are busy people who appreciate simplicity and ease of use. When designing your site, keep these best practices in mind:
Use plain, clear language in your sites navigation, for example, Home, About, Case Studies, Blog, avoid obscure or confusing terms.
Make your site dead simple to use. Don’t hide the menu or force visitors to click unnecessarily to get to vital information.
Avoid excessive animation or anything that might annoy or disrupt your users’ ability to use your site or find information.
Make it obvious to visitors how they can contact your firm. Include your phone number and a contact us tab on every page.
Make sure your site is optimized to load within 2-3 seconds and that images are properly compressed to look good and load fast.
Remember, you are not designing a website to impress your architecture colleagues, you are designing a site that helps potential clients understand your firm. If your site is difficult or frustrating to use, a potential client is going to subconsciously assume that your firm is difficult or frustrating to work with.
Pitfall #4: Not Including a FAQ Section
Do you commonly receive the same questions from customers over and over? If so, offer an FAQ section on your page.
Before potential clients contact you with a question, they often will check your site first.
An FAQ can give visitors a better understanding of your approach and architecture design process, and how that fits their needs.
Think of it as a helpful step at the start of their “buyer’s journey.”
You don’t need to answer a long list of questions. Start by answering these basic questions:
How do you typically work with clients?
What’s your process like?
What can they expect when working with you?
When should they bring an architect in on a project?
Think about the types of questions they might go to Google to search for an answer. “When do I need an architect?” “Why does my construction project need an architect?”
You can cover brief answers to these questions on your website and invite them to call or learn more.
Pitfall #5: Not Offering Any Value
When talking to architects, they often tell us that they never get any leads from their website.
In our evaluation of architecture firm websites, not one site we looked at was actually designed for lead generation or conversion. Far too many of websites we reviewed were passive, letting visitors come and go without any attempt to capture their emails.
In marketing, we often talk about the “value offer.” Typically, this is a helpful free download you provide on your website. In order to receive the free offer, the visitor usually must exchange their contact information.
A free guide could be a checklist of important questions to ask when interviewing architects. It could be a planning guide for a custom home or office design project. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s something your clients want or need.
You’ll also want to make sure to display the offer clearly on your website and include a form to capture visitors’ emails.
Keep the offer clear and simple — “start your next project with a free consultation" or “get our checklist of 10 questions to ask before you hire an architect.”
In return for their contact info, they’ll get a link to download your design guide, project checklist, or an article that demonstrates to your expertise and knowledge. Or they’ll go to a calendar scheduler to choose time for a call and receive an email confirmation.
Once you have that info, you can follow up directly on the request and stay in contact with regular email outreach and more useful information. This will keep your firm top of mind for when they are ready to buy.
Recap the Five Steps to Avoid - or Fix - those Website Pitfalls
Make your website more original and uniquely yours. Start by telling your story!
Use case studies and testimonials to give your website visitors more information about you and your services.
Run your homepage through “The Grunt Test” and update it to clearly tell visitors what you do, why it matters to them, and what to do next.
Create an FAQ page to answer some common questions. It shows people you understand their needs, and shows Google you have the answer to their question.
Offer something of value that will help your website visitor. Create a download checklist or white paper with useful advice or insights.
Do You Need Better Architecture Website Design?
After reading this article, do you realize your website design could use some improvement? We specialize in architecture marketing, branding, and websites using our three-stage Client Attraction System™ to get results for architects just like you.
Book a call with us to find out how we can help you.
Hey, Florida Architects!
If you’re an architect based in Florida, be sure to connect with Bryon and Kellie McCartney during the 2019 AIA Florida Convention and Tradeshow in Orlando, July 25-28. Register to attend their presentation, “Attracting Clients for Passion and Profit,” Saturday, July 27.