When someone first goes to your site they want to know instantly what you’re about and where you provide services. Many architects fail to tell readers on their first page that they are in fact an architect and also the city in which they operate. Instead they write something like “finding the intersection between space and life,” which may be poetic, but non useful information if i’m searching for an architect to hire. It also fails to locate the practice and this is important for Google if you want to show up in a search like, “Melbourne Architect.” So the advice here is don’t leave this important information for your about, or contact page. The first two words after your logo and menu should be Architect and [city name]. How you phrase this and whether you include it in a sentence doesn’t matter, just make sure those vital words are included. And if your practice works in more than one area, think about including multiple cities, or your state, or your country, or your region.
So often when I review an architect’s website I have to navigate several pages until I figure out what type of architecture the architect does, or why they are different. This last point is critical. When a potential client is perusing multiple sites from several architects you need to explain what it is that you do, and why they should hire you over another architect. If that’s because you specialise in inner city apartment refurbishments then make sure this is up on your front page. It should either be included with your tagline (ie, part of a sentence with the words Architect and City Name), or it should be the next text on the page and it should be large and concise. Don’t hide it away in a paragraph. Treat it as a headline.
If your covering your front page with a dozen projects then you’re probably displaying too many. What you’re creating is a choice dilemma and letting the user pick a project by chance. A much better strategy is to pick four of your best projects. Be selective and pick the one’s that really shine and the ones that you want to do more of. This way you create a clear path that shows you at your best.
If I click through to a project and see just an image, or two then you get a fail. Why? because you can do so much more with your project pages. This is where you can tell the story of the project. You can tell me about the brief, the challenges and the final solution. You can also tell me about how happy the clients are and who else was on the design team. When you just give me an image though, all I get is a pretty picture and then I hit back. You’ve lost an opportunity. Your project page is also the place where you can give the media, bloggers and social media users information and content so they can share your project and write stories around your architecture.
There is a classic phrase that says, “people do business with other people.” It also means that people want to work with architects that match them and that they feel comfortable with. It’s easy to think that we need to present ourselves as 100% bonafide professionals, but if you look at some of the most serious companies they go out of their way to give a human face to their business. They show photos of their staff and talk about what they do in their spare time. They talk about how they like to go surfing, or that they are part of a club. This real face is what creates bonds with other similar people. So think about how you can express your personality and the personality of your studio. If you’re fun loving then let that out. Show me pictures of your staff and let me into your world.
When I last checked the stats for Websites for Architects 20% of the visitors were via mobile devices and with the way the internet is moving this is only going to increase. By mobile friendly I don’t mean that you need a dedicated stand alone website like a pizza shop does. It’s unlikely that someone is going to be walking along and think, “I wonder if there’s an architect near by.” What it does mean though is that the content you have on your website is easy to read and navigate via a mobile device. There is a lot of work going into this area right now and a lot of what’s called “responsive” themes to make websites work better on smart phones and tablets. It’s not as hard as you think, and it should definitely be a consideration for anyone building a new site.
One of the biggest factors between sites that perform really well and get a lot of traffic is the number of pages it has. Think of it as your site footprint. Generally the bigger it is the better. This is because each piece of content is like an extra doorway to your site. I mentioned in the heading that you need more than five pages other than your projects. This is just a simple way of assessing an architects website. Project pages still count, but what is often missing is all the other possible pages that explain what an architect does and how they work. This is why a blog is powerful because it inevitably creates a much bigger footprint. Think of an architect blogger who has 200 pages compared to a typical architect’s site that has five pages. The blogger is going to have so much more content. But this doesn’t mean you need to suddenly start a blog, that’s a big commitment, but what it does mean is that creating more pages and going into far more detail about what your practice does is going to be beneficial. And I should note that when I say pages, I don’t just mean a page with an image on it. What you’re really after is good quality text of at least 300 words. It’s this text content that is the hook for Google and how people find these lower tier pages. You also want these pages to be valuable to the reader, so if they do end up on your site they actually read it and maybe even share it.
An ideal webpage gives you content that is valuable and then provides links to other content. For example, at the end of a project page you might have links to other projects, or links to other parts of your site that you want users to read about. If you don’t have this then you end up with a dead end, and that means the only option is to hit the back button. Here’s an example: