Design on the Haus
I just started working at an architecture firm, after spending many years in the financial industry. It’s been an exciting career change. As part of my business development activities, I have been attending rehearsals with the partners and project teams as they prepare for interviews. Since I’m a newbie to this industry, I’m struck by the way the architects talk about their work and how they describe it to clients. Most of the time, I have no idea what they’re saying, and I’m concerned that our clients don’t either. Maybe this is the way that architects sell their work, but it seems that there must be a way to communicate that resonates better with potential clients. Any ideas?
Lost in Translation
Dear Lost in Translation,
Well, I certainly relate to your frustration! Don’t worry, the Doctor assures you that what is lost can certainly be found. And it’s not just design professionals who have a hard time communicating their expertise. Believe me, when our IT guy tries to explain what’s wrong with my computer, I think we are talking a different language – and that’s because we actually ARE. I am just glad that he is fluent in Macs, because certainly I am not.
Okay, so back to you, Lost. You are not lost, by the way, you’re on the right track. It’s critical for you, your principals, or indeed anyone in your firm to clearly describe what you do for your clients, how you do it, and why you’re the best at it. Design language isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, your experts will do themselves a disservice if they can’t speak in a way that clearly explains their vision and value to their clients. So what can you do about it? Keep these things in mind.
- First, know your strengths! Call it an elevator pitch or whatever you want. You need to know why you’re the team that the client needs to hire and how your design will make your clients’ businesses soar. You need to be able to articulate your value proposition in a snap. Show how you have done this for other clients in the past. This is why your partners became architects in the first place, so show your expertise to your best advantage.
- Keep it simple! Look, you’re architects, and you’re all about design. That’s a great thing. But you shouldn’t have to bring a translator to a client meeting. It is your goal – and it’s also a great opportunity – to educate your clients and bring them on board. They need you, but they may not understand your industry. They may be anxious about the look of the building – not to mention the process, fees, and schedule. You can navigate them through uncharted territory. Describe the experience that they will have in your new building, not just the architectural details. Talk about your working process. Focus on how you will help them achieve their goals. These are all keys to a winning communications strategy.
- Speak your client’s language! Make sure, above all, that you do your homework and know what’s important to a client. A meeting or interview should not be a monologue; it’s a conversation. For example, do they want to be sustainable? Have big private offices or collaborative workspaces? Look traditional or hip? Find out their priorities and internalize them. They will use the building every day – you won’t – so demonstrate that you have listened to them and can deliver what they need.
There’s no better way to start the New Year off than perfecting your firm’s PR strategy. The first step to improving your firm’s communications plan is developing a clearer understanding of what PR is and what it can do for you. We’ve put together a mini pop quiz of several common misconceptions of PR. How well do you think you’ll score? Take our quiz below to find out.
True or False: Use as many social media platforms as possible to promote your projects.
FALSE. Social media may appear daunting at first, especially when it seems like new platforms are launching everyday. It may be tempting to set up as many profiles as possible in the hopes of reaching a wider audience. However, there’s a reason the phrase “less is more” can be applied to most situations and social media is no exception. It’s important to choose the platforms that will best reach your target audiences. Factors to consider include the amount of time you will spend updating your profiles and also which ones your target audience will be using most frequently. For example, Instagram would be ideal for showing your firm’s creativity through images or short videos as a way to engage with your audience. Remember that it’s the way you use your social media platforms that matter, not how many you use.
True or False: Designing a great building means your firm will get noticed immediately.
FALSE. Your latest project may be the best work your firm has ever done, but that doesn’t guarantee that you will get top press coverage overnight. Quality press coverage requires solid strategy. Developing an effective PR campaign for your firm and projects takes time and starts months before the actual completion date. Getting the word out about your work should start long before the project is finished, so it is helpful to establish a schedule for all press related activities. For instance, update your social media profiles regularly with photos of the project on its way to completion or alert the press to key milestones during the construction process. Sending out a media alert or press release about your project’s topping out or groundbreaking can be an effective way to getting media attention well in advance of the project’s completion.
True or False: If an editor doesn’t answer your follow up about a project, it’s helpful to reach out again.
TRUE. If an editor hasn’t answered your follow up about your latest project, it doesn’t automatically mean they’re not interested. Editors are extremely busy people, and many receive hundreds of emails a day. The key to grabbing an editor’s attention is to find new ways of pitching your project; don’t just repeat the content of your last email. Remember to keep your emails concise. Make the most important information easy to find by leading with it or putting it in the first few sentences.
True or False: Social media is impersonal and time consuming.
FALSE. Social media offers a great advantage in showcasing your firm’s personality by engaging your target audiences with a quick “behind the scenes” look at your firm. You can offer brief and personable updates—providing insight into your firm and work—that don’t need to follow the formalities of press releases or media alerts. For example, tweet about what stage your latest project is in or update your LinkedIn with a status on the latest conference at which you’ll be speaking. Updating your profiles just once a day or a few times a week takes only a couple minutes out of your day, but can help keep your firm’s name top-of-mind with clients and target audiences.
True or False: Developing relationships with the media is not as important as sending out lots of press releases.
FALSE. To create meaningful exposure for your projects, quality content is essential, not the number of press releases you send out. It’s important to keep in mind that while reporters might not cover a story the first time you pitch to them, maintaining regular contact with them can help lead to an exclusive story down the line. That’s why building a professional network of media contacts is so important if you want to get the right kind of press. By establishing a solid rapport with an editor, it will increase the odds that he or she will remember you the next time they’re looking for a story on a specific type of project.
The New Year is only days away! While you’re making your list of personal resolutions, why not take this opportunity to think about what you can do to improve your business next year? Since our theme for December was branding, we’ve put together some resolutions that you can enact in 2015 to strengthen yours. To take your brand to the next level in the coming year, resolve to:
Analyze. Conduct a one-day workshop with your firm’s key leadership to analyze all available information about your company. Review everything from your mission statement and core values, to your list of services and marketing initiatives to date.
Use this workshop to help define/re-define your brand. For example, through discussion you may find that being a trusted advisor is an important value to you, your team and your clients, but your published list of core values doesn’t mention it. Try to find other areas where your messaging and branding do not accurately portray your firm’s values or identity.
A review of your website and other visual marketing materials, such as your logo, may also be helpful. Are they effective? Do they express your firm’s identity? Pinpoint what could be improved upon or changed entirely. After this meeting, use the information you have gathered to tweak, adjust, and further define your brand, messaging, and marketing materials.
Discover. Perform some in-depth research and analysis to understand your firm’s respective markets and services, including interviews with your firm’s key leadership and clients, audits of your visual marketing materials and website, and a review of your competition’s brands.
Internal interviews help you better understand how your team is talking about your firm, and how they are presenting your brand to clients and prospects. Client interviews will help you understand how they perceive your firm and services in the marketplace.
Finally, take a look at what your competition’s brands are like and how they are perceived in the marketplace. What are successful elements of your competition’s brands? How can you present your firm in a different, more effective way than they do?
Communicate. Following your brand analysis, interviews and audits, reconvene your team to discuss what you’ve learned about your firm, your competition, target audiences, and internal/external perceptions of the company. Use this information to develop new internal and external messaging, including a new or revised mission statement for your firm, a tagline, and key messages for different audiences and regions. Decide what you’re going to do to strengthen your firm’s visual brand identity – including changes or updates to your website, logo, and marketing materials. (If you don’t have the services in-house, consulting a graphic designer can be very helpful at this stage.)
Strategize. Next, develop a new strategy for your new brand. Determine which clients and market sectors you are going to target with your new branding. Maybe you find that your target audiences have changed over time, and the majority of your work is coming from a different sector than you had originally targeted. Develop a strategy to adjust your marketing focus and reach your new target audiences through revised messaging, social media, visual marketing, and other business development initiatives.
Activate. Take action with your new brand! Make sure your new mission statement and core values are prominently displayed on your website. Launch a new digital marketing campaign to announce your new branding with an e-blast newsletter series. Start a blog and focus your posts on topics that are of interest to your target audiences. Display your tagline on all company e-mails and marketing. Reinforce your key messages in all your correspondence, social media, and marketing materials.
While defining your brand is not a simple task, it is essential to your long-term success. Just as with all New Year’s resolutions, if you’re consistent and take our suggestions step-by-step, you’ll be well on your way to a strong, effective brand and a prosperous 2015. Happy New Year from all of us at Hausman LLC!
As Andy Williams’ iconic holiday song goes, it’s “the most wonderful time of the year” once again! This month, our topic is branding, so we thought we’d discuss one of the strongest brands ever – Santa Claus. We can all learn a lot about branding from Ol’ St. Nick and we’re going tell you why.
What makes Santa so special? Certainly, his enchanted sleigh pulled by eight flying reindeer– make that nine, including Rudolph – is one sweet ride. He’s obviously got his logistics and technology in sync, with throngs of magic elves to staff his manufacturing and deliveries. UK ad agency, Quietroom, has produced a fantastic spoof brand book, outlining the formula and guidelines the jolly old elf might have developed to solidify his magnanimous brand power. But there’s more to Santa than all those jingle bells and whistles, and all joking aside, there are several reasons why Santa Claus really is a strong brand.
First off, let’s define what a brand is. In a recent article, Forbes contributor, Jerry McLaughlin writes that a brand is “the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organization, a cause, or an idea.” To build a solid brand, he explains, you need three key components: what, how and feeling.
With Santa, the “what,” or in his case “who,” isn’t hard to define. In the most basic, perfunctory of definitions, he brings gifts to good children on Christmas Eve; he’s a service provider. But beyond that, it’s very clear who he is, what his mission is and the values he stands for.
Santa is the embodiment of generosity, goodwill, and the spirit of giving. He’s tirelessly dedicated to his mission, and he consistently exercises fairness in judgment. These qualities clearly express who he is and what he stands for and they define his identity. As a result, his brand resonates with people from all over the world.
And how does he accomplish this solid brand identity? Well, one way he does it is by being consistent. With Santa, you always know what you’re going to get: a jolly, happy, loving, giving, magical old guy. He’s friendly to everyone and everyone wants to be his friend; not just because he brings gifts, but because he’s, well, authentically himself. He’s eternally both child-like and fatherly at once, a character whose warmth and charm are gifts in themselves. And no matter what the temperature outside, he wears the same signature uniform that’s instantly recognizable from Sydney to San Francisco, Bombay to Buenos Aires, or Milwaukee to Moscow. Even celebrities understand the benefit of mimicking his brand. When was the last time you saw Mariah Carey – the undisputed Queen of Christmas – dressed as the Ghost of Christmas Future? Even in fishnet stockings and a short skirt, a Santa hat can make any dicey diva seem wholesome.
Lastly, his brand is palpable and it creates a positive feeling in his target audiences – parents, little kids, teens, old folks, everyone. His image is the ultimate warm-fuzzy-inducer to kids of every age, for a range of reasons from naïveté to nostalgia. It’s no surprise that commercial companies and charitable organizations from Coca-Cola to The Salvation Army use his image to sell their products and raise billions in charitable funds. And even though you rarely see him in person – and even then, only once a year – you know you can count on him. He’s dependable and that creates a sense of security and a feeling of familiarity and deep satisfaction.
So the next time you see him at the mall, or lit up by a million lights on someone’s front yard, contemplate the notion that Santa may very well be the world’s most effective brand. Then, think about how you can become more like him: Define who you are and what you stand for. Differentiate yourself from your competition. Be dependably consistent with your messages. Build emotional connections with your target audiences that will, in turn, create a positive feeling that they will associate with you and what you do. We always knew Santa was a great role model. Who knew he was a great brand model too! Happy Holidays and happy brand building in 2015!
Editor’s Note: Introducing a brand new column by our very own Dr. Tami Hausman, where she offers practical integrated communications advice to AEC professionals. If you have questions for the Doctor, don’t hesitate to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Doctor is in!
I am an architect with ten years of experience who recently opened my own architecture firm with three colleagues. Each of us comes from large, well-known firms with very high profiles, so getting press for our projects was relatively easy.
Now that we have our own firm – although we have strong connections – we are relatively unknown. Going forward, how can we best approach the media to get noticed and get more work? While we have set some funds aside for marketing and publicity, as a small firm we do not have unlimited resources for these activities at the moment. Where should we start?
Building from Scratch
Dear Building from Scratch,
Well, the first thing I have to say to you is: Congratulations! Starting your own firm is a big leap, and it’s not always easy. It’s important that you recognize the need for outreach to make a name for yourself. Building your reputation, and your influence, is key to building a healthy practice.
So what is the prescription for success? There are a number of things that you can do immediately. First, make sure that you and your partners are speaking with one voice. That’s critical, because you need to communicate clearly about what kind of projects you want to do and where you want to practice (regionally, nationally, globally). Get that elevator speech down pat so you can explain to a potential client why they should hire you, not your competition. And don’t forget to throw a small party to celebrate your new office and make sure everyone knows about it!
Young start-ups don’t always have a portfolio of built work, but there’s no need to worry: editors are always on the lookout for news stories, so send out those renderings even before a project is complete (make sure you have client approval, of course!). If you have some really good projects in the works, set up a meeting with a design editor and show them what you’ve got. You can also take advantage of social media to build a following for your ideas and projects – it’s free and doesn’t need to monopolize all your time. And, finally, make sure you get out and about by attending events where you may meet potential clients. Even in this digital age, nothing beats the opportunity to connect with people face to face.
The scary truth about using social media is that it’s not as hard as you think. It’s up to you to decide how you want to use it and which platforms suit your firm best. Social media is an essential tool for successful marketing efforts. Design professionals can share their work and ideas in real time, while simultaneously making connections with one another. Once you start to integrate social media, an inactive social media platform will be about the most frightening sight you’ll see. Here are some tips for how to scare away those communications ghosts that may be lurking in your closets.
Don’t be scared, it’s easier than you think. Twitter and basic LinkedIn accounts are free. They are fast and inexpensive ways to open up communication channels with professional peers and potential clients you don’t know and those you already do. It doesn’t cost anything to maintain, so there’s no need for those hairs on the back of your neck to stand up! If you’re nervous about handling multiple social media accounts at once, consider using dashboard applications such as TweetDeck and Hootsuite to help organize your social networks and make posting a little easier.
You can network quickly. A popular social media platform like Twitter allows you to share information about your work and firm in real time to your followers. Use #hashtags to share your tweet information with an entire Twitter network of like-minded people looking to engage on a similar topic. LinkedIn is an interactive way to make those same connections in a more professional online setting. Do you feel like a petrified mummy about sharing information because you fear it could be misinterpreted? Don’t worry. What’s valuable about social media is that it’s more personable and there are fewer formalities than traditional forms of communication, so leave the dark side and come see the light!
There are design-specific platforms. If it feels like you’re stepping into a house of mirrors and you don’t which way to turn, don’t be afraid! There’s no reason to fear that social media is not geared to the AEC industry because online platforms exist specifically FOR the industry. Useful AEC-centric social media sites include Architizer, Houzz, and Honest Buildings. Each of these web platforms is user-friendly and many have guides to walk you step-by-step through the sites. Their large online communities allow firms and professionals to showcase their projects, and many offer easy-to-navigate forums for exchanging ideas and making connections.
What frightens you most? Creepy crawlers in the night, werewolves howling at full moons, haunted houses, or skeletons in the closet? Well, we’re scared of all those things, too, but what really frightens us is how some people communicate.
You may laugh, but it’s true! We have so many ways to communicate these days (some may say that we have a lot of ways to communicate badly) that it can seem like you’re always walking the plank over the treacherous and deep waters of messages and meanings.
Let’s take just the easiest example – and we’ve all done it. Did you hit “reply all” when you wrote a message that was just intended for one person? Did you send the right e-mail to the wrong contact? Or, just after you tossed off that angry e-mail to your (fill in the blank) boss/ex-boyfriend/brother, did dread and fear of the future consequences start to invade your body like a quick poison? For more on that topic, see this recent Wall Street Journal article here.
There are many frightening examples of the scary ways that people communicate. And, in many instances, you can’t blame it on e-mail or digital technologies. In fact, the following examples are downright terrifying.
Take these examples from The Toronto News of July 26, 1977. Keep in mind that they are actual statements from insurance claim forms where drivers attempted to summarize the details of their accidents:
“I thought my window was down, but I found out it was up when I put my head through it.”
“I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law, and headed over the embankment.”
“I saw a slow-moving, sad-faced old gentleman as he bounced off the hood of my car.”
If these sentences make your blood turn to ice, check out these examples and figure out what the author is trying to say:
“I urge you to waste no time making this candidate an offer of employment.” (Are you urging the person to hire the candidate or are you saying the candidate is not worth further consideration?)
“You will be fortunate to get this person to work for you.” (Is this person a great job candidate, or is this person extremely lazy?)
So, now that we’ve discussed the perils of communication, here are some ways to get the spook out of your spin:
- Chase away the miscommunication. It’s great that you can send an e-mail from a smart phone, but you need to remember that that e-mail is still a professional document. Make sure that you are being very clear and concise. If you’re not sure if you’re getting your message across, ask someone to take a look at your e-mail before you send it. By all means, don’t put a tagline on your e-mails that says “please excuse typos” – that’s for goblins and ghosts. Read over your e-mails thoroughly before you send them. There’s no excuse.
- Don’t be scared to pick up the phone. E-mail can be a terrific communications tool – it’s easy, it’s fast, and you can send an e-mail almost anywhere. At the same time, it’s not always the perfect way to get your point across, and your tone in an e-mail can be easily misconstrued. Don’t send an e-mail to someone sitting three feet away from you. And don’t send a four-paragraph e-mail to your printer to clarify how many business cards you need. Before you send a dozen e-mails back and forth in the same e-mail chain, do yourself a favor and pick up the phone. It will be a treat, not a trick!
- Bury the jargon. When you’re in a profession like architecture, you’re going to use a lot of words and phrases that help you communicate with your colleagues. Unfortunately, when you use this jargon around other people, they’re going to think you’re Frankenstein. If you really want to talk to potential clients and other audiences – and get them to understand you – then go to the cemetery at 2 a.m. and bury that jargon in a deep grave (full moon optional). Going forward, make sure you use plain language to convey your ideas and messages. You’ll be amazed at how clearly you’ll be able to communicate.
Image courtesy Platt College
It’s October once again; when bumps in the night and creepy creatures can rattle even the bravest folks. But the scariest thing that can happen to you this season is when you realize you’ve let your professional profile slip into the darkness! Here are a few tips to help you change from an industry ghost into a highly visible professional and raise your profile from the dead.
Jump-start your presence on social media. We know that social media can be a scary prospect for those of you who have yet to become actively engaged in using it to promote your business. In fact, in our next post, we’ll lay out a detailed plan for how you can conquer your social media fears and get with the rest of the cyber-verse. But for those of you already on social media – and who may have let their activity fall into oblivion – a focused approach is the best way to get back into the land of the living.
If you haven’t already, you can create a blog that’s connected to your website. Write about topics that demonstrate your expertise, current projects, or design trends. Try to post to your blog at least three times per month.
Next, use Twitter and LinkedIn – probably the two most important social media tools you can use to raise your profile – to further augment your exposure to current and past clients, potential clients, and the media as well as to other architects, engineers, and designers. Use Twitter to lead audiences to your website, blog, and vice versa. A LinkedIn profile will help you maximize your professional connections. Additionally, A/E/C industry networks like Architizer, Honest Buildings, Houzz, Porch, and others are excellent ways to network with other industry professionals, build relationships, and get more work. Set a goal to post at least three times per week.
Get involved with professional organizations. Participation in key professional organizations can help you build and maintain valuable relationships, be more accessible to potential clients, and get in front of the right types of clients. For example, if you want to reach developers and other real estate industry leaders to get more commercial work, then participating in pro organizations where they are involved is an effective way to reach these decision makers. For greatest impact, you need to attend events on a regular basis, and participate in committees or join boards, in order to gain access to the most valuable networking opportunities.
Share your expertise and thought leadership at conferences. Another thing you can do to pull your low profile out of zombie land is to begin participating in panels and speaking opportunities. These can be excellent ways to share your experience, expertise and personality with your target audiences. If public speaking scares you to death, start off small and practice with colleagues in your firm. For your presentations, focus on topics that demonstrate your expertise in particular building typologies or industry sectors such as healthcare. Once you get more comfortable speaking, participate in a panel discussion at your local AIA chapter. If you find you’re good at it and you enjoy it, you can start submitting yourself to speak at bigger meetings and conferences for greater exposure.
Just because the daily grind has caused you to let your exposure slip into an early grave, doesn’t mean it’s dead. All it takes is a strategic, steady approach to social media, networking, and speaking opportunities to revive yourself and get the professional exposure you deserve. Your audiences will be screaming “it’s alive!”
This month we’ve heard from guest bloggers Brad Feinknopf on investing in good photography and Jessica Wyman on tips for designing an effective website. Now that you’ve got a great website with gorgeous photography, how do you actually get visitors? The answer is SEO.
Search engine optimization (SEO) improves a website’s visibility in online search results in order to increase the number of visitors to that website. Search engines like Google match users with the businesses and services they are looking for. In order to do this, they employ “crawlers,” special algorithms that read through the Internet, index each website, and rank it for different search terms. These search terms are known as key words (a single word, like “architecture,”) and key phrases (a group of keywords, like “architecture design firm”).
The goal of your SEO plan should be to make your expertise more evident to Google and other search engines, in order to increase its exposure and number of visitors. Once you place focused keywords strategically within the website’s text, the website’s ranking in search results will improve. The higher the website’s ranking, the more visitors will find it. In fact, a 2013 study found that 83.6% of searchers visit one of the top seven Google results in a given search.
In order to achieve this goal, you will want to select keywords that closely align with your firm’s signature services. Then, integrate these focused keywords throughout the text of your website in order to maximize your SEO. An effective SEO strategy encompasses several steps:
First, identify the terms that best represent your firm’s identity and services. Identify three or four key words and phrases that concisely convey your firm’s identity and services. These should be general search terms that someone might use to search for you such as “landscape architect” or “interior designer” or “project management.” It may seem like you’re stating the obvious, but for search purposes that’s exactly what you want to do. Once the user visits your website, you can demonstrate how you are different from all of the other landscape architects, interior designers, or project managers out there.
Next, research your chosen key words and phrases. Using a suite of SEO tools like Google Analytics, explore how often your chosen keys words and phrases are searched for. You should also determine if other, similar terms are more popular search terms – such as “corporate interior designer” or “workplace interior designer”. Further, you need to find out the level of competition for your chosen terms, i.e. how often a phrase appears on other websites. Google Analytics can help you find all of this data.
Then, evaluate your research and develop a plan. Once you’ve done your research using Google Analytics, take a look at the resulting data for each word and phrase you’ve chosen and prioritize a targeted number of final SEO keywords or phrases. Determining the most effective SEO keywords and phrases is a qualitative, not a quantitative process. In evaluating each key word and key phrase, you should take into account the following:
- Value to your firm: All of the keywords and phrases you choose should reflect your firm’s principal services
- Search volume: A higher number of monthly searches for a term brings more exposure to your website
- Specificity: Being specific when choosing key phrases ensures that visitors who discover your site through a search will find what they are looking for
- Competition: The fewer competitors there are for a key phrase, the higher your website will rank
Finally, optimize your website. Place your SEO keywords and phrases frequently and prominently within your website’s text. The “crawler” algorithms that Google uses to scan websites during searches take not only the keywords into account, but how often the keywords appear and even their proximity to one another. Be sure to work these keywords into your text as much as possible without overdoing it or ruining the overall narrative.
A top priority for every business is to direct the right kind of traffic to its website. A well-defined, effective SEO strategy will augment your online presence and ensure that more potential clients find your firm online.
Photographed by Sabrina Ahern
Jessica Wyman is principal and creative director of Wyman Projects, a graphic design and web development consultancy based in New York City. As a graphic designer with a degree in architecture, she has ten years of experience collaborating with architects, interior designers, engineers, and A/E/C consultants, to create meaningful print and web experiences that communicate professionalism and integrity. Jessica is currently art director for Oculus, AIA New York’s quarterly publication; and she regularly presents at the Chapter’s annual Fellows Workshop for FAIA candidates.
By Jessica Wyman, Wyman Projects
Have you ever visited a website where the copyright or blog posts date back to 2006? I have, and it saddens me to think that those companies spent a small fortune designing a website that quickly became stale and forgotten.
Thankfully, website development has come a long way since then. With out-of-the-box Content Management Systems (CMS) such as WordPress and Drupal, building dynamic online experiences that are easy-to-use and easy-to-manage is within every design professional’s budget.
Still, building an effective website that will showcase your portfolio, communicate your expertise and get you new projects requires a thoughtful, strategic approach. Before you begin designing your new site, here are some things to think about:
Design Smart. One of the first things you should determine before designing your new website is its purpose. Who are you trying to reach with this new site? Potential clients? The media? Fans? All of the above? For most AEC professionals, a website is a tool to communicate your expertise and to convince prospective clients to take action and connect with you.
While your new site should reflect your firm’s personality and culture, its format, content, and design will need to appeal to prospective users. Unfortunately, design professionals often make the mistake of designing a site that they like rather than designing one that will be effective in reaching their target audiences.
So how do you do this? Understanding your company’s mission – and which clients you want to serve – is key to pinpointing the needs and habits of your target audiences.
Will your visitors be using a computer or mobile device to view the site? Is there anything you can learn from your current website’s analytics, such as pages with the highest bounce rate? What information does your target audience need most and how will you shape the user’s journey to satisfy those needs?
Think Big. Gone are the days of table-based layouts and small browser sizes, which resulted in small-scale images on the user’s screen. You are a design professional with beautiful project photography; so don’t be afraid to go full bleed. Consider using a full browser slideshow on your home page or project pages to make an impact and to define a mood.
Less is More. The impulse to feature or list every single project on your website is a mistake many design professionals make. A website should have enough curated content to communicate expertise and personality, while leaving the visitor curious enough to contact your firm for more information.
Cross-Pollinate. Create relationships between content and pages on the website to engage visitors. Curiosity keeps users clicking and strategies such as suggesting links to “Related Content” or crosslinking press items or bios will retain visitors and improve site analytics.
Don’t hide your contact information. This may seem like a no-brainer, but it is surprising how many company websites hide contact information under submenus. Include a phone number and email address on the home page; and consider designing a special splash page with contact information and a map for mobile visitors.
Launch Strategy. Once you’ve designed and launched your website successfully…now what? Don’t let all your hard work go to waste. Create a content strategy that includes a schedule for updating your new website with new projects, news items, blog posts, and links to your social media platforms.
Clients and prospective employees want to work with design professionals who are active and innovative thought leaders; providing these visitors with fresh content monthly, if not weekly, is key to engaging, and ultimately working with, your ideal clients.