Tips for an Architect’s website

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Every day we spend quite some time visiting architect’s websites (maybe even yours!) to be up to date with new and ongoing projects.

It’s a very fun part of our job, especially when websites have a good design and usability. However from time to time we stumble upon websites that are very difficult to browse, or present projects in a way that you can’t even understand them.

You know that we as architects have the ability to design “from a spoon to a city”, and a website should be among those things we can (and should) design, especially when it is one of our most important marketing tools. I’m not saying that you should learn HTML and code your own website, but as we know from our work, an informed client is a good client. Therefore, having a good idea on what your website should offer to its visitors can help you relate with the person you hire to maintain it, the same way we love when a client has a clear idea on how they want their building to be… and not asking for a “green roof” just because they read it in some random magazine.

Below you will find a few tips that can help you on this process. I’m very confident that some of you may already know about some of them, and it’d be great if you could share your comments based on your experience.

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1. Background

Some might disagree with me… but a white background is a must. It will make your photos stand out, nothing is more important than your projects.

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2. Photos

The most important part of your website. You can write the most compelling project description, but if you use a low res tilted photo you will totally loose the visitors attention. I put this in second just because of its relation to #1. During your career you must have taken lots of photos, and it’s something that should be easy for most architects. But if you feel like you don’t have any skills at all, there are several amazing architecture photographers that can help you show your creation to the world.

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3. Flash (not)

No. And I really mean no. Think about a potential client, they have just discovered on your website a photograph from a previous design. They want to share this specific page of inspiration with a friend, but they are unable to easily email a direct link to it. Search engines can’t index those websites, and if Google can’t find it most of your potential clients won’t. Some may argue that using Flash in certain ways can allow you to have single links for each page or may be even crawled by search engines, but the effort is just not worth it. Choose a website built with HTML, CSS, Javascript.

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4. Updates

I can assure that a high percentage of architects websites do not get updated on a regular basis once they go live. How often do we see a site that features a rendering from 2002 with unfortunately no followup. A potential client may have experienced one of your buildings first hand, found your website, and then disappointedly discovers that you haven’t updated this project in over 6 years. Architects visit the construction site on almost a weekly basis, and often document the progress by taking digital photographs, now even with our phones. Why not share the progress with the rest of the world, and show that your practice is up to date and running? I know this can be time consuming, but #5 can help you a bit.

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5. CMS

A CMS (Content Management System) can enable you to edit your website from your office, worksite or even from your phone after the jury has announced you as the grand winner of a competition. By using a CMS for your website you don’t need a web expert for the updates, you or someone at the office can do it in an easy way. The best CMS programs in my opinion are WordPress and Indexhibit, but services such as Tumblr can do the same free and easy.

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6. You

I really like when the website not only shows the work, but also a bit about the architects themselves. It’s great to know our peers and their background.

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Cite: Basulto, David. "Tips for an Architect’s website" 11 Nov 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 19 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=87929>

22 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Great message. I agree with most (especially the part to include photos – albeit obvious) except number 3. Seems uneducated. All of your concerns can be accomplished with a good flash designer. A beginner flash designer, might fumble around a while.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      I disagree with your comment about flash. The best ‘flash’ sites are typically those which are hybrid sites implementing html and flash as an secondary element. Flash not only severally limits your content management capabilities, but the back end of your site become cumbersome when Adobe inevitable upgrades flash and your site is not on the latest version. Hybrid sites are the way to go; not only for search engine optimization but also for searchability, linking, and are much more friendly to various legacy systems and disability assistance translators.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    What if you want to check the website from a mobile device? or have a good rss source for people tracking my progress?

    Flash is a NO-NO for websites displaying information, no matter the point of view.

    If you want bells & whistles for a promo site that needs to have pop, or a near-cinematic experience… that’s what flash is for. But to display content?

    It’s like using a TV to trace a drawing. It can be done, but it’s lame.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Some good advice. As a student, these websites are invaluable, tho probably the best one’s I’ve seen are those in flash. Simple animation is key, nothing fancy needed. Also, its nice to have more than just photographs, scanned architects sketches and even drawings (they can be low res, 72dpi images) are nice for a bit of insight and understanding, especially if we’re tryin to learn from an architect.

    • Thumb up Thumb down 0

      I must disagree with your comment. As a student i’ve searched tons of architects websites, I’ve saved lot of pictures for future reference, inspiration, learning, etc… And I must say that with a flash its very painful to get those photos ( not as easy as right-click and Save as..) Of course webs look nice with flash the are interactive, but in practice you’ll learn that all that stuff is taking a lot of your time.
      All you need is informations, content, inspirations and its a lot easyer and quicker without flash.
      I have very good experiences with Indexhibit (as a user and visitor)

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Dear David – a few responses to what I find to be an incredibly good beginning of a very useful article.

    Robert Piotrowski – Partner, Ecker Architekten http://www.ecker-architekten.de

    In addition to the points already well made, I have the tips following to offer:

    1. Readable type – think about who is viewing your website, and why. A potential client can become quickly disgruntled when important text is microscopic, simply because that is what looks best. Remember, many of the people who can afford to hire architects are already old enough to need reading glasses, and as pedantic as this sound, readable type, well designed, makes a good first impression.

    2. Your message – never forget that everything you illustrate and write has a message, and if you haven’t thought this through, you should, because the message will be one of pointlessness, if it is not explicitly designed.

    3. Spell check all of the text – twice! Check for grammar and content! Read everything out loud, to a critical friend. This is an incredibly easy way to eliminate the drivel that at first looked good in black and white. Poorly written sentences and sloppy spelling drive prospective clients elsewhere. Seriously.

    4. Eliminate loading times – we aim for zero seconds, and this can be nearly accomplished if the site is programmed to background-load the images most likely to be first selected while you visitor is viewing a first image, or reading a bit of text. Difficult, but elegant when it works.

    5. Intuitive design – show where you are, where you have been.

    6. Background should not be white! Architecture is involved in proejcting images in light, and if you shoot just exterior pictures in the daytime, white is adequate. But to really make dusk shots show themselves as sources of illumination, white does a disservice. The contrast between your image and the overpowering white of a flatscreen monitor is too strong. The same can be said for a pure black background. The blacks in your photos will never be blacker than a pure black background, and as a result they will look washed out.

    7. Flash is great, but only in the service of the larger message. We use a black and white to color fade for the very first image of each project on our website. This simple device is a clue to subtly reinforce the idea of viewing a new proejct , which is especially important when a user is viewing a number of project at a single visit.

    8. Anchor point. As in any presentation requiring both vertical and horizontal images – and that is nearly every architectural website – a single, unchanging anchor point helps to organize the presentation of images. Design the Anchor point first, based on the established size of your images, and the rest will follow in an orderly manner.

    Our site is currently just in Flash, and just in German, but it illustrates all of the points I have made above. Since we see that we receive a large number of visits from China on a monthly basis, we are now in the process of making an English version available, and adding Chinese captions on a html – format twin site. I hope that even though you may disagree with most or all of what I’ve written, that the points are worthy of examination.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    For future reference, if you are going to call out one of the ‘several amazing’ architectural photographers, you make it someone canonical like Julius Shulman, not as you have cited, someone like Iwan Baan.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    This is a great article for covering some of the basics and some very inspiring pictures. In fact love them and will be paying veer.com a visit more often. What I would add to this is that there is a very real need of architects practices at the moment to establish their presence, credibility and dominate their market niche and as with many other businesses, blogs can be very effective in helping them to do this. Combining regular updates through blogs with social media and integrating this into existing marketing strategies, if done right can be very powerful for reaching out to your customers and potential market whilst increasing your search engine visibility, especially if your practice is working on low marketing budgets.

    Hope this is helpful.
    http://www.buzzinternetmarketing.co.uk/uk-architects-practices-internet-marketing-series/

  7. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Good article (one that many architectural firms need to read!)

    I would underline the point about having something about the people. Letting the firm’s people display their skill, experience and enthusiasm is often overlooked. For me, some of the best architectural websites have good social media content (eg: employee blogs, Twitter feeds, Flickr accounts, etc) that give an insight into what really excites and motivates their people. In projects, you deal with people, so you want to know what makes them tick.

    Too many firms hide their people away behind a slick corporate interface, and then claim “people are our greatest asset”. Well, show them off! Better still, let them show themselves off!!

  8. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Thanks for the info on websites.
    I was wondering if anybody have information regarding the house posted for the “Background” item.
    Architect and project?
    Thank you.
    Diego

  9. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    hi everbody.. I’m a brazilian architecture student, and I’m publishing a kind of Vlog at my Channel on YouTube – VIDA DE ARQUITETO – I just Uploaded my first Video so.. it’s all in portuguese yet.. but soon I’ll be posting in english too.. talking about arch’s students life.. from comedian point of view.. this is thr YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4l_XBJ2LeAw

    for all brazilians.. Have Fun

  10. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I really really detest flash, I see at all the time and I thought I was alone in this, but it seems that there are people out there that see it as unpractical and useless as I do.

  11. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I totally agree with this article! As an architect I think the whole product, from A to Z should be as good as it can get – also the website (believability/up to date). When you see one of the worlds “biggest” and most famous architects have FLASH websites that have a menu you do not understand how to use, you have seen a picture of a known building, but you can not find it on their site (lost), and they seems to overdo the design so it tip over?! Why? To show they are creative? And I guess they have paid a lot of money to a professional web designers (or self made) so he can make “the best architect website” ever! But, that is not how it works. When you are pro, you know what to use, what to keep, and what to get rid of. That goes for designing architecture as well as for all design, also web design. You would not put all in one bowl – that would be a mess. KEEP IT SIMPLE, THINK FUNCTION AND FORM! If you see your self as an artist rather then architect, that design buildings, I can not understand why you have to do this “art” vision also on the website design? It make no sense (you might think it is a red tread, but no – it confuse more then help). I am a architect, and have web design as an hobby since 1995 – a lot have happen since then – and we have to keep us update if we gonna be in front. Now a day it is the Ipad, so you have to use liquid grid so the Ipad user can read you website easily. I always say to my clients: “limitations provide opportunities” – the problem is that it takes several years of experience to limit a project the “right way”. A client will always try to do as much it can when he first get the chance (value for money) Then I tell them, A minivan takes 7 persons, a Porsche 911 takes 2 persons – so, do you pay more money for a car that takes fewer people? yes, design and form (speed) comes first. ;-)

  12. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I have been going through the list of top 100 architecture firms in the US and it is amazing how bad some of their websites are. Flash is a terrible medium to design an architecture website. It is too hard to harvest information from. Being able to copy and past names and email addresses is a must. Same for saving images. This is a great article and I hope firms heed the advice.

  13. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I found it interesting reading a web related post on an architecture site.

    Flash or not to Flash?

    You can do so much with jQuery that if you used Flash you would only be limiting your audience!

    Saying this, a lot of car websites still have heavy usage of flash on their sites as it’s a great way of creative engaging content. What they do (and considering the importance of your site/service) is build a dedicated mobile/tablet website with mobile browser detection.

    Personally, I design and develop all our clients sites without flash (where I can). On average our websites have had a 30% increase in mobile browser traffic in the past 12 months which is enough to seriously consider the importance.
    Coding to w3C accessibility standards is important and while our websites still render well in mobile browsers I’d go as far as developing a dedicated mobile site if your percentage of traffic is > than 20%.

    Photography – I’d stay it’s the most important piece on an Architecture website.
    Architecture is my favourite photography medium and wonder why so many companies walk around with a compact camera, snap away and showcase on their websites after spending all time and energy designing a beautiful structure?

    Get professional photography
    Optimise your photos with PS and get the best compression/quality ratio ( crisp photos that download fast )
    Create a nice gallery to showcase your work

    My 5cents

    Adrian – Alinga

  14. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Point 4 is so very important…we try and update our website as much as possible and although this isn’t easy we know the benefits that come from this.

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