Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been handling the task of compiling a database of architectural projects that will be featured in the magazine. In this day and age information is just a few button clicks away on the interwebs. Eager to see what amazing structures lay waiting for me I searched through the websites of various architectural firms in the country. From the so called ‘big’ firms to the upcoming design houses. My search led to me multiple websites, some really met my expectations, some fell short of my expectations and some left me angry.
Which led me to think, in this day and age. The digital era where we transact more money online than through bank tellers, why were most architectural firms not maximizing this platform?
At this point most people would argue that CAP 525 hinders them from running platforms. So I got a copy of the act and this is what I found out. CAP 525 under Section 45 (3) (e) states, and I quote “In particular and not exclusively and without derogation of the powers of the Board under paragraphs (1) and (2) of this by-law, an architect or quantity surveyor may be deemed by the Board to be guilty of unprofessional conduct or professional misconduct if he – advertise or publicly offers his services by means of circulars or otherwise or make paid announcements in the press except to publish in the press and notify his correspondents by post once of any change of address, opening of a new firm or branch office or alterations in the partnership or constitution of a firm”
That’s the closest that any article comes to in terms of addressing the issue of websites. The word ‘otherwise’ would be left up to your own personal interpretation.
However , Practise note number 39 published after the 644th meeting of August 2002 is the most recent regarding advertising in the press. Taking note of the advances in technology, changes in attitudes and the market turning to be consumer centered, the board found it necessary to align the practice note to the realities of the market.
Among other things, the note allowed firms to host websites, issue circulars, brochures and newsletters on condition that the information provided is factual and self praising. The note was however still conservative on vacancy advertisements allowing architects to only give their addresses in the advertisements.
All that being said, it would certainly be erroneous for any firm not have an online presence in this day and age.
While I am still in the process of completing the database, I took some time out to ask myself. What would anyone looking for an architect/designer online hope to get from their website? The moment you meet an architect at an event and they give you their card and tell you to go check out their website, what should you expect? The moment as an architect/designer you give out your card and ask the potential client to check out your website, are you confident that your website will impress them enough and give them enough confidence to give you a call for a meeting?
I therefore came up with the basic components that every architectural firm’s website should have.
WHO ARE YOU?
This portion of the website should introduce any new visitor to who you are as a firm. The people behind the firm and probably their qualifications. A brief history of the firm is also encouraged. This section helps in creating trust between you and a potential client.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
This section should inform the visitor of what services you offer, basically the scope of works that you can handle. For potential developers it would be an added advantage to walk them through your process from the initial design stages to the final handover of the completed project. You need to give a comprehensive detail of what you do. You also need to give a basic workflow of all the areas that you cover to allow any potential client to understand how things will flow. Another plus would be a basic indication of the charges you offer. This might not be detailed but you could share with them the estimates and maybe rates for the various services that you offer.
The first mistake that most firms make is the assumption that just posting renders or photos is enough for a portfolio. And therein lies the downfall of so many websites. A portfolio has to be a good balance of graphics and information. The first portion of your website was meant to create trust between the potential client and yourself. The second section of your website, now having all the attention of your potential client was meant to inform them of what service you can be to them. The third section, the proverbial hook line and sinker, should have the client calling you in a matter of minutes. In this section you should show what you have done before and use it to convince the potential client that you are the best suit for them.
So what should your portfolio section contain? PHOTOS. You can never have enough photos for this. Get as many good quality, high resolution images for this. Please do not use thumbnails. Don’t! It would be an added advantage to show photos of the project from the initial stage to completion or whatever stage the project would be at as at the point of the website post. INFORMATION. Alongside the photos for each project, give us:
- The name of the project
- What scope of work you carried out in the project. This is really crucial as there is a big difference in design consultancy, the actual construction and sub-contracts for various parts of the projects.
- The caption of the photo showing which part of the project this is
- The location of the project
- The size of the project. The floor area
- The cost of the project to completion
- The dates. The beginning of the project and the end of the project
- The current status of the project.
You’ve now got your client excited and they can’t wait to begin the project. In this section of the website have your contacts and your physically address to allow them to get in touch with you
- BLOG – Run a blog where you could be giving opinion pieces on current matters relevant to your industry.
- CSR – Everybody loves an organization that sows back into society. Let the world see what difference you’re making to the society.
- SOCIAL MEDIA PAGES – I cannot emphasize this enough. In this day and age staying clear of the interwebs would only be detrimental to you. No good would come out of it.
- JOB/ATTACHMENT VACCANCIES – As a product of the system, it would be good to provide opportunities to the younger generation to improve their skills and become better professionals.
Finally it would be to your advantage in a proper modern website platform. It is advisable to get an expert in web design to actually design your website to avoid having to look like it was done by a someone still learning how to program.
With this information you can now hopefully transform you cobweb laden website into a piece of captivating beauty.