5 Questions to Whittle Down Your Portfolio

One of the biggest struggles that firms seem to have with their website is where to draw the line with the portfolio – specifically, determining how many projects should be included. Designing and building a website should result in a site that can “scale up” easily, allowing firms to add projects as time goes on. That doesn’t always make it easy to decide what gets included at launch, and it also leaves very loose expectations on when/if things should get REMOVED from the site (yes, I said it – you should actually be deleting your older work).

Here are some quick thoughts to help you determine what gets cut.

  1. Was the work done for this firm? If it wasn’t, cut it. The only time it really makes sense to include projects from a prior firm is when you’re first starting out. Otherwise it is too easy to come across as a firm that’s trying to bulk up your portfolio artificially.
  2. Are you creating an “other” category? (Hint: Don’t!) If you have a beautifully organized portfolio of work, divided by your major target industries, and then find yourself adding an “other” tab, you’re doing your work a disservice and diluting your marketing message. How would a potential client feel if they found themselves to be called “other”? Who searches for “other”? Who knows what to expect when navigating to “other”?
  3. Would you want another project just like it? Part of what you’re saying with your portfolio is “I’m/we’re proud to have been involved with this project and I’d/we’d love to do it again.” Be honest with yourself and your potential clients; do you actually want to do another similar project?
  4. If a potential client only saw 4 pages on your website, would it be ok if this was one of them? If you look at your website’s analytics, you’ll probably notice that you average between 2 and 4 pages per session. Ask yourself “Is this project representative enough of the firm that I would spend half of my first impression on it?”
  5. Has this client heard from our firm in a while? Remember how dynamic the web is and how well-connected people are these days. If you show client work and a web user happens to know that client, you can bet they will reach out if they are a serious lead. If you aren’t sure what the client will say, it’s best not to open that door.

Our policy when advising clients is ALWAYS quality over quantity. It’s better to have a streamlined, more valuable portfolio than a huge directory of scattered work!

Three Tips for Mobile Architecture Firm Websites

How Important Is Your Architecture Firm’s Mobile Website Presence?

Responsive design. Boom. It’s the biggie these days and boy is everybody asking for it. It feels like it’s becoming the new “we have to get on social media because everybody else is” in many ways.

Truthfully, responsive design is important, just as social media is. The basic concept behind it is that you want your website to deliver information in a way that makes the most sense for usability based on the device it’s being displayed on. But the focus on responsive design also puts a heavy emphasis on the types of content being consumed – it’s important to know what content and how much content people are viewing when they come to your site on their phone.

Often the highest priority for an AEC website is photography – the portfolio! The work should shine. Add on a layer of focus on strategic marketing goals like SEO around certain target markets, inbound marketing, etc. and you’re putting together a good list of priorities for a website. But, pump the breaks – I need my entire website to be responsive! What is responsive when it comes to your portfolio? How much time, effort and money should be invested in reorganizing your entire website for mobile users?

I decided to take a look at the Google Analytics for every client website that we have access to and see what kind of data we could pull when it comes to mobile use. The aggregated results look like this:

  • Average % of mobile visits – 13.64%
  • Average pages per visit – 1.87
  • Highest number of pages per visit for any site on a mobile – 3

So, when we look at how much content the average person is consuming via mobile device in our industry – the answer is less than 2 pages! This doesn’t tell us that responsive design isn’t important. In fact, it tells us the opposite. It tells us that if you want to maximize the usability of your website to clients and potential clients visiting via mobile – you would DRASTICALLY simplify what you’re delivering.

Here are three tips I would pull from this data to improve your AEC firm’s mobile-friendly aspects.

  • Make contact info available on the homepage, immediately. Also, ensure your contact info is text-based, not an image. Mobile users only viewing less than two pages are probably trying call you or find you. Make it easy for their built-in phone and tablet functionalities.
  • If you have a blog, and want people to read it – make sure it’s styled well for mobile. If you are very active on social media, a high percentage of your mobile traffic is probably driven from there. If you want people to keep coming back to your blog (or stick around on it), make sure the content is easy to digest.
  • Responsive Web Design is just one piece of the puzzle. Don’t be afraid to consider that the majority of your website may just not be relevant to mobile users at all. Monitor Google Analytics, see what you can find out about your mobile users and don’t be afraid to design a mobile experience that is focused on their content needs instead of your design skills.

The Architecture Firm Website Quiz – What Kind of Site is Right for Our Firm?

The Architecture Firm Website Quiz – What Kind of Site is Right for Our Firm?

Looking to redesign or significantly update your architecture or engineering firm’s website can be a dream or a nightmare! The fact of the matter is that regardless of how simple the job seems to be at kickoff, competing priorities, content gathering, technology changes and other factors require a strategic approach to get the job done right and have your firm end up with a website that you can be proud of. Understanding the options and your main goals is the first place to start. Take our brief quiz to help get some direction on which type of website might work best for your AEC firm!

I love white space too, but…please do something with your homepage

It still amazes me when I receive a list of firm websites from someone – and more than 50% of them are dysfunctional. Perhaps even more surprising is that I usually receive them as a list of aspirational competitors, top-notch designers, distinguished panelists, etc. Basically, “these are people that we look up to, so go check them out.”

One thing I see entirely too much of is completely useless homepages. Literally, the face for what could impact 97% of your client’s decisions is a barren wasteland of a screen with a cleverly placed firm name…maybe an address if you’re lucky. Fifteen years ago, as businesses were clamoring to “just get something up there” this might have cut it. But today, it’s a shot in the foot to architecture firms everywhere.

Regardless of where your architectural sensibilities fall on the form/function debate, your website doesn’t have to prove your point. Your homepage has a few seconds to impress people (to be read: potential clients) and convince them to hear or read what you have to say about design. USE IT. Here are five reasons why your homepage might not be doing its job.

  • The majority of traffic to your website starts at your homepage, unless you’re doing a great job with custom landing pages and marketing campaigns for your architecture firm. Keep in mind that likely 40% or more of that traffic “bounces” immediately from the first page they see. Translation: 40% of the people that came to your website saw your firm name on a blank page, then left.
  • If you have a one HTML page website with a bunch of Flash embedded circa the 90’s/early 00’s – you can likely assume that search engines see one page with very little (or no) info about your firm. That’s pretty much killing your firm in the SEO department.
  • Thumbnails alone don’t cut it anymore. There’s nothing wrong with using the images themselves, but if your homepage is 95% empty with a few images on the screen – the impact of those thumbnails has been diminished significantly by current monitor resolutions/sizes.
  • You may be unconventional, but most of your visitors probably aren’t. They need things like links back to your homepage and consistent positioning of nav. Hiding your navigation or making it difficult to stop a swooshing, sweeping, portfolio to see one project description won’t help even the most creative of clients realize how much they like you.
  • Last, but not least – don’t make people wait! If you have a Flash (shudders) or heavily scripted homepage that takes a few seconds to load for you, assume it takes much longer for a first time visitor to your site. This is because, depending on how your site is built, certain aspects are saved or cached to speed up your browser’s load on the next time around. Compound that with the fact that all of your homepage content is contained in that fancy animation and you have potential clients looking at a blank screen for several seconds.