Word of mouth may be a powerful networking tool, but there’s no denying the importance of an interior design website, which can be shared much more widely and provide far more information than a business card. “The number one purpose of a website is to initially draw engagement from prospective new clients,” says Justin Page Wood of JPW Design Studio, which specializes in building websites for interior designers and architects. “A website’s number two purpose is to showcase your expertise to help you close deals with new clients by acting as a comprehensive brochure of your best work.”
Whether you’re looking into building a site for the first time or you’re ready to invest in an overhaul of your current page, consider these six tips to help you successfully turn digital visitors into clients.
First, know thyself
Well in advance of building your website, you need to develop your brand identity. In fact, it should be one of the first things you do when you set out to launch your business. “As creatives, we have to clearly define what it is that makes up our aesthetic and sets us apart to be unique as both designers and as businesses,” says New York–based designer Ariel Okin.
While you might be able to develop your vision on your own, it’s not a bad idea to tap into a branding consultant’s expertise to refine it further. “I had a hard time doing this myself, so I hired someone to do my branding and website,” says designer Tina Rich, also based in New York. “She had me fill out a very thorough questionnaire about my brand and business, which was a great exercise in homing in on what the ethos of my company is. She then helped bring that to life visually.”
On your website, communicate that vision first through photographs of your work, but also in writing on an “about us” page. “We made the strategic decision to include our ‘philosophy’ page as one of the first on the menu to offer an opportunity for viewers to learn about the guiding principles of our practice,” says Peter Sterling, marketing manager at BCV Architecture + Interiors.
Go ahead, snoop around
Before you get to building your own site, take a look at the websites of your peers to learn about what you like, what you don’t like, and how you can make yourself stand out from the crowd. Plus, you might be able to find the name of a web designer whose work speaks to your own aesthetic, if you decide to hire a professional to do the job.
“The first version of our website I designed myself in 2D and worked with a company to digitize it,” says Meshberg Group founder and principal Adam Meshberg. “By researching and referencing other websites that functioned well, I found a style that aligned with my vision and connected with those web designers to make my vision a reality.”
Make like Mies
As in Mies van der Rohe’s dictum, less is more for an interior designer’s website. “People only spend three minutes on an interior design website on desktop, and only one minute on a mobile phone,” says Wood. “Don’t show too much work or too much text, because it distracts people from staying focused and giving you their contact information.”
To simplify navigation, keep your pages straightforward: “about,” “portfolio,” and “contact” are the three most important ones on a site. “If you are just starting out and have a smaller portfolio, I recommend having all your projects under one heading,” says Meshberg. “Once you have a bigger portfolio, you can separate the headings by room type for interior designers and project category for architects—residential, commercial, hospitality, private work, developments, et cetera.”
Before building your site, invest in professional photographs of your projects. “‘Never judge a book by its cover’ doesn’t apply to websites for architects and designers,” says Mary Maydan, founder and principal of Maydan Architects. “We are judged on our aesthetics, and I believe that website visitors subconsciously form their first opinion of our firm by how nice the website is.”