Last year I studied 163 architecture websites (crazy, I know!). I studied them because I was tired of hearing architects say: “My website doesn’t matter… I get all my projects from referrals or word-of-mouth”.
But in today’s Google-driven, economic-uncertain, pandemic-plagued world, nothing could be further from the truth.
Architecture practice websites do matter.
Your practice website is your key to getting more (and better*) clients through the door.
(*And by better clients I mean clients who actually value design and are willing to pay premium fees for it.)
Even if you do get all your projects from referrals, the first thing they do is Google you. And if they don’t like what they see… they’ll close the tab (quicker than you can say “Gehry”) and check out your competitors’ website.
Your website needs to be more than a project portfolio. Instead, it needs to set you apart from the sea of architecture sameness. It needs to connect with your ideal clients. And it needs to position you as a knowledgeable, expert advisor (rather than an order-taker).
Your website is your first impression and may be your only impression. You need to make it count.
Here are three simple things you can do to improve your website:
Thing 1: Write the way your ideal clients speak.
Your ideal clients most likely did not attend design school. Ditch the archibabble and use words they understand. Architectural terms such as “tectonic materiality” or “genius loci” don’t make you sound clever, they leave your ideal clients bored, confused, or frustrated.
It doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice being intelligent or professional. But if your ideal clients don’t understand you, then you risk losing them. When in doubt, leave the jargon out… or explain it! Some of the most successful architecture practices explain their work in a very simple way. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the websites of Bjarke Ingels and David Chipperfield.
Pro tip: Read your About page to someone who is NOT an architect. If a phrase confuses them—revise and simplify until they understand what you are trying to say.
*Note: I’m not saying architectural jargon has no place, but it’s best used when you’re in the company of people who know exactly what it means.
Thing 2: Connect with your ideal clients.
Websites allow you to connect with your ideal clients before meeting them. Creating a meaningful connection leads to a sense of trust. And such trust is crucial when clients are deciding which architect they want to work with.
One way to connect with your ideal clients is to develop a distinct tone of voice. A tone of voice refers to how your practice expresses itself through the written word. It covers the actual words, the order they are presented in, the rhythm, and pace. Put simply, it’s what you say and how you say it.
With such fierce competition, your tone of voice is your secret weapon. Used well, it can transform your practice’s image from an impersonal “copy-paste” practice to a vibrant, relatable business that clients trust. It will also help you attract and connect to like-minded clients who align with your values, so you can win projects you really want to work on.
If your ideal client thinks you look the same, sound the same, and act the same as your competitors, then chances are you will be left competing on fees.
Thing 3: Make sure your website biography is more than a glorified CV.
Writing about yourself is difficult. But don’t be tempted to make your bio a carbon copy of someone else’s.
Nobody hires your practice—they hire you. Even before they meet you, ideal clients not only want to know you’re an expert, but they also want to feel like they know you. Use the right words in your bio to create a genuine connection and don’t be afraid to inject some personality (you are human after all!).
Scary but true: there’s no way of knowing who is reading the bio on your website—so you always want it to be ready when the right people come across it.
Your website bio should give a sense of who you are. Don’t talk about your academic achievements. Talk about your ideas. Write about your design philosophies, your beliefs and ideologies. Share a story or a favourite quote. This will make you stand out from the sea of sameness. It will position you as an expert and attract your ideal clients (ie. they will hold the same values as you do). And it will make you memorable (so when a project does come to the table, YOU are first to mind).
There are a lot more things you can do to improve your website, but the above points are a start.
The reality for many architects at the moment is: projects are being paused, postponed or cancelled altogether because of economic uncertainty.
If you’re “lucky” enough to have a little extra time between projects and are currently stuck in “wait and see” mode, why not use the time to reset, refresh or build your website. This means that rather than floating along, you’ll move your practice forward and hopefully come out the other side stronger.
Side note: If you’re interested, you can see the results of my architecture website study at nikitamorell.com/architecture-website-challenge/
Nikita is a copywriter and marketing strategist for architects. She is on a mission to help architects get more of the projects they really, really want.
For step-by-step, affordable toolkits to help you write your website About page, Biography, Project Descriptions, and more — visit Architects WordShop