While Instagram is undoubtedly the favorite digital medium of the design world, it’s still necessary for interior designers to have a polished website. At a time when maintaining a healthy pipeline of new clients is perhaps more important than ever, we spoke to three experts about the common mistakes designers make when building their websites—and how to avoid them.
Ahead, find top tips from Kenneth Lewis, whose company, Client Expander, specializes in web design and SEO for the design industry; Justin Page Wood of JPW Studio, a marketing and web design company focused on architecture and design; and Matt Walker, a publicist who represents designers like Martyn Lawrence Bullard and Kathryn M. Ireland. Read and learn.
Location, location, location
Understandably, designers are keen to take on new clients wherever they may be, so many firms don’t include their location on their website. All three experts say it’s a mistake. “Where you are is part of your brand,” says Wood. “Design is ultimately place-orientated, and having an understanding of the region you serve is a selling point.” It’s also detrimental to your search engine optimization to omit your location. “If you want any sort of traffic from search engines, it’s absolutely essential to put your location,” says Lewis. “Google loves addresses, and you’re limiting your search functionality without one.”
While you don’t necessarily have to list a physical address, making it clear that you serve the Dallas/Fort Worth area, for example, will make your site come up higher on Google when a potential client searches something like “Dallas interior designers.” If you’re willing to take projects all over, Walker recommends including that in your bio. “Simple wording that mentions that a designer is bicoastal or has completed projects throughout the country can let clients know they’re willing to travel, without also making it difficult for local clients to find them.”
Newer projects are exciting, and it’s tempting for designers to want to highlight their latest work on their site. Wood urges caution, advising them to instead prioritize their best work, not simply their most recent. “A potential client isn’t going to know if a project is five years old or completed a few weeks ago,” he says. “But if they only look at the first project you list, you want those photos to be the most indicative of your style.” Pick the projects that most clearly tell the world who you are and what you can do.
Need for speed
Having a slow site is a major visitor deterrent. “As a user, if I go to a site and it takes more than 20 seconds to load, I will probably give up,” says Walker. “It’s not a good first impression.” There are a ton of factors that play into website speed (a common slowdown factor: your images are too high resolution), but there are easy ways to see how your site measures up. Lewis recommends checking your speed on Google’s PageSpeed platform. An ideal score is 90/100, but anything over 50 is decent. If your site scores lower, it might be worth seeking out an optimization expert for help.
Walker recommends a “less is more” approach when it comes to designing websites. Take a curated approach to your portfolio rather than overloading potential clients with dozens of photos from every project you’ve ever done. “While you may love every image of a kitchen that you did, there’s really no reason to have five photos of [one room] when you’re trying to show the entire house,” he says. “When the client comes in to meet with you, that’s the time to show them 100 images and detail shots. Your site is just to get them to that meeting.”
The same discretion should be applied to a press section. “Typically, it’s only other designers that are going to spend time on your press section,” says Wood. “Clients might glance at it, but they’re there to look at your work.” Stick to recent or particularly noteworthy press mentions.
Keep your audience in mind
The primary users of a site are potential clients, so your website should be built based around that knowledge. A site that’s too complicated, with a ton of tabs and information, might overwhelm someone who just wanted to see a bit of your work. Walker recommends steering away from keeping a blog on your firm’s site unless you’re very diligent about maintaining it. “If you added a blog a few years ago but don’t keep it up, or only post sporadically, that can be a turnoff for clients and even other people you might work with, like contractors or landscape designers, because they could wonder if you handle other aspects of your business that way,” says Walker. “It can give the impression that you’re OK with letting things fall by the wayside.”
Homepage photo: © Tierney | Adobe Stock