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Website Navigation Design: How to Make it User-FriendlyOctober 8, 2023
Whether you’re new to the world of architecture and you want to learn how to create your own architect website or improve your current one, the best way to ensure the success of your organization is to optimize its website.
When hiring architects, users go through the following three stages:
- Gathering ideas
- Requiring particular advice
- Ready to hire
The purpose of these stages is to act as a filter, with the number of potential users dwindling with each stage that follows, as people get their questions answered and either hire an architect or they delay or cancel that project.
Architecture websites quite often follow the same basic layout – about us, services, and portfolio pages. Most of them have the following attitude “People will hire us for new projects if they like our existing projects.” But this doesn’t always apply!
This is what is known as a brochure website – it offers pretty much the same amount of content as a physical brochure.
Architects usually design an architect website for architects instead of for users. These websites only tell your story, but users aren’t interested in that – they instead want to know what you can do for them! Your website’s focus should be on gaining the trust of potential users that you’ll be able to meet their projects’ goals.
You should consider the following criteria when creating great architectural websites:
- Storytelling through visuals
- Publish on a regular basis
- Be an expert
- Be human
- Keep it clean
This page will give you an overview of why architecture website design is the foundation of your organization’s online marketing plan, and why it’s important for all the various elements to cooperate to produce a user-friendly website for your users.
Numerous architects still view their websites as digital monographs—hero images smack down in the middle, surrounded by design philosophy and descriptions. ic project images front and center, with descriptions and design philosophy at the margins. However, more and more organizations are becoming fed up with the limitations of the “grand showcase”.
Your organization may have many good stories to tell, but this cannot be achieved through conventional architectural portfolio websites. Most architecture websites tell their stories in the same way. It’s time for us to take that storytelling further down the road.
When Seattle-based NBBJ revamped its website at the beginning of 2013, it wanted to get rid of Flash. However, the organization also wanted to get across the research and ideas backing its portfolio. Their current homepage will direct you towards an interview with its architects or a blog article.
Images don’t tell stories, stories tell stories. Increase your text’s value and more people will be looking at your images. You need to find a balance between the two.
Flash might seem like a good way to give websites a smart appearance, but it can seriously hinder usability. Flash sites cannot be navigated by screen readers, it’s challenging for your pages to be indexed by search engines, visitors are unable to save your images to their devices or send them to friends, and certain mobile devices cannot access them.
An architect website will usually be a one-hit wonder. When viewed for the first time, you’ll love how they look, but you’ll never visit them again. They have no community following or interaction and are basically just static calling cards. The best architecture websites regularly provide value to their visitors.
The vast majority of architects websites are infrequently updated after going live. It’s far too often that we come across websites featuring renderings from nearly two decades ago with zero follow up.
Your website shouldn’t just be a static object, it should be engaged by your visitors.
You fall into the first category if you update your projects all at once and update your website once a year. Smaller updates on a frequent basis would be better for you. The second part of this approach to ensuring some form of user interaction. This can be achieved with the help of email “opt-in” forms and social media.
Here are some ideas for content that you could include in your architect website:
- A list of things to expect in the designing process
- A list of resources for building projects in the area
- An infographic that describes various architecture periods and styles in a funny way. You can look into the infographic templates Venngage has.
- A series of lists of design tips for particular areas – such as “10 Tips for Designing a Usable Kitchen” or “5 Principles to Keep in Mind When Designing Outdoor Living Space”.
- A construction budget spreadsheet that users can download to help them manage their new build.
Say No to Generic Descriptions
Every architect website has the same About page. You can be certain that they’ll include something about them being an interdisciplinary organization with many awards and a wide variety of successful projects. Visitors are none the wiser after reading this, and Google won’t receive any keywords that will pop up when users search for particular needs.
Your visitors need to feel like they’re interacting with an actual person instead of a faceless organization, and interaction can be achieved through first-person narratives and editorial content. Here’s some advice:
- Explain what makes you and your process stand out
- Include keywords so that your text can be found by Google, e.g.:
- ○ Your practice name
- ○ The various kinds of projects you do, e.g.schools, bars, homes. List them so they can be found by Google, and don’t use generalizations (most people go for specialists over generalists).
- ○ The city or location of your organization
- ○ The terms architect, architecture and design
- ○ Other keywords related to construction and architecture, e.g. beach houses, hill slopes, BIM, construct, build, 3D etc.
Usability is so much more than a buzz word, it’s a focal point of architect website design. Users have access to a lot of information in this digital age. If your site isn’t user-friendly, potential users will be put off. Here are some tips to boost your site’s user experience:
- Your design should be minimal. Minimal design is all the rage at the moment. Go for a simple layout with simple fonts and shapes, and let the images stand out.
- Your background should be plain white, and your fonts and formatting simple. Your images should be the ones doing all the work.
- Your alt tags should be descriptive. You’ve learned about the importance of images, but are you aware that alt tags assist those with print disabilities and low vision detect what’s in your images? The alt tag will also help your images be indexed by search engines, allowing people to search them. Getting alt tags right is a crucial usability factor. Describe your image so that the visually impaired will have a visual, as well as using words popular among searchers. Someone who's offering SEO services or specialist copywriter can assist you with this.
- Various users will contact you in various ways, so provide them with a wide range of options, phone numbers, mobile numbers, emails, even social media links. Make sure you check for correspondence on a regular basis – what’s the point in listing a mobile number if you never turn your mobile on?
Prompts should be included to motivate your visitors to interact with your organization through your website. Make sections such as “Contact” or “Tell Us About Your Project” your focal points to make it easy to contact you.
Bonus tip: Include options for “contact me in (1 month), (2 months)” etc. so that potential users visiting your site that are not yet ready for your help can contact you when it best suits them. Ensure these requests are followed through and that you actually contact them as promised, which will show them that you make good on your word!
Include Social Proof
A fantastic way to establish credibility and gain trust is through testimonials. are a great way to help people trust you more and establish credibility. Testimonials are successfully employed by other industries, so why shouldn’t architecture sites use them?
Here are some of the best architect websites we’ve come across online. Some have unique UI designs, others are outstanding visual works of art, and some are user-friendly.
The site has a simple and aesthetically pleasing welcome page, with clear call-to-actions allowing you to interact via social media and newsletter updates. The home page gets off to a strong start by asking prospective users precisely what they’re looking for. Featured blog posts give users insight into informative content that answers prospective users’ questions like this detailed article about finding the best online survey sites from Hustler Ethos.
This site doesn’t overwhelm visitors with every single project the organization has completed. Each project contains just the right amount of relevant information without going into too technical and unnecessary details that clutter up the page.
Bunker Arquitectura’s website beautifully balances visual impact and usability thanks to combining a wonderfully designed menu in the top right with many large-format galleries and slideshows throughout. You get a glimpse of the organization’s personality thanks to a prominent part of the menu being dedicated to their ‘’Bunkertoons’’
FAQ on designing websites for architects
What's the best platform for architects to showcase their work?
Ah, the age-old question. Well, not that old, but you get me. WordPress is a classic, with its endless themes and plugins. But Squarespace and Wix have also made a name for themselves with their sleek designs and user-friendly interfaces. It really boils down to how hands-on you want to be. If you're into customizing every pixel, WordPress might be your jam. But if you're looking for something more plug-and-play, Squarespace or Wix could be your best bet.
How can architects make their website stand out?
Alright, here's the tea. The key is to keep it clean, but with a twist. Think minimalistic layouts with unexpected pops of color or unique typography. High-quality images are a must. And don't forget about the user experience. Smooth navigation and mobile optimization are crucial. Oh, and throw in some interactive elements like videos or 3D models. It's all about blending functionality with aesthetics.
Is it essential to have a portfolio section?
Absolutely! I mean, imagine going to a restaurant and they don't have a menu. Crazy, right? Your portfolio is where potential clients get a taste of your style and expertise. It's your chance to show off your best projects and make a lasting impression. So, invest time in curating your work, write engaging project descriptions, and make sure the visuals are top-notch.
How often should an architect update their website?
Here's the deal: The digital world moves fast. Like, really fast. So, I'd say at least once a year. But if you've got new projects or news to share, don't wait! Keep your content fresh and relevant. It not only helps with SEO but also shows that you're active and evolving in your field.
What should be included in the 'About' section?
People want to know the face behind the designs. Your 'About' section should tell your story. Who are you? What's your design philosophy? Maybe share a bit about your education and experience. And hey, don't be shy to sprinkle in some personal tidbits. Maybe you're a coffee aficionado or a weekend hiker. It makes you relatable and memorable.
How important is mobile optimization?
In today's world? It's like asking how important is breathing. Very! More people are browsing on their phones than ever before. If your site isn't mobile-friendly, you're missing out on a huge chunk of potential clients. Plus, search engines like Google give brownie points to mobile-optimized sites. So, it's a win-win.
Should architects use templates or custom designs?
Ah, the eternal debate. Templates are quick, cost-effective, and can look pretty darn good. But if you want something truly unique, that screams you, then custom is the way to go. It might cost more, both in time and money, but the end result can be a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
How can SEO be integrated into an architect's website?
SEO isn't just for bloggers or e-commerce sites. Think about it. If someone types "best architect in [your city]" you want to pop up, right? Start with keyword research. Integrate those keywords naturally into your content, meta descriptions, and image alt texts. And don't forget about backlinks. Maybe guest post on a design blog or get featured in an architectural magazine.
What kind of content should architects blog about?
Blogging isn't just about writing. It's about sharing your expertise, passion, and insights. Talk about recent projects, delve into architectural trends, or discuss sustainable design practices. Maybe even share behind-the-scenes looks or client testimonials. The sky's the limit. Just make sure it's relevant to your audience and showcases your expertise.
How can architects engage visitors and keep them on their site longer?
Engagement is the name of the game. Use captivating visuals, interactive elements, and compelling content. Maybe add a video tour of a recent project or integrate virtual reality views. And hey, a blog can work wonders. It not only showcases your expertise but also keeps visitors around longer. And don't forget about CTAs (Call to Actions). Whether it's "Contact Us" or "View More Projects", guide your visitors on where to go next.