By Moe Amaya
While architecture websites have traditionally served as a place to host a digital portfolio, we’ve witnessed unexpected and transformative ways that architecture firms are utilizing their website. From attracting talented employees to organizing your work as a visual index, websites have taken on a whole set of responsibilities that layer on top of the architecture portfolio.
Showing recent work and success
Architecture project timelines are long. Unfortunately that means your portfolio can remain stale for months or even years at a time while you are buried in the details of your current projects. Yet the reality of the situation is that architecture offices are lively, fluid spaces with a large range of exciting dynamics.
With the continuous nature of the web, posting recent updates to your website allows your content to both feel fresh and also signal to visitors that your office is actively pushing out new work, engaging in compelling research, and getting successful projects published.
Kennedy & Violich Architecture
KVA has taken a focused approach to their homepage with a large project image and a series of visual news items. Simple, direct and powerful.
By controlling the graphic hierarchy, Maltzan's homepage places emphasis on their most recent updates which leads to a more comprehensive news page.
Although hidden on the left lower corner, news at BIG is a core component of their content strategy with consistent, weekly photo-based updates.
Attracting talented employees
As a principal of a firm, it’s self-evident that hiring remains one of the most important tasks throughout the life of an architecture business. As a firm wins more and more projects, the skills, craft, and drawings get distributed and it becomes imperative that the design quality remains consistent across the team. To maintain a high level of architectural rigor, finding the right candidates ends up requiring a significant amount of your limited time.
Increasingly design talent gravitates towards firms with a solid collection of work, interestingly diverse co-workers, and an infectious brand. While publishing your work is fairly straightforward, revealing the internal office culture and promoting the firm's mission is less obvious. Showing how the office invests in its employees and what they do to maintain their architectural motivation parallels the importance of having a beautiful portfolio.
From a collaborative work space to shared lunches, the communal kitchen table emphasizes the group dynamic that they instill across the firm.
As a permanent public journal, The Dogrun illuminates individuals at the firm and showcases their personal stories.
Having an organized project archive
From printed sets in storage to disorganized files on the ftp server, architectural project archiving happens in an often haphazard way. The most frustrating part is knowing you have just the right drawing and spending hours looking for it but coming up with nothing.
Locating details, remembering square footages, and recalling the best contractor is often an exercise in mental gymnastics. When projects are fastidiously organized and catalogued online, your website becomes a visual reference tool to easily find the data you need.
From drawings and models to construction images and contractor information, the aptly named Morphopedia goes beyond a simple portfolio and is instead a primary archive tool in the office.
With a comprehensive project list and detailed metadata, principals and designers are able to quickly parse the work and find the piece of information they're looking for faster than in a nested folder structure.
In the era of physical portfolios, having an off the cuff conversation with a potential client meant you were often left at the mercy of your ability to verbally describe something which is inherently visual.
Luckily with the ubiquity of mobile devices, there's the potential to have a digital version of you portfolio with you at any opportune moment. By having a mobile friendly website, you always have a beautiful, multi-format presentation of your work which is critical to showcasing your previous projects and emphasizing expertise.
Whether unexpectedly presenting at an event or starting an impromptu new client meeting, Stanley Saitowitz closely curates his website so he can quickly target the right projects for the conversation.
Building trust with potential clients
As service-based businesses, architecture practices rely on support from high quality clients. In order to create incredible buildings, the best design offices have figured out how to represent the value of their architectural work and ultimately get hired by their ideal clients.
To describe the value of design, firms must first engender trust. The success of any project is largely dependent on the firms' abilities—designing the building, choosing the primary subcontractors, and spec'ing the material—therefore firms need to make it plainly obvious that they can and will execute successfully on a potential project.
When clients begin their search for the right architecture office, websites serve as a primary resource for helping to facilitate their choice. While your portfolio of work remains the centerpiece, having a website that describes your firm’s services, successful collaborations, and past clients, strengthens and focuses your capabilities by exemplifying your experience.
Truly, nothing beats a personal referral, especially a permanent one placed on your homepage. The HKS client quotes are buoyed by in-depth research and specialized services to really drive home their ability to execute.
Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects
With a focused and deep portfolio in education, EYRC reveals the consistent quality of success they have achieved in the educational sector.
Showcasing expertise – case studies
To further build up a notion of trust, in-depth case studies serve as the ultimate materialization of fact-based, trustworthy expertise. As described earlier, architects are in charge of an extensive part of the design process, and naturally aggregate a body of specific, unique knowledge.
Historically, disseminating that knowledge was most efficiently achieved by spending years painstakingly writing lengthy books. But with digital publishing tools dramatically improving and content distribution channels becoming more focused and accessible, spreading knowledge is no longer the laborious effort it once was.
With Google’s accuracy at determining relevant content, questions like “Waterproofing wood construction in St. Louis?” or “Choosing a concrete foundation subcontractor?” can directly lead to inbound work from exposing your shared learnings. Moreover the content helps to develop an industry reputation—firms that do not specialize in your expertise will become referrals.
From historical precedents to contextual appropriateness, the KPF story takes the legacy of the automobile in Los Angeles and builds a beautiful case study of their research.
While keywords are incredibly important for SEO ranking, having useful, applicable content is the main foundation. Kieran Timberlake builds up comprehensive resources on unique topics like "Birds and Building Studies."
How to apply this to your architecture website
Building and maintaining an effective website is a critical part of running a successful architect firm.
By outlining some strategies that top firms are using to best utilize their website, we hope to help you save time and get better results in your own website efforts.