Thursday, 15 November 2012

Why websites can be so wrong

I was talking to an architect recently about his work and he told me not to rely on what I saw on his website as it was so out of date. Then when I decided to email him, he told me that the spelling of his name (and hence his practice's name) on the email address given on his website was wrong. Websites are meant to be a communication tool, but sometimes they can be more of a miscommunication tool.
Recently Sutherland Lyall and I revived an idea we had a few years ago for appraising and improving architects' websites. Originally we developed a sophisticated matrix for scoring and found some shocking examples, even among the big names. This time we carried out a simplified version, giving a quick fire assessment of six practices' sites in 15 minutes total at the Guerilla Tactics conference for small practices at the RIBA.
Full marks to the six who bared their strengths and weaknesses. And there were some elementary errors: the website with no email address, the site where it appeared at first glance that the practice had built nothing, the practice where none of the work came up on Google. Not to mention the blogs and news sections where most content was a year old.
A good website can be a vital tool in a practice's marketing armoury. A bad one is useless at best and a turn-off at worst. Setting up a website requires commitment. So does maintaining it. But it is an effort worth making.


Su Butcher said...

Architects websites are a rich mine of problems in my experience. Many marketers will tell you that they are the last bastion of Flash - the animation plugin that makes things move across the site, eats up bandwidth and makes you feel sick.

When you're a new practice its sometimes hard to be confident about sharing your work, and if you haven't built anything yet it is a challenge, but thats no excuse for a complex or empty website, there are ways you can do things quickly, easily and cheaply.

In this day and age if there's no evidence your website has been updated for a few months, many visitors will assume you're no longer in business. Don't let them get away!

The Rooflight Company said...

Yes, everything you are saying - and everything I am saying is common sense. The amazing thing is how little that commonsense approach is used. Some of it is down to a lack of time or skills, but also I think some architects take themselves down a blind alley by trying to be cool or original or beautiful.

Dave Cornett said...

Hi Ruth,

I'd be interested in viewing your presentation / or list of websites as we are making changes to ours and I'd like to take the views on board.

Totally agree with you and Su, too many sites are trying to be cool, but also noticed a lot of them are very poor.

I've also noticed a lot of newly set up practices using their former employers projects on their sites.

The Rooflight Company said...

Hi David
The websites were supplied by volunteers on the RIBA's small practices committee and it was good of them to lay themselves open to criticism. I wouldn't really want to continue going on about them because it seems unfair - the point was that their failings were pretty generic.