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« Architecture Firm Websites: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Websites are a vital marketing tool. Unless you’re a superstar design firm, steer clear of archi-speak and tricky graphics. Users want a site that is clean and simple.
By Fred A. Bernstein
June 25, 2012
Julie Snow is a terrific architect. But you might not know it from her website. Say you’d like to see her residential projects. From a series of tiny images darting across the bottom of the screen, you have to pick the ones that look like houses, and click before they disappear—like playing a video game. Simultaneously, the words “transparency enclosure veiling lightness structure detail assembly material surface performance technology transformative connection release” also dart about, as if to make the video game harder. And if you want to just pick up the phone, well, try finding the contact information.
Snow says her site is almost 15 years old—an eternity in web years—and that it has served her well during that time. (And she is in the process of developing a new site, she says, having heard the criticisms before.) Meanwhile, she’s in very good company. Some of the best architects have websites that are flashy but dysfunctional. “Too many architects see their websites as design projects rather than marketing projects,” says Richard Staub, a marketing consultant based in New York. Sites that are too complicated to use may send a subliminal message: This firm cares more about how things look than how they work.
If you’re a superstar, it’s OK to play hard to get on the web. Frank Gehry’s website doesn’t have a single photo. Nor does SANAA’s site, a “splash page” listing the firm’s e-mail addresses. But that’s more information than you’ll find on Maya Lin’s site. Lin has struggled to make time to create large-scale artworks; it’s perfectly reasonable that her website has no contact information. Besides, she isn’t close to the most reclusive designer on the web. That might be Peter Zumthor, who has no site at all. »