Is it time to renovate your interior design website? Your website is your first impression to potential clients—what does yours say about you? To build a great interior design website you need: standout portfolio imagery (but less than you think), a well-structured page layout, and an abundance of CTAs. But wouldn't it be great if there was an expert to hand to show you how to slot it all together?
Meet Justin Page Wood, founder of JPW Design Studio and expert website builder for interior designers and architects. We invited members of the Visualist community in the midst of a website makeover to consult Justin with their most pressing questions. In case you missed it—here are the highlights...
I'm new to interior design and have limited projects in my portfolio, can I still launch my website?
All you really need is one really good photo on a website. You get the gist of a firm's style within the first few photos, so even if you display 20 or 30 projects, almost all potential clients will look at just one. Even if you only have one completed project, you can usually get the website looking great. A website doesn't have to show everything you've ever done, it's important to be selective about what you show—better to have fewer good photos than more "meh" photos—less is 100% more.
The most common mistake I see interior designers make on their websites is not highlighting their best work. The first photos on the Home, About, Portfolio and Contact pages need to make your client say "wow!" The first photo sets the tone for the rest of the website. If you do decide you want to bulk out your imagery a bit more, integrate your Instagram profile on your website to give the illusion of a portfolio. This is a great example of a website I built for a designer with only a few projects under their belt.
In the absence of that big portfolio, how else can I show myself my website?
Stick to the basics: Home, Services, About, Contact.
These pages should advertise:
- You—highlight your strengths and expertise
- Your process—what can your client expect during your interior design process
- Your style—feel free to share examples of things you like to illustrate this
Important: you need to have a clear call to action. Your website is a way to guide clients to the "next easiest step". Examples include downloading a PDF of your interior design process, requesting a free 15-min design consultation or providing an email address to be sent further information.
When building my new site, how much $$$ can I expect to spend?
So, you have your super-high-end custom WordPress websites which are going to cost upward of $10,000. At the other end of the spectrum, you might find developers on Upwork offering services for as little as $500, but they're going to be much less experienced. Then, you have your mid-range (fully custom but not 100% built from scratch) you're talking between $2,000 to $5,000.
For those starting out, I recommend going for the latter, the website will still do the trick with the right copy and imagery. This website is a gateway to more projects, once you are a little more established you can look at upgrading to something a little fancier! In the meantime, remember to keep using Instagram, email and referrals to drive traffic to your website.
What's the difference between a Home page and an About page?
A Home page is almost like the cover of a book. Anticipate that most people will only browse your home page. A Home page must include:
- Your very best project photo. This is your first impression.
- Info on what you do. Don't assume the client knows, make it super clear. E.g. Los Angeles Minimalist Interior Design Firm.
- Clear navigation to the Portfolio and Contact pages.
Then, the About page is your chance to provide more detailed information about your firm. I find the 3 most visited pages on interior design websites are: Home, Portfolio, and Contact—About is usually 4th in line. Most people will look at your portfolio first which is why it's so important you always make sure you show your best work on every page and be selective about what you show.
What should I include in my About Me section?
Ask yourself, how can I attract my ideal client? Personally, I went to architecture school and I enjoy working with creatives in that industry and so I make sure that I showcase that on my website in order to build a connection. If you love designing for families, say that. If you love beach homes, focus on that. Focus on the connection between you and your client, the thing that will make them say, "Oh I love that too..." That's where the connection begins.
How should I approach location-specific SEO?
SEO is one of those things that you could easily blow a lot of money on without seeing any tangible results. Just search for "Los Angeles interior designers" and see how many come up—cluttered! If you are in an area with lower competition, SEO is easier but bigger cities like NYC, Miami, and Los Angeles are infinitely hard to rank for without hiring a professional.
An easier and faster way to improve your presence on Google is Google Business—the best part? It's free. When setting up a Google Ad, make sure to target the cities you want clients from and be specific—think Silver Lake, Malibu, and Santa Monica.
More tips: always target the top 5% income bracket, and target by age to really speak to your ideal client demographic. Personally, I think it is worth exploring other avenues of marketing that make you really stand out in front of your ideal clients.
In that case, how can I increase visibility in a way that doesn't rely on SEO?
Some examples are obvious: Instagram, Facebook, Maps and increasing your reviews on Google Business, Yelp, and Houzz—good reviews and a strong following help to give you authority. Then you want to think outside the box a little. Examples include:
- Your office signage
- Networking with people in your community
- Giving away a design consultation to a charity/good cause in your community
- Email marketing to your list of contacts
A lot of super high-end clients only choose to work with interior designers based on referrals. If this is your market, get your client testimonials on point! The important thing is to experiment initially, keep track of what your clients actually pay attention to, and then hone in on those areas—all client demographics are different so there is no one size fits all approach.
A lot of marketing is about timing. You need to know who you want as a client, and when they are most likely to be interested in your services. For instance, you might approach new buyers in certain neighbourhoods by dropping your flyers in their mail to get their attention at a time they are likely to be looking for your services. You'll recognise this strategy from Restoration Hardware. You buy a home, and 2 months later RH sends a nice big catalogue to your home—perfectly timed! In fact, you might as well copy RH's timings and operate within 2 months of someone buying a nice property in your area!
Should my website focus more on showcasing my niche style or appealing to a wider client base?
I call this "Signature Style" versus "Client Focused". I have found that designers either have a distinct style that they bring to the table or can shapeshift to appease a client and make their vision come to life. Decide what kind of designer you are, and then ensure your website follows suit. If you have a distinct style some clients will say "Oh wow, I love that" and some will say "Not for me", but that is okay. If your website is clear (well-labelled and well-formatted), your ideal client base will naturally gravitate towards you. Florida-based designer Rajni Alex is a great example of how to present a portfolio when your preference is style per client.
How can I balance making my "offer" obvious on my website whilst avoiding making it all about sales and looking un-classy?
Most interior design websites are too vague with their "Call To Action", but the purpose of your website is to encourage clients to contact you—and a client needs very clear instructions on how to do so and why. I believe a strong call to action is more important than advertising awards/press—because as impressive as they are, they don't matter if the client is not directed to contact you. Therefore, I recommend putting a CTA as often as possible on your website—3 on every page to be precise. You can fit your CTAs wherever you like, header, footer or main navigation, but they need to be obvious, not discreet!
And get creative with the copy! Instead of having a "Contact" button, you want to tell clients why they should contact you, e.g. find out more about our pricing or learn about our design process. Your CTA should move the process forward by leading clients to the next easiest step.
Learn more of Justin's work on his website.
Visualist regularly invites industry experts to answer the practical questions of our creative community. Brand messaging, financial management, legal contracts—you name it! Secure an invite to our next event by joining us on Facebook.