By MEGAN JOHANSSON
It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking of your website as just a landing page or a one and done endeavor. After all, you hired a web designer five years ago, they created your site, your contact information is on there, so what else could possibly need to be added? (Hint: a lot.)
In today's tech-savvy world, your website is the crux of your business reputation. If it's ignored and never updated, you'll eventually earn a reputation as someone who doesn't have the chops or willingness to compete for new business.
To be fair, it's tough to be constantly changing with the techie times we live in, and of course, nobody expects you to have to take on every single element of web design or social media - you're an interior designer by trade! You should be focused on your craft!
However, you do still need to make your website a major focus of your business if you want to be taken seriously by potential new clientele. Past clients and referrals might not care about your site, but if you're looking to grow, you definitely need to be on top of your website and social media game.
To get you started, I've compiled a list below of 5 proven ways to improve your home design website. Whether you implement these on your own or hire someone to help you get started, these steps will help ensure that you're seen as not only a design expert, but also a design expert with an amazing website.
1. Make sure your layout is user friendly and clean.
Nothing is worse than having to dig around on someone's website to find a contact form or go through endless drop-down menus to find their portfolio. You want your site layout to be clear and easy to use. Decide what your most important website elements are (typically it's your portfolio, about page, services, and contact information), and make those visible right away in your top or side bar.
You'll also want to make sure that the website template you use is visually pleasing. Strategically-placed white space is important so that you aren't overwhelming site visitors with stimulation. Beyond that, you want to make sure you're using a template that is contemporary. If your website looks more like it came from 1998, people will assume that your design work is similarly outdated. Just as design trends change, so too do website styles, so you want to make sure you're focusing on keeping your website fresh and attractive to potential clients.
2. Make sure your website copy aligns with your brand.
If your primary area of focus is luxury design and you tend to work with high-end clients who prefer traditional style, it's probably going to suit you best to keep your website copy formal. But if you work with a myriad of clients from all price ranges and like to throw some vintage elements in the mix on occasion (and your clients love your sense of humor or your casual style), then you should definitely keep your copy more conversational. The bottom line is that your copy should be a reflection of your voice and your brand's strength. The more true you are to that, the more relatable you will be to your potential clients.
3. Make sure your social links are visible and updated.
I can't tell you how many websites I've been on where I go to click on the Facebook link and it either brings me to a personal Facebook page, or the link is broken and leads to nowhere. How will new clients find you if you don't have a social presence that is associated with your company? As much as social media probably controls our lives a little too much, it's crucial to business. Plus, if the links on your site are incorrect or broken, your clients may assume that you just don't care enough to keep it updated (translation: you probably won't care enough to put all of your efforts into their remodel).
4. Use professional photos of your projects.
You do beautiful work and have devoted your career to design, but nothing screams "amateur" like a dark iPhone shot or a poor quality photo of a room you've designed. The curtains you chose for that living room design may have cost a fortune, and the sofa you picked was the culmination of endless hours of research and planning, but I guarantee that none of that will translate if you don't hire a professional photographer who can capture the space in a clear and bright way. Not sure what your photos should look like? Glance through Pinterest or Instagram - the ones that catch your eye and make you stop and say "oooooh that is beautiful" or "must try that on my next remodel" are the types of photos you want on your site.
4. Have an active blog.
Your blog doesn't have to be 9,000 words per post, and you don't necessarily have to post every single day. However, you do want to make sure that you're regularly posting because that helps to set you apart as an expert within the field of design. Your potential clients will look to you for tips, tricks, and inspiration, and on top of that, generating organic content that is interesting and on trend with a focus on current topics will naturally increase your SEO (meaning you'll begin to rank higher on Google). Huzzah!
Ready to get started? You don't have to do all of these at once, but I highly recommend implementing them as soon as possible. If you keep your website as sharp as your design skills, your potential clients will see that you're the best in town. Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.
By MEGAN JOHANSSON
Let's set the scene: it's 2018 and you're a highly skilled interior designer who has the magic touch when it comes to transforming spaces. All of your clients have absolutely loved your work and recommend you any chance they get. But despite all that positive feedback, your client roster never seems to grow. For years you've relied on word-of-mouth and referral business - which has been great - but you can't quite understand what it is that sets your competition apart from you (and why you see so many other design firms getting an influx of customers seemingly on the daily).
You turn to your website to compare. Everything seems to be in line. You've got an aesthetic that perfectly meshes with your brand, your logo is beautiful, and your projects are clearly showcased. So what gives?
The answer, my friends, is your blog.
So many interior designers either forego a blog entirely on their site or write a post about three times a year. What's the big deal? you might ask. Simply put, even if you aren't a writer and your business and talents rest solely in the design realm, you absolutely have to have relevant content on your site. Regular blog posts mean that your clients - both past and future - will see you as the frontrunner in your industry. Without content, people might find you based on your home page copy, but chances are they'll see your site as merely a landing page for your company information, not an ongoing source of inspiration.
So let's take a dive into the three home design blogging mistakes that are costing you customers (and how to fix them):
1. You only blog about specific projects your company has worked on.
Look, I completely get it - blogging about your own projects is a source of pride. It's a chance to showcase actual work your company has done (and how happy your clients are with their new spaces) - and that is amazing for business! But the problem with this is that you might end up blogging only a few times a year after major projects have wrapped up. That means that during the months while your client's remodel was under construction, if you didn't blog about anything else, you lost endless opportunities to showcase your expertise to potential new clients. That's a big yikes.
SOLUTION: Even if you have a project that won't be wrapping up for quite some time, there is still plenty of blogging material you can get out of the process. Instead of writing just one blog about the start to finish experience, use each step as a chance to update your followers on the progress and any challenges that have cropped up along the way (trust me, your readers will want to know about this - especially if you face uphill battles - because it makes you seem real and relatable). Then, in between your company projects, incorporate blogs about your knowledge and current happenings in the design world. You're an expert about this stuff - that is clear. But it might not be clear to people who haven't worked with you before. So let them know about the latest trends or debates!
2. You aren't using professional photos in your blog posts.
Let me be clear - I'm not saying you have to hire a professional photographer every time you blog. But I am advocating for the use of professional photos that are up to par in the design community. Images in the home design world are EVERYTHING. You can write the most impactful and insightful post about the pros and cons of built-in furniture, but what you say will be completely lost on your readers if they can't relate to a photo that illustrates what you are saying. And if you do use a professional photographer but their photos are dark or of poor quality? That's something you definitely want to avoid at all costs. The key here is to think more editorial and less iphone, if you catch my drift.
SOLUTION: You should use professional shots of your own projects whenever possible (whether you're discussing that project or a larger design theme), and if you don't have photos on hand, then by all means look for inspiration from other designers you love (with credit given to the photographer/company, of course). Your readers aren't going to immediately look for the source of the photo and in turn go to them with their business; on the contrary, they will see that photo as part of the greater idea that you are trying to get across. In short, they'll see you as the expert. There are some exceptions to this (i.e. if you are sharing before/after shots or documenting the process of a remodel, it is totally okay to have phone progress shots), but the general rule of thumb is to make sure your photos are high quality and beautiful.
3. Your blog posts don't have enough copy.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, if all you're using in your blog posts is photos with barely a sentence or two to introduce them, you're missing out on key chances to connect with your audience in a meaningful way. Just as content isn't clear without photos, photos alone aren't clear without an explanation or analysis on why they're there in the first place. Simply stating the type of fabric and theme/inspiration you used for a bedroom redesign isn't enough; your readers want to know all the details. Why did you choose velvet? What was the client's motivation for a mediterranean-inspired kitchen? Without your words, there's no way to know these things (and your readers will definitely want to know these things). Plus, words are what help you rank on Google, meaning that if your blog posts aren't strategic, you won't have as many opportunities to gain organic business from search engines.
SOLUTION: Make sure your posts have details and tell a story. You don't need to write a master's thesis every time (please, don't), but you do want to use your blog as an opportunity to share your knowledge. And don't forget - let your personality come through and make it enjoyable and entertaining for your readers. Nothing saps the life out of design like a robotic retelling of exactly how many nails it took to install shiplap in the entryway.
Your blog should be an opportunity to write about what you do best: design. It doesn't have to be limited to only projects you've completed - you should feel free to write about whatever design topics interest you. Maybe you want to debate the shift to jewel tones, or let your audience know about the benefits to installing wallpaper? Whatever it is you want to focus on, I can guarantee that you'll become a source of creativity and people will begin to turn to you for ideas, tips, and tricks of the trade. And really, who could say no to that?
By MEGAN JOHANSSON
If you're wondering which decor trend you absolutely should have in your home, it's lucite. Why? It's retro, it's airy, and most of all, it's a clear winner (Ha - get it? Clear?)
While in the past I've preferred to avoid clear glass tabletops at all costs (fingerprints are the pits), lucite is a different gem altogether that definitely shouldn't be overlooked. It's the perfect way to add an eclectic yet understated element to any room, and its see-through material means that it'll never feel like you've cluttered up your space (this is especially important for people looking to spice up their studio apartments or upgrade their starter single family homes without adding bulk and taking up that precious little floor space). The visual weight is next to nothing, so it'll make your room feel light and airy while still providing design kudos.
While there are plenty of shops out there selling brand new lucite furniture and decor, this trend has been around for quite some time, so there are a ton of options for you to incorporate this into your home. Originally developed in the 1930s, it's become a staple in homes and businesses for nearly a century, and you've probably also seen it in a wide array of items beyond furniture (think phones, appliances, signage, and food display cases, to name a few). It's even been used in aquariums, hockey rinks, and for police riot gear - so, you know, you can always use that side chair for protection if a swarm of fire-breathing sports fans come barreling through your door. Good times, am I right?
All jokes aside, lucite gives you a near-endless supply of uses in your home decor. If you're looking for a more modern take, try adding a side table with clean lines or go for an all-out lucite dining table and chairs set.
If you're more of a midcentury fan, check out your local thrift and vintage shops for unique pieces that you can mix and match with non-lucite design elements (with this style, using lucite as a complement to a more solid, bold, or patterned piece will make it much more retro and less hard-line modern).
You can even go more traditional by keeping to classic styles that happen to be made of lucite.
Whichever way you choose to add this to your space, remember that a lucite piece is a great investment because it's essentially a neutral staple. With the change in seasons, you can play with its look by adding a cozy throw over the back of a chair in the winter, or a bright vase of fresh flowers to bring in warmer weather. The clear color makes lucite just about the easiest thing to dress up or down in any room.
And don't forget - it's crazy easy to clean. No need to worry about staining that upholstered seat cushion of your fave chair with your fave wine. Lucite's acrylic surface means you can wipe up spills in no time.
I'd say overall it's clearly a design frontrunner that you don't want to miss. (Oops. I did it again.)
By MEGAN JOHANSSON
"DIY" is to homeowners what "treat snack" is to my dogs: magic. The second I yell out that phrase, my dogs are sprinting from the backyard to the backdoor in seconds looking for a tasty morsel of food.
Likewise, for people looking to save a few bucks but still get work done on their homes, DIY is pure gold. The problem is that not all DIY posts actually give readers adequate instructions. If you're considering adding a DIY project to your home design website, remember that a successful post needs to have these 5 items to draw readers in:
1. A Story
Every do-it-yourself project is precipitated by a need. There is always a story. Now the key with your blog post is to keep that story interesting, but most important, short. The meat of the post should be the actual DIY, but to grab readers' attentions, you've got to relate to them on a personal level. Explain why said DIY project is necessary. It makes all the difference.
2. A Step-By-Step Guide
This one should be a no-brainer. People who are searching for a how-to guide on home improvement don't want to read a giant tome. They want quick and simple steps that are clear and easy to understand. If you can't say it in a sentence or two, you need to chop it down.
3. Numbered Steps
Don't forget to present your steps in a numbered format - it makes for much quicker reading and makes it easy for readers to reference certain steps if needed.
4. Photos and/or Videos
I can't stress how important visuals are for a do-it-yourself project. Think of it like cooking a recipe. For me at least, my homemade meals turn out ten times better when I can follow step-by-step instructions that are accompanied by a photo. I'm not a natural-born chef, so when I'm cooking I need all the help I can get. Homeowners looking to do a DIY are in the same boat - they aren't trained carpenters or painting professionals, so they're looking for a reference to how and what they're supposed to be doing each step along the way. If you can film a video guide, that's even better because it makes your DIY post come alive.
5. A Price Estimate
Prices range depending on what your project is and where you live in the country, but you can and should still give your readers a ballpark estimate for what a DIY project will cost. If you can compare a professional estimate to the cost for doing the work themselves, you can help your readers weigh whether or not a project will be worth their time. Is the project really complex? Might not be worth your time. Then again, does it save you $1,000 if you do it yourself? Well now we're talking. Readers appreciate honesty and transparency, and if you provide both, you've built up that necessary trust and they will be much more likely to return to your site and business in the future.
The best part about DIY posts? They stay relevant. Homeowners will always need to stain their fences or install an attic access point. Homes need work, and they need work on a continuous basis. So when you provide a blog post about do-it-yourself tips around the house, you're posting content that will be read by people today and in years to come. As long as you keep the focus on clarity and on showcasing the project details, your readers will appreciate what you have to say and your website will get the traffic you crave.