Best practice user experience for interior design websites
Our Creative Director Richard recently sat down with Amy McIntosh, Managing Editor of Furniture, Lighting & Decor. Based in Illinois, the magazine and busy sourcing website for purchase influencers reaches tens of thousands of subscribers. They discussed best practice around user experience for interior design websites and how designers and specifiers can make the most of the web.
How do you define ‘user experience’?
While every user has their own approach to a site, invariably visitors fall into two types, or patterns:
- The first is a user who knows exactly what they want and goes straight through to source the answer to their question. A good example is someone who wants to book a flight or buy a table they’ve seen, perhaps in a physical store, and now wants delivered.
- The second takes a more meandering wander through the pages. This could be a user who is either doing some research on a good choice of wall lamp to specify – or just reading an online newspaper.
Good user experience understands different types of user and caters to their needs by making it clear how to find what they’re after – and of course providing what they’re looking for.
Web design for London interior designer firm Church & Rose
As a website designer, what do you do to determine the best design and user experience for a particular site?
What unique considerations have to be accounted for when you’re working with interior designers?
For us, it’s all about the brand. When a user arrives at a site they should feel that every aspect of the layout belongs to that company. Photography in particular is so key here and because of the significance of social media in marketing a business today, is rightly considered as important a part of the overall layout as the logo itself. Great quality images make a design job – and thus of course the experience of the user – such a pleasure. Overall, the disparate elements on a page must hang together as an effortless whole, which ensures the site feels cohesive. The layout of the page hangs all these together of course but with a considered, holistic approach to its ingredients, you’re half way there before even beginning.
Interior designers understandably want their work to be the star. That’s the biggest request I get when creating a ‘portfolio’ website. They will have a brand and things to say about themselves but in almost every case, they want the work left unadorned and even a suggestion of adding the simplest copy is regularly shunned. In the past I always assumed some sort of description would be necessary. Today that’s politely declined in almost every case! Fuss or bells and whistles like slideshows, thumbnail images or overt stylisation are out with the ark. The future of these sites is motion: it’s a shame that smaller interior designers can’t always afford professional video otherwise I suspect that would appear everywhere.
Web design for Saudi Arabian interior designer firm Yasmin Interiors
When users visit an interior designer’s website, what are they looking for first?
I would suggest that a ‘house style’ would be primary.
None of us know exactly what customers are going to want – by virtue of our clients’ taste being so varied. So I’d always advise my interior designer clients to stay confident in their style and judgment, putting their best, strongest work front and centre. Past projects that were somehow compromised often aren’t even worth showing.
I’d go so far as to say that three strong projects and some personal endorsements on each would go a long way towards selling them, their perspective and business.
Following that up with a strong expression of project management skills – or having a PM or CAD specialist on hand to work with them – is even better.
What are the top three mistakes you see interior designers make on their website when it comes to user experience?
How can they correct these mistakes?
- An overwhelming amount of information about themselves front and centre. Ultimately a website is a sales tool for the jobbing interior designer and the language used should turn towards how you’re going to help your customer. In the same way as you’d listen to a brief, ensure your website is an open, welcoming experience, not so opinionated that a potential client’s ideas or project won’t be heard.
- A website that is so heavily stylised that it’s not only hard to use, but that the imagery of the work is lost amid the colours, copy and clutter. Always give the images of your work space to breathe and don’t place them too close to each other. Pare back a statement typeface or if it’s important to your overall brand, make it a little smaller or give the vertical letter spacing a little extra room.
- Pace is key. When showcasing a project, focus on details as well as the wider panning shots of a room. Your client will want to know about architectural features you’ve accentuated, combinations of furniture you’ve specified and colour pairings that are the signature of your studio. Let a job really shine by remembering your work is all new to your audience and they want to soak up every aspect of your creativity.
Web design for classic London fine art framing business Bourlet
For designers who might not be able to complete a full website redesign, what are some quick fixes they can make to improve user experience?
- Simplify your navigation where possible, focussing on your portfolio: maybe some less important pages can be tidied into the footer.
- One statement photo on the homepage beats a busy mess of three or four and could be regularly changed to keep things varied and interesting.
- It’s good to focus on your audience and one clear statement on the homepage about what you’re going to do for them will go a lot further than three paragraphs of blurb.
- Keep an unloved News page up to date. A years-old ‘most recent post’ might make clients think you’re no longer trading. Add details of recent projects or think-pieces about current issues or trends in the industry.
- A simple coding tweak like changing to a fresher typeface often makes all the difference. Have a chat with your developer and see if you can trade some advice on streamlining their office space in exchange for a quick favour on your website!
Our feature in this month’s Furniture, Lighting & Decor magazine
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If you run an interior design practice and require a website refresh, why not get in touch? Call us on 020 7351 4083 or email direct.