An interior design website is an important piece of marketing for your business. It needs to do a lot of heavy-lifting to differentiate you, to show your personality and your expertise, and to introduce you to your prospects in a way that helps them see that you’re the perfect designer for them.
There’s a lot at stake, so when it’s time to get a new website, you really want to get the right pros on the project. Maybe it’s just me, but when I got my new site a few years ago, I found it super confusing to try to figure out who did what and who to trust with my project.
I didn’t know any of what I’ll be sharing with you here until I found Katie Saunders of Pop & Grey. She made everything so clear that not only did I hire her to create my own website, I actually went on to work with her to create websites for our interior design clients together.
What Goes Into Creating A Website?
I think making the right choice for your interior design website starts with understanding the pieces that go into creating a website.
In the same way that building a custom home involves more than just the actual “building” piece (i.e architectural design, engineering, interior design, etc.), what’s often referred to collectively as “website design” actually involves four pieces: website design, visual branding, copywriting, and web development.
1. Visual Branding
What it is: All the visual elements on your website (except your photography)
Who does it: Graphic designers / brand designers
Your visual branding includes your logo, your brand colors, and your fonts. It may also include patterns and other graphic elements. At an expert level, a branding designer will bring a strategic focus to creating branding for your business to help attract your ideal clients.
What it is: All the words on your site
Who does it: Copywriters / writers / freelance writers
Your copy is as important as your project photography and your visual branding in filling out the picture on your site of who you are, what you do uniquely, and who you do it for. Though you might prefer that your work “speak for itself,” your prospects have questions. They need info about you and your services. And even more importantly in my opinion, they need to get a sense of what it’s like to work with you. Together with your images and how you lead them through your site, your copy can provide them with an amazing experience that warms them up and compels them to reach right out to you!
3. Website Design
What it is: The arrangement/layout of your branding, photography, and copy on your website and the plan for its navigation and functionality
Who does it: Web designers/website designers / graphic designers
This takes all the elements above, as well as your photography, and puts them together to create the pages of your site, ideally in a way that looks organized and attractive, and that creates a visual flow of information. Your site’s design can play a big role in the experience you create for your prospective clients on your website.
Because websites are functional, interactive entities, the design piece also involves crafting a plan for how your site will work. Will each page in the menu change to another color when the user hovers the cursor over it or only when clicked? Will there be a “sort by” option for the portfolio? What happens after someone submits the contact form? All of this has to be carefully thought out by the designer before it goes into the development stage.
4. Website Development
What it is: Taking the website layout and design and applying technology behind it to make it a website. This involves coding to create the design and functionality as a website on a website platform, such as WordPress, Squarespace, ShowIt, etc., and connecting the site to a URL.
Who does it: Web developers/website developers
This is the techie piece of the project. Coding brings the 1-D designs for each page of your site to life as a website, enabling users to navigate through it and interact with it on their computers and mobile devices.
Development can also add unique creative aspects to a site’s user experience, like “animation” that causes pieces to move onto or off of the screen in an artistic, choreographed fashion, or searching and sorting functionalities to drill down into the information or content the user most wants to find.
Website Service Provider Options
Now you need to know what your options are for getting all of these pieces in place.
Understanding these options can give you clarity around the type of service experience you want, as well as the level of expertise of service providers you’re considering. Both of those aspects will in turn factor heavily into the costs involved.
Here’s a breakdown of your options for service providers and the pros and cons of each.
The all-in-one service provider
These are solo service providers who offer everything that goes into creating your site from start to finish.
Many are graphic designers or website designers who also know how to code. Some use pre-designed website templates so little to no coding is needed. Some all-in-one website creation pros are actually developers first and foremost, but they have a creative streak and enjoy the design and copywriting processes, as well.
A one-stop shop project experience means you don’t have to hire and project manage multiple service providers.
May offer a quick turnaround time for your site.
Could be a lower-cost option.
Although it’s possible for one person to be an expert at graphic design, website design, copywriting, and coding, it’s not likely. Instead, you’re probably getting someone who’s only a true expert at one (or two at most) of those four key areas. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten calls from interior designers desperate to hire me to rescue poorly written or lackluster copy from these types of service providers.
Also a one-stop-shop approach, but you get a specialist for each layer of your project, plus a creative director and/or project manager.
Usually, a full-service approach that takes care of everything for you.
Higher price points that come with hiring a full creative team.
Even the best agency might not be the best for you if they don’t understand the nuances of marketing for the interior design industry. If you’re looking at an agency, make sure they have experience working with creative professionals in a luxury market at the very least. Ask if you can contact a few of those clients to gain insight into their project experiences and results.
I’ve heard from many interior designers who hired agencies thinking they’d be walking away with a new website at the end of the project only to realize later that their project scope included the visual branding and a brief report offering a basic website strategy – not a fully designed and developed site. I’ve never been able to figure out the reason for this disconnect, but if you’re considering hiring an agency, make absolutely certain you know what you’re getting before you sign on the dotted line.
Separate service providers
This involves finding individual service providers and going under separate contracts with each.
Gives you a dedicated specialist for each layer of your website.
Allows you to handpick each service provider yourself.
Because you’re under a separate contract with each of these folks, if something goes wrong with one of them, you can move on without having your entire project fall apart.
Allows you to invest more for the aspects you value more and less for those you’re not as concerned about.
Allows you to spread the project (and your investment) out over time if you so choose (just take care to not let it stretch out so long that you lose all momentum and end up never finishing the site at all!).
You have to act as your own project manager with all communications between your project’s team members, making sure all details are taken care of, managing timelines, etc. falling on your shoulders.
You’re likely to get conflicting advice and strategy recommendations from each specialist, which can be confusing.
Results may look and feel patchworked together.
May take longer if each piece of the project is done consecutively rather than concurrently.
Joint Service Partnerships / Teams
This is where two or more expert specialists collaborate together to create your website.
This can happen informally with service providers who have worked together before and/or are happy to communicate and collaborate with each other about your project, or it can be a more formal situation where the service providers offer services specifically designed to allow them to work together on client projects from the ground up.
In all candor, although I frequently work with clients separately from their website service providers, it’s always my preference to collaborate and interface with a project’s website professionals. I believe strongly that the results we can achieve for the client are just better when we work together on behalf of the client, bouncing ideas off one another and working to find creative solutions while fully respecting each other’s expertise.
And if you haven’t guessed by now, this is the way Katie (the brand and website designer mentioned above) and I work together. It’s truly magical, y’all!
Gives you dedicated experts for each piece of your site.
Gives you the convenience of a one-stop-shop approach and the level of attention of an agency or other full-service approach.
With a team of like-minded experts working together on your project right from the start, the strategy and the results are seamless and fully cohesive.
Provides a more personal, boutique level of service than you would get with a large agency, while still giving you project management and creative direction services.
May involve less of an investment than an agency.
It’s efficient – no need for you to project manage separate service providers; project pieces are being created concurrently so no lag time.
Joint service partnerships can be hard to find, especially in the interior design space.
There may be a waitlist due to the high-touch, low-volume service model.
Getting The Best Website For Your Interior Design Business
Now that you understand the pieces involved in creating your website and the types of services available, you’re much better equipped than most interior design businesses to make smart, informed decisions about who to hire to make your next website amazing.
Got more questions, want to talk about hiring Katie and me to build your site, or need a hand with just your website copy? Reach out to me! I love helping designers like you figure it all out! xo!