Three Ways to Photograph or Create a Website For Your Interior Design Work (Part 2 of 3)

In Part 1 of this series, I went through some of the pros, cons, and other considerations for interior designers thinking about buying their own photography equipment to take pictures of their design work.

In Part 2 of this series, I will talk through some factors to consider when creating and maintaining your own interior design website.

The Interior Design Website Checklist: Factors to Consider

If you are already running or considering starting up an interior design business, I probably do not need to tell you that it is important to have an online presence with samples of your work and different ways for potential customers to find you. The reality is that competition is fierce in many upscale markets where interior design is most desired. Without great photographs of your prior work and a great-looking website with which to show off your designs, you run the risk of not even getting the initial conversation with a potential client. First impressions mean a lot, and there is no good reason why you should allow a lack of website attention or skill to reflect poorly on your talent as an interior designer.

So where should you start with your website? The best place to begin is with your overall business objectives. Here are some strategies and factors to consider:

  • Simplicity: Sometimes less is more. A few amazing pictures from a photographer who has experience with interior design projects can go a long way in marketing your work for you, without too much additional effort on your website. For this approach, perhaps all you really need is a first-rate landing page that best positions and highlights a few choice photos of your very best work. You can also point potential clients to written recommendations from previous customers. And of course, you want to provide your audience with your business brand and contact information. A landing page can act as a simple and easy-to-digest reference point for potential clients to find your business and get hooked enough to contact you for more information. This may be a great choice especially for those starting out in the interior design business, where their portfolio of work and annual advertising budget may be more limited.

  • Functionality: For more mature and growing interior design businesses, it may be time to expand the functionality of your website to match the success level in your business. Perhaps you are expanding your service levels, or considering segmenting or branding your business in other ways to better serve your growing clientele? Or maybe you need more and different ways to stay in touch with current clients, as well as to reach out to prospective customers? If any of these situations resonate with you, you likely will need a multi-page website that presents more details, segments your customer base, and/or shows off your ever-growing photography portfolio of interior design work. At this stage, it may no longer be enough to just put your contact information on a page and hope people reach out to you. You may also want to provide customers with a variety of ways to be interact with you (both "push" and "pull", in marketing-speak). To do this, you may want your website to include functionality such as a blog, online bookings, e-mail marketing, customer subscriber sign-up forms, interactive client testimonials, and/or (of course) social media links. In some cases, you might even want to sell products and services directly from your site.

  • Budget: Ultimately, your goal is not just to run an interior design business, but also to do so profitably. You can spend as little or as much as you want on your website. Yes, there are some free website options out there, and also some platforms where your costs can quickly ramp to hundreds of dollars per month. Free certainly is attractive when you are starting out (I did this too). But if you choose a free service, remember that there will be compromises you will have to accept with regards to your website's functionality. On the other extreme, it may sound attractive to have all of the bells and whistles of a more expensive website, but spending more money on a website does not alone necessarily translate into increased revenue. You should be realistic on your current business needs and budget, and selectively target those areas that have the best potential returns on your investment. This is usually a good strategy not just for your website, but for many aspects of any successful business venture.

  • Time: Time is an asset we all can easily undervalue. You will want to think about how much time you can dedicate to building (or learning to build) your website. Importantly, there is much research that you will need to conduct on where and how you buy your website hosting, domain names, and other plug-in functionality to add to your site in the future. The number of possibilities are seemingly endless and can quickly take up a lot of your time just to learn and manage it all, which leaves you less time to do what you do best -- namely, interior design. That said, only you can determine whether your time is best invested in vertically integrating your website design and maintenance efforts to minimize absolute dollars spent, or to outsource your website effort to a specialist and redirect that time back into your interior design business.

Think About Now, But With An Eye on the Future

Any successful business has to sometimes make decisions based on unknowns. How much will your revenues grow over the next one, two, or three years? It is often hard to have the vision and foresight to know exactly what your needs will be, and that can sometimes lead to bad decisions (or simply indecision) today. Yes, your business needs will change over time, but that should not stop you from making decisions today with the intent to best position yourself for the future.

The same is true with your interior design business website. For this reason, I recommend you choose a website platform that will allow you to grow over time and easily adjust to your business success, without having to relocate and rebuild your website.

Today, there are an overwhelming number of choices for building a website yourself (just Google it) -- all of them require varying degrees of time, money and skill to make them worthy of your interior design business. The possible choices here are many and well beyond the scope of this article. But for those wondering, I highly recommend using Wix.com and would start there.

I originally built my own business website on the Wix platform, which provided me near-complete flexibility on the look, feel, content, and capability of my site. Importantly, I could launch it initially for FREE (yes, that includes no monthly hosting fees) when my photography and website design business was in its infancy. And as my business continued to grow, Wix provided many paths to increase the functionality of my website, and do so at a reasonable cost. So I am paying them now, and still have no regrets. In fact, I now use their platform to create websites for other businesses!

Initially, the main cost of my Wix website was my time and the learning curve that came with building and maintaining my own website. Free does not necessarily equate with quality, but that is where Wix shines. The company continues to innovate and improve, introducing new functionality in regular fashion. Wix is also a well-financed, publicly-traded company and it is completely vertically integrated; said another way, everything you need is provided to you all in one place and will work well together (i.e., no scouring the web for the right plug-ins, add-ons, and wondering whether it will work and who will support you in a time of need!). I like the fact that if I do have a technical issue, I have a one-stop shop to get an answer. Plus, all of the add-on Wix "apps" are self-contained and supported on the Wix site.

The weaknesses in the Wix platform are mainly 1.) while there are many third-party apps, many of them require additional monthly fees to gain the maximum benefit; 2.) because Wix is not an open-source platform like Wordpress, it may limit the number and capability of third-party apps (again, I do not perceive this as a problem for the majority of entrepreneurs and smaller businesses; and 3.) Wix does not provide a true content management system (CMS) that allows customers to store and remotely manage their own account data beyond some basic membership capability. I can see this being an issue for some larger-sized businesses where hosting customer data online and allowing customers to access and act on that data are critical. Luckily, most small services businesses like interior design will never need this functionality.

Wix provides a fairly sophisticated suite of website capability that should meet your growing interior design needs both now and in the future. If you are willing to invest the time, you should find the Wix platform relatively easy to use. For the rest of you where free time is sparse, consider using Matthew D'Alto Photography & Design to create or redesign your photographic website for your interior design business.

Matthew D'Alto Photography & Design

is a Norwalk, Connecticut-based photographer and website designer that provides full-service photography and website design for small businesses and entrepreneurs within the greater Connecticut and New York markets.

Click here to receive more information about services provided, contact information, or to receive a free estimate for the photography or website design work you are considering.

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Matthew D'Alto Photography & Design

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