Should you build your own interior design website? Absolutely, yes! Especially if it’s a start-up or pre-launch interior design business. You can build a beautiful website yourself. With little effort and even less expense. Therefore, avoid the often exuberant cost of a website designer. More importantly, it’ll provide invaluable experience when you come to employ a professional website designer in the future. And it’ll help you avoid the far too many website building charlatans
Quotes from professional website designers can run into the £1000s. That’s a lot of money for a relatively basic (5 page) website. This guide takes you through Abigail Bright’s journey to build an interior design website. Supported by YourCoachApproach, Abigail registered, built, and launched her website with just a few days’ work. And for a total annual cost of just £85
Register Your Domain
Say what?! In simple language, choose a website address. Abigail settled on brighterinteriors.co.uk. However, there’s a lot to think about when selecting a website address. To learn more, read this. To give the briefest of summaries: your website address should reflect you and your brand. Be short and sweet. And ideally end with ‘.co.uk’
Once you’ve decided upon a domain name (website address) you’ll need to register it for a period of time. That’s to say you rent the website address for a number of years. There are lots of service providers. We checked:
- 123-reg: 2-year cost £12.98 before VAT
- Godaddy: 2-year cost £12.85 before VAT
- Fasthosts: 2-year cost £10.49 before VAT
As you can see, there isn’t a material difference between the providers. Some offered free first year, some hugely discounted. Make a note of the second-year cost, as this indicates the likely renewal cost from year 3 onwards. You can register your domain for up to 10 years. The longer registration time will protect you from future price rises. Unless you’re the next Amazon, the annual renewal price will likely be similar to the year 2 cost
Abigail bought the domain through Fasthosts. A simple and easy process. Select ‘No’ for all point-of-sale add-ons. Because add-ons such as email hosting, website building, SSL encryption (we’ll come to this), and so on are rubbish deals. Like all point-of-sale options. Next enter your name, company, etc details to create an account and then pay
Finally, why did Abigail Bright choose brighterinteriors.co.uk, and not brightinteriors.co.uk? Because someone else has registered brightinteriors.co.uk already. An agent quoted us over £100 to arrange a deal with whoever has already registered the domain name. And that’s before the cost of the domain itself. We declined the offer. We also decided brighterinteriors.co.uk was preferable to, for instance, bright-interiors.co.uk (with a hyphen) or brightinteriors.uk (no ‘.co’)
Get a Website Builder
Now you have an address (your domain), now you need to build your premises. That’s to say, build your interior design website. With all its pages, functionality, contact forms and so on. To continue with our property analogy, a web developer will build your house from scratch. Whereas we can use a self-build house kit
Again, there are lots of website builders to choose from. We created a shortlist of 3: Squarespace, Wix, and WordPress. WordPress is technically a Content Management System, but it’s a distinction we don’t need to worry about. All website builders on our shortlist met the essential requirements for Abigail’s website:
- She can use her domain name, brighterinteriors.co.uk
- They’re free of adverts. 3rd party adverts can be a real turnoff for website visitors
- Mobile and tablet supported. This means that her website will look amazing on a mobile or tablet screen, as well as a computer monitor
- Enough storage for all her beautiful portfolio images. 2GB is loads to start with
- Ability to host video footage. Unless you’re going down the vlogging route, 30 minutes of video storage will be ample
- SSL Encryption. Ensures data coming in and out of the website can’t be read by 3rd parties. More importantly, it means that ‘brighterinteriors.co.uk’ isn’t preceded by the dreaded ‘not secure’ tag in the browser address bar
- 24/7 customer support. Sooner or later, we all need a helping hand. And it’s never going to happen at a convenient time!
- Search Engine Optimisation (Say what?!). SEO is the means by which brighterinteriors.co.uk will rank higher in Google etc searches
Aside from our requirements, website builders will often boast a whole range of ‘benefits’ that aren’t benefits at all. For example, CSS customisation that professional website builders (not us!) use. Another example is website traffic analysis. However, there’s a ton of easy and free ways to analyse web traffic without needing to use your website builder
Our Choice of Website Builder
So, which website builder did we use? Actually, the more important question is how we chose the builder for our interior design website. Well, based on 3 factors: the look of the final output, ease to build and, of course, cost
Starting with the most important. What does the final outcome look like?
At first glance, all 3 look very similar. And this was deliberate to give a fair comparison. To decide, we asked a sample of people to rank the home pages in order of favourite to least favourite. Those surveyed were mainly from Brighter Interiors’ potential client base. Also, we included a few from the interior design industry for good measure. The outcome of the survey: 60% preferred the home page built using Wix. But less than 10% preferred the page built using Squarespace. A fairly firm nod towards Wix when it comes to our first decision factor
Next up, ease of use. This time you’ve just our opinions. Wix was the easiest and, as such, the quickest to put together. Wix is very intuitive, and it has a variety of templates to get us started. Neither Squarespace nor WordPress was easy to get to grips with. Despite both having a variety of templates to use. In addition, Wix offers an unlimited free trial. Allowing us to progress at our own pace. Squarespace only offers a 2-week free trial. Whereas WordPress demands payment from the outset. So, it’s round 2 to Wix as well!
And finally, the cost. Obviously, the packages across the 3 offerings aren’t identical. However, we compared the packages we would start with. Namely, Wix Combo, Squarespace Personal and WordPress Business. Bought as an annual package, Wix is the cheapest: £72 per year. Next up, Squarespace costs £120 per year. WordPress is a whopping £240 annual lump sum. This makes it a clean sweep for Wix!
Is Wix the Best Website Builder for Interior Design Firms?
Wix is undoubtedly the right choice for Brighter Interiors. At least for now. We recognise that WordPress has more features, more templates, and more longevity. However, by the time Abigail finds the limits of Wix, her business success should be such that she’ll employ a professional web developer. And they will probably rebuild her website from scratch. As for Squarespace, it seems to be the worst of all worlds. It isn’t the cheapest, nor easy to use. Most importantly, our potential clients don’t like it
Is Search Engine Optimisation Important?
Without SEO, WordPress costs drop from £240 to £84 per year. This of course begs the question, is SEO important for your website? Inevitably, the answer is, ‘it depends’. Again, think of your website as physical premises. Your website is your shop interior. The design of your shop interior, the layout of the aisles will entice your clients to buy once inside
But is the website also your shop front? Or are your shop fronts Insta, Pinterest, LinkedIn and so on? A previous Business Success Blog discussed the pros and cons of using your website as a shop front. But for now, let’s keep the answer simple. If your website is the shop front or one of your shop fronts, SEO is essential. If it’s not, it’s not
What About E-Commerce?
As we’re talking shop, we’ve not yet touched on e-commerce. That’s to say, selling products and receiving payment for products via your website. Brighter Interiors is a service provider. As such, we don’t need e-commerce features. At least, not at first. If you need e-commerce capability for your website, you’ll most likely need an extra page or 2. And the website builder costs rise by 50 to 100%; Wix £156, Squarespace £180 and WordPress £432 per year
Building Your Shop Interior
Now you’ve got your address, your domain name. You’ve got your premises. That’s to say, your self-build website builder kit. And now to the exciting bit, fit out. What should your shop interior look like?
First and foremost, your website should reflect you, your interior design business, your brand. Display your logo, and tagline if you use one, at the top of every page. The language on your website should be similar to every other part of marketing literature. If the idea of reusing what you already have worries you, then you’ve got a problem you need to address. Put another way, a website, however good, won’t make up for bad branding. Or bad marketing
Interior Designers know all about colour. Yet the most common colours used on residential interior design websites are black, white and grey. Black text (or very dark grey) on a light background is easy to read. White space is easy on the eye. And greys convey neutrality. These simple colours can also enhance the beauty of displayed images. We experimented with dark green from the logo for heading text. But the contrast wasn’t great enough for easy reading. It might be tempting to take colours only from your brand palette. But stray from the black, white, and grey trend with care. Because it can make your website hard to read
In a similar vein, our next topic is text. By far the most important consideration for text is readability. Swirly text may look lovely. But it’s very difficult to read. And that will send your potential clients to other people’s websites. Also, lots of combinations of font types can be difficult to decipher. And size is important. For black on white, don’t go below font size 14 for paragraphs. Headings should be larger. For text and background colours with less contrast, you’ll need bigger font sizes. Your choice of font needs to complement your branding. If it comes to a choice between branding and readability, change your branding
Now to content. Words and images. Because your website needs both. Yes, the interior design industry is a visual one. But your clients (at least some of them) need words as well. Too many interior design websites rely just on images. Remember that interior design clients don’t have the same training as interior designers. One set of pretty pictures can look much the same as another to clients. Sorry! And use words that resonate with your client. ‘Beautiful home’ is likely to mean more to them than ‘exquisite interior design’
When you come to build your interior design website, don’t be shy! I spend a lot of time searching interior design websites for contact details. As a result, I sometimes wonder if Interior Designers are also Secret Agents! Because contact details are often so hard to find. And don’t just rely on a separate contact page. Display your email and phone number, along with relevant social media icons, in the header and footer of every page. Yep, on every page. Also, any link to another website, which includes social media pages, should open in a new tab or window. That way your website remains open, even if your potential client has been distracted elsewhere
Create Your Shopping Aisles
So on to the number of pages. As a rule of thumb, I suggest 5. It might be tempting to go page crazy. But this runs the risk of overwhelming visitors with information. And an overwhelmed visitor is unlikely to take any action. Other than to leave your website
The rule of thumb 5 pages:
- Home page: Or sometimes called the landing page. Usually, the first page a website visitor sees. The home page should do 2 things: Grab your visitors’ attention and entice them to explore the other website pages. Give them a flavour: a few words, a few pictures. But don’t overdo it. Use links that give potential clients different ways to navigate your website. Also, up to 3 hard-hitting testimonials can be very effective on this page
- Portfolio/services page: Different phrases, but both mean the same thing. What are your clients going to get? Use words, not just images. Make sure your words resonate with your potential clients. To this end, more client testimonials, max 1 per offering, can be very effective. To avoid your portfolio/services page looking like a jumble sale, ensure images complement each other. And your images don’t always have to be of the final product; sketches and drawings can work too
- Blog/informational page: I realise that regular blogging can be a big commitment. But you don’t have to dedicate yourself to frequent blogging (despite the social media hype to the contrary). 3 to 4 informational articles are enough to make your potential clients think they’re getting something of value for free. Aim for 500 words each and answer questions your potential clients might ask, ‘Why hire an interior designer?’, ‘What to consider designing for activity-based working’, and so on
- About page: The harsh truth is clients care about what you can do for them. They don’t really care about you. Yes, an about page helps with ‘knowability’ and ‘likability’. But if you’re going to drop one page, make it this one. Don’t go crazy. A short intro, one image of you and a short blurb about your firm (and possibly a photo) is enough. You can display membership organisation logo(s) here as well
- Contact page: obviously, phone number, email, and a contact form. Also, it’s worth including your location displayed on a Google map. Maybe also consider putting your opening hours on this page as well. Most importantly, include a call to action. Again, in the client’s language. For example, “Take your first step to a brighter home. And send us a message. We’ll get straight back to you”
You Can Build Your Own Website
So, the final product. Did you notice that her website opened in a new tab? 😉
As Abigail’s journey shows, you can build your own interior design website. Thereby, saving a ton of cash when you’re starting out. More than that, Abigail has gained invaluable experience that her business can benefit from in the future
For a website that’ll serve you for years then WordPress might be worth the extra investment of time and money. Your first property is rarely your forever home. In the same vein, your first website is unlikely to be your forever home page. However, unlike property, you can easily change your home page without changing your address
Next month’s Business Success Blog discusses If Interior Design Clients are Changing. Make sure you don’t miss it. And follow the YourCoachApproach Business Success Blog
Need Help to Build Your Interior Design Website?
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