Recently, several Kitchen & Bath Design News columnists have written about the importance of a kitchen/bath firm’s online presence. Eric Schimelpfenig talked about improving your digital profile in the January issue, focusing on the specifics about how, and why, to freshen a dated site and who can help you do that. “It’s easy to forget that a design client’s first experience with you often starts with an Internet search, and looking at your Web site,” he writes.
In the February issue, Sarah Reep wrote about the importance of investing in a cleaner, user-friendly site. “Younger consumers are increasingly using mobile devices to get a feel for the market before making the trek to visit a physical showroom,” she comments. “Even if they’re not your customers today, it’s important to impress the younger generation because of its influence on parents and grandparents with relation to the new way to shop. So today, many kitchen and bath firms have created a wonderful online presence using aesthetically exciting Web sites, often supplemented with informative videos and compelling images, and supported by social media sites. We’re seeing more businesses making dramatic first impressions even before they meet their customers face to face.”
With this increased focused on Web sites, this month Kitchen & Bath Design News asked several design firms to share their thoughts on creating Web sites that make great first impressions.
Anthony Albert Studios; Waldwick, NJ
How long ago was your Web site given its most current look? About two years ago.
Anthony Passanante, CKD, CBD, allied ASID, admits he hadn’t really realized his previous site, which was about five years old, had become antiquated. “My web designer showed me some other modern Web sites and asked me to make a comparison,” he says. “I didn’t think my site was outdated, but I really noticed the difference when they were side by side. My site is current now, but I’ll probably change the look again in another two years.”
Do you manage changes internally or do you rely on an outside resource? “I have my Web designer update the site,” he says, noting that he prefers to have an outside source input the changes so he can focus on what he does best… designing everything from kitchens and baths to wine cellars, libraries and laundry rooms. Changes to the site may include updates such as magazine articles in which he is quoted, awards he has received, current projects that have been photographed, etc.
“It’s very important to stay current with your site,” he says. “We’re constantly doing different designs and showcasing different products that we are excited about and want to share these with clients!”
What is the importance of a great Web site? “I believe when people hear about a business, the first thing they do is go to its Web site…that’s what I do,” he says. “If I don’t see an impressive home page, I’ll move on. My Web designer showed me a couple of different options to look at for my redesign, but I loved this one. I wanted something that would grab visitors’ attention so they stay longer and browse through it. I also wanted it to be easy to use.”
Is there something particularly unique/creative about your Web site? A series of rotating full-bleed, high-resolution photos fills the screen, regardless of whether visitors are browsing on a tablet, smartphone or computer. “My Web site is very visual when you first log on,” he says. “We have very large photos on the home page. It’s refreshing and gives a great first impression, which is important because a Web site is about selling yourself.”
Navigation tabs are located under the photos and when a visitor clicks on one, it scrolls down to the requested information, rather than opening in a new window. “It’s a different, but modern way to use a Web site,” he says.
Passanante’s site is also now mobile-friendly and is adaptable to mobile devices including tablets and smartphones.
How does your Web site fit with other your other online sites, such as Houzz, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.? “I do have links to my social media sites on my Web site so visitors can easily link to them,” he says. “I think my site fits very well with Houzz, especially, because they have a very similar feel.”
Acadian House Kitchen + Bath Design; Baton Rouge, LA
How long ago was your Web site given its most current look? About a year and a half ago.
Acadian House launched its mobile-friendly Web site at about the same time it opened its new showroom. “When we rebranded for the new showroom location, we also rebranded the Web site so everything would look the same again,” says Angela Simoneaux Poirrier, v.p./designer.
Do you manage changes internally or do you rely on an outside resource? Poirrier makes decisions about updates and approves content but has a Web designer implement them. “We do make changes quite a bit…such as adding a cooking class, mentioning an award, etc.,” she says, noting that they are in the process of hiring a communications intern to help ease her workload associated with site maintenance. “I enjoy working with outside sources, but I also like having control over the content. We want to keep Web site changes in-house and underroof from a branding perspective…to make sure our message is clear and stays cohesive, so it all looks like Acadian House.”
What is the importance of a great Web site? Acadian House is the only design/build firm in the city so it’s important that site visitors easily understand what the company does, she explains. “Design/build is not an everyday concept for people here,” Poirrier explains. “We try to make it easy for visitors to understand what we do, without overwhelming them. We keep the site clean, but give them information that is needed.”
As such, there are minimal main navigation tabs across the top of the page with secondary dropdown navigation tabs providing additional information.
Is there something particularly unique/creative about your Web site? Acadian House makes it easy for visitors to locate and contact the firm. Multiple “Request A Consultation” buttons are highly visible and readily accessible while the company’s phone number and address are listed at the top of the home page. “If someone is interested in contacting us about a project, we want to give them a ‘next step’ immediately,” she says. “We don’t want them to have to go through several pages to find a phone number or to find a way to request a consultation. What we really want people to do is call because we have a very high close rate when they do that. The number of homes we schedule for a consultation is much higher from phone calls than they are from walk-in traffic.”
Acadian House also has a relatively active blog. “It’s important to be fresh,” says Poirrier. “Our most recent blog is about the color of the year. It may seem like simplistic information for us in the industry, but for the general public, it isn’t. Even though our blog posts are at the bottom of the home page, they do get a lot of traction and they help with our Google analytics.”
How does your Web site fit with other your other online sites, such as Houzz, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.? Five social media links are given prominence on the home page, right next to the main navigation tabs. “If you have links to your social media sites, make sure to keep them updated,” she advises. “Give people something interesting to look at once they go to these pages. It is a lot to do, but in the long run, it’s worth it. We got a $60,000 job from a conversation that was strictly from Facebook.
“We put as much time into our social media as we do our TV ads,” she continues. “Our campaigns are very well thought out and we try to be very engaged. We brought all six of our designers to KBIS this year. We did an Instagram campaign that resulted in a huge spike in Web site visits from potential clients as well as other industry professionals, including designers and manufacturers.”
Divine Design + Build; Wellesley, MA
How long ago was your Web site given its most current look? About a year and a half ago.
“Our previous site was about five years old,” says Mariette Barsoum, CKD, co-founder/owner and principal designer.
Do you manage changes internally or do you rely on an outside resource?
Barsoum relies on a combination of both. “We’ll make small changes, such as a change to the date of a seminar,” she says. “Sometimes, even when we’re busy, it’s more efficient to be able to make a small change rather than exchange e-mails back and forth with a Web provider to make sure content is accurate. However, if we want to make bigger changes, such as add a page with links, we’ll have our Web provider do that.”
What is the importance of a great Web site? “A Web site is about the only way for people to know who you are, to research a company to decide which one to work with,” she says. “Almost every one of our customers has visited our Web site before they’ve come in.”
Is there something particularly unique/creative about your Web site? Divine Design + Build keeps it simple and clean, eliminating a typical portfolio/gallery and lots of navigation tabs and menu items. “We took a different approach to our Web design,” says Barsoum. “We don’t have a gallery per se. Instead, the whole site is, in fact, a gallery with descriptions so visitors can better connect with the project. We like this design because we feel a traditional gallery forces people to make too many clicks to get to what they want.”
Instead, Divine’s Web site offers a simple menu selection of “kitchens,” “bathrooms” and “whole homes.” “We feel these are the three things people most commonly look for,” she says. “Visitors don’t have to weed through a lot of pages to get to what they really want to see.” For example, if someone is looking for a kitchen, they look under kitchen. If they see what they like, they can click on “getting started” which outlines contact information, including showroom location, hours of operation, etc., all under one tab.
“The crux of our Web site is projects,” she continues. “We’ve taken out all of the ancillary information and made our projects the centerpiece of the Web site.”
How does your Web site fit with other your other online sites, such as Houzz, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.? “We use Houzz a lot,” she says. “All of our projects are on both sites, basically mirroring each other.”
Neil Kelly; Portland, Eugene, Bend and Lake Oswego, OR, and Seattle, WA
How long ago was your Web site given its most current look? About 10 months ago.
“The previous site had become a bit of a rambler,” notes Don Scharff, marketing manager. “It had been added onto so many times that there were some usability and presentation issues.”
The new site solves those issues, as well as addresses current needs of visitors including responsiveness of the site when viewed on mobile devices. “Mobile friendliness – how our site appears on a smartphone or tablet – was a big focus with our new site,” says Alex Christopher, corporate marketing specialist.
“It optimizes for a tablet or a computer,” adds Scharff. “As we look at our Web stats, 50% of visitors view our site from a mobile device.”
Do you manage changes internally or do you rely on an outside resource? Because changes may be made on a daily or weekly basis, they are handled internally. “It gives us the flexibility to handle things on the fly,” says Christopher. “For example, if we have some seasonal content we want posted, we can get it up quickly.”
From a brand marketing perspective, having total control ensures consistency, adds Scharff. “If we develop a message about a certain event, project or topic, we can deploy it on the Web site as well as through social media and face-to-face presentation seamlessly and simultaneously so information doesn’t become stagnant.”
Internal control also helps control costs, notes Aaron Ziltener, corporate marketing specialist. “It takes too long and requires too much money to have to rely on an outside web development firm to make every single change to a Web site,” he says. “Plus, it’s no longer necessary. Most web development companies now work with clients toward the goal of providing a content management platform. They will establish the initial site plan and design, then hand over the ‘keys’ to the client organization to manage the content ongoing.”
What is the importance of a great Web site? For any Web site, it’s really all about making first impressions…and it’s important to make a good one because bad ones can last forever. “People may hear about a company through advertising or word of mouth, but their first destination after that is a Web site,” says Ziltener. “And first impressions of that Web site can be unforgiving, particularly in the field of kitchen and bath design where quality, aesthetics and credibility all kind of blend together in consumers’ minds.”
These days, there are outside influences as well that put extra pressure on creating a great site. “Any Web site now is not only compared to its direct competition, but also to expectations set by national and international consumer brand Web sites, such as Apple, Ikea, etc.,” adds Scharff.
Is there something particularly unique/creative about your Web site? Neil Kelly prides itself on its extensive photo and video galleries. Its photo gallery is sortable by project type (kitchens, baths, etc.) as well as style (historical, modern, etc.).
Many projects also have profiles – text versions as well as video versions – that allow the company to create a story and a rapport with visitors. “Our video gallery is pretty unique for our industry and market,” says Christopher, who notes that the video gallery also includes an abundance of ‘capability’ videos that offer information about everything from downsizing to safe remodeling with pets.
“Our project stories are a really compelling business development tool,” adds Ziltener. “They’re a great way to engage prospects. They can find a project that inspires them in terms of their own home. They are getting ideas and inspiration, but also building a relationship with Neil Kelly, forming a basis for a conversation with a designer. Having a robust platform to deliver content to people gives us an opportunity not only to talk about what we do as a company, but to tell stories about how the work we do improves people’s lives.”
How does your Web site fit with other your other online sites, such as Houzz, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.? “If you were to consider our marketing strategy as a wheel, our Web site would be the hub at the center,” says Schraff. “All of our social media, e-mail marketing and event marketing is connected through the spokes. When people see us in an ad, they come to the Web site where we want to engage with them in social media. It seems to be working well in terms of developing relationships from prospect to client.”
Reico Kitchen & Bath; multiple locations in Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Delaware
How long ago was your Web site given its most current look? About four years ago.
“We constantly review our site and are in the initial phases of a major update,” says Jim Grace, director of marketing.
Do you manage changes internally or do you rely on an outside resource? Minor changes, updates and tweaks are made daily, everything from adding a new blog post or gallery pictures, to SEO and SEM updates that make the site easier to find. “To make those changes, we rely on a combination of internal and external sources,” he says. “It actually allows for multiple perspectives and eyes on our site, which is not a bad thing. However, there may be timing issues occasionally when one person pushes work or changes to the other person. For the most part, it works well.”
What is the importance of a great Web site? “For kitchen and bath firms, it is important to be visually inviting from the moment a person lands on the site with easy-to-identify navigation options that offer ideas and speak to visitors in their terms and not fancy industry jargon,” says Grace.
How does your Web site fit with other your other online sites, such as Houzz, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.? “We try to stay connected with Houzz, Pinterest and Facebook by sharing content from our Web site across all platforms and more to give interested remodeling customers as many opportunities as possible to connect with us,” Grace concludes.