The fundamentals for aesthetics, user-experience, and hierarchy
May 5, 2022
9 min read
Founder at Buildr
General contractors know full well the importance of solid design and structural organization. They know the importance of building off of a strong foundation, executing on the small details that make or break a project, and using each project—with all their individual learnings—as a crucial stepping stone for the next one.
Good general contractors have 4D vision, and can probably anticipate the correlation we’re building to here: the exact same principles apply to website design. You always begin with a sturdy foundation, and with the right strategies and sound execution on those strategies, your website can become an impressive, beautiful, and highly valuable asset that bolsters the future of your business about as well as any of your completed projects do.
General contractors with a well-designed and attractive website can count on a few key things. That includes establishing their brand online and building a consistent channel for lead nurturing. Whether the goal is to simply build your company’s profits or to be the most renowned general contractor in your area, having a website that adheres to the fundamentals makes that possible. Let's dig in to some of the most important strategies for general contractor websites.
This one’s the most obvious, so we may as well lead with it: your site needs to look pretty. One of the most important components of a general contractor’s website is whether or not it is aesthetically pleasing. Aesthetics are less subjective than you’d think; take a look at some of the most renowned brands’ websites and they generally have a similar visual vibe. They’re uncluttered, use color strategically, employ utilitarian yet friendly prose (in elegantly simple typography), and feature eye-catching media. People really like to see people, and bonus points if the people are smiling. How often do you check out a competitor’s website and their workers are yawning or frowning? (if you do happen to know of a website with this level of marketing unawareness, please forward to us immediately).
When prospective clients visit your website, they expect to see photos of all types of impressive projects you've completed and information about which project types are your bread and butter. But whether they admit it or not, they also want to visit a site that doesn’t look like an elementary school library’s homepage from 1997. A professional, clean aesthetic subliminally conveys sophistication, savvy, and success—all qualities that prospective clients are looking for in a builder.
It may be worth outsourcing this one, but you should work to develop your visual brand. Initially, put time into planning out what your brand stands for, such as what your mission statement is, who your target customers are, and what your company strives towards, including what helps you stand out from the competition. Many times, this will have already been done years ago. From there, the visuals should support the strategized underlying foundation. Check out your website as-is and ask yourself: is our mission and website aesthetic congruent?
Be thoughtful and intentional about everything; from the types of language you use to the logo and color scheme. Just because you’ve had the same logo for 80 years doesn’t mean you need it unaltered for another 80! It’s never too late for a subtly modernized tweak. Once you have a well-defined brand, sprinkle it consistently across the website, your blog, and your social media (and in the physical realm, your headquarters). This visual consistency helps people better recognize and get your company instilled in their minds over time. They become familiar with you and seek you out as a result.
Here’s another parallel between websites and projects: both need to be geographically obvious and functional. Imagine walking into a building and being immediately met with a dead-end. There are plenty of websites out there losing out on leads because they didn’t build it with the logic of a real-life project. There’s nothing more frustrating than being unable to find information on a website that you know has the information on it somewhere. This issue comes down to a lack of user-friendly navigation and not prioritizing the user’s journey in the initial stages of website design. User experience (UX) is a top priority when designing a website.
Website builders worth their weight know to make their sites simple for visitors to find the information they’re most likely to need then agilely funneling them through the proper lanes to get them to fill out the contact form. You still want visitors to take a look at your projects, understand your services, and get a good idea of who your company is, sure. But if their traversing isn’t simple and without confusion, it’ll all be in vain. A good litmus test is this: if you’re getting decent website traffic but little tangible customer traction, it’s usually a signifier that your website navigation is in need of a tune-up.
Tangential to good navigation, ensure that every potential point of sale has a call to action. This is simply some type of language that tells the reader what to do. Call you? Email? Set up a consultation? Clearly define what you want a visitor to do, and then make it easy for them to take that action.
Your website also needs to showcase the work you've done that you’re proudest of and the projects that are the type that you want to do in the future. Sure, that Wendy’s you built in the early 2000s is a local mainstay with a Frosty machine that’s never been down for more than an hour, but it's better to showcase the high schools you’ve completed if the education sector is what you see for the future of your business. No matter what you want your calling card to be—stadiums, office spaces, shopping malls, etc.—highlight those more than the projects you’ve done that no longer align with your updated mission. Make it crystal clear what type of projects you want to continue to build.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of those details that operates in the background but creates impressive outcomes for your website. It’s not about stuffing as many keywords onto your website as you can. Rather, the goal is to create a strategy that brings in highly targeted clients, those that are most likely to want to work with you. SEO strategy includes design concepts, paid SEO efforts, as well as organic strategies that help you rank at the top of the search engine results page.
Providing visitors with multiple types of content is always important because it widens your net of the sorts of things that’ll grab people’s attention. When prospective clients visit your website, they need to be able to really understand what you have to offer. Yet, not everyone engages with content in the same way. Often, you need to provide various ways for them to engage with you.
For example, you need basic content or information on your websites that people can read and react to in order to get the information they need. You also need photos, especially high-quality images that help people to really see what you've done. A slideshow of photos is a good way to keep their interest longer, helping them see what you have to offer. Many sites do some of the heavy lifting for their visitors by having the photos naturally animate, replicating the scrolling that would’ve transpired by an interested party regardless.
In addition to this, you likely need to include video as this helps to showcase to your customers what your organization is really like. A picture says a thousand words… but a video? You may use video as a way to give a tour of a project or to create some informal content that shows how you work with your current clients. Creativity and originality is crucial here. Additionally, downloadable PDFs, whitepapers, and other forms of static freebies can provide information about your process or perhaps some basic project outlines to show clients what you could potentially do for them.
Imagine the average client who stumbles upon a large open field that is for sale. They are sitting there considering the purchase and want to know if this is the right property for the idea they have in mind. They don’t have a desktop and are not likely to pull out a laptop to look for a general contractor to provide information. They do, however, have their phone. When your website is designed to be user-friendly to those using a mobile device, it’s easy for them to get information and, ultimately, call you to take the next step. In 2022, not everyone has a desktop computer. But everybody has a phone!
It’s also essential to keep in mind that, just like many of the projects you build, upgrades, alterations, and overhauls are necessary over time. If your website hasn’t reached that point just yet, now is the time to invest in some updating. There's no need to feel overwhelmed; there are plenty of helpful free video guides available on the topic, including this one, which focuses on three principles for web design: navigation, hierarchy, and color. Make a checklist, a rough timetable when you'd like to accomplish it, and begin to chip away at it. Your website doesn’t need to be revolutionized in a day, but steps taken today and each day for the next several months will get it where you’d like it to be. In time, your website will be as viable a sales tool as your most impressive completed project.
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