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Website design advice

This website contains advice for landscape architecture practices on website design. To begin with, we suggest that each practice designs its own website. This is cheap and gives the practice an essential in-house skill for the information age. But there are some aspects of website design which are require more skill and it may be necessary to contract these to a specialist firm at some point. You could also pay a web design firm to give a professional opinion of your website, or you could ask request this from the webmasters of the Landscape Information Hub. An indicator of current web use by UK landscape architects can be gained from Landscape Design.

The key considerations in website design are summarised in the advice that to create a good website you need a hack, a geek, a suit and an artist. They are explained below. But your site also requires a high usability rating.

Web Graphic Design

Most landscape practices will have firm ideas about this and there is every reason to go with the firm's own design philosophy.

Web Business Design

Websites should be designed for a purpose. This could be to attract clients, to provide a service to the community or to raise the profile of the practice. A website is a shop window and the choice of what to show can have a significant effect on the firm's business. This is a tricky issue. Landscape practices have not discovered, yet, how to benefit from the web. But other professions have made more progress and the editors of this website see the web as the best hope yet for explaining landscape architecture to the wider world - and attracting more business to landscape firms.

Web Design for Search Engines

If you want to attract visitors to your website, it is necessary to consider, from the outset,  how the search engines will find and index your website. Webdesign firms are likely to know something about this - but not enough about the particularities of attracting the types of visitor who will create professional opportunities for landscape architecture firms.

Web Coding

It is obviously desirable for the coding, in HTML, XML, Pearl, Java, PHP, Javasrcipt, or whatever, to be as economical and efficient as possible. This is the skill one is most likely to need from  webdesign firms. Most landscape firms find it easy to learn HTML which may be all then need. The other languages only become important for fancy effects and for adding 'interactivity' (forms, e-commerce, connection to a database, discussion forums etc). For the future, most website design should be based on CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).

Web Textual Content

Some websites are graphically well-conceived but otherwise insignificant. Other websites have terrific content but a graphic design which is boring, or even offensive. Landscape firms are unlikely to produce bad graphics but may well lack good content. There is a saying in the web community that in the long term 'Content is King'. Accessing your website costs time and money. If all you offer is hyped puffery about your firm being the biggest best and most expensive, then why should anyone bother to visit the site? Would you pay to read about what makes your local bank such a great organisation? Here are some alternatives for landscape firms: (1) provide useful facts (2) give advice on specialised landscape techniques (3) give landscape design ideas (4) give landscape planning ideas (5) provide images which are a pleasure to view (6) make people laughs (7) put in links. 'Ah', you might be thinking 'but these 7 tips would give all our trade secrets away'. Well they wouldn't . If all your professional knowledge and judgment could go on a website then you don't deserve to be in business. The aim is to be as helpful as possible and, in doing so, persuade visitors that your firm is the friendly repository of expertise in your area of professional expertise.