May 1, 2010

Websites for tomorrow

Why is it important for RBA to have a projective website? What possible advantages / disadvantages does having a firm website possess? Keeping an up-to-date website is crucial to a success, how does RBA stay ahead?

The question was held as an open discussion between Chris, Meg, Jon and myself.

Randy decided that this practice topic would be a good one to talk about and would pertain to what we were learning in the office at the moment.  The first questions: why is it important for RBA to have a projective website?

He gave us a brief run down on the history of the current RBA website. The firm introduced the first website 13 years ago. It was considered more as an “paper brochure” on the screen than an actual website. It was interesting that Randy thought of the fist website as something similar to a television set. You just sit back and watch. There wasn’t any involvement or ways to engage what was on the screen. Comparing that to the way most websites are today, they are night and day difference. Full interaction is achievable on any recent website. For example, the ability to leave your mark on a website in the form of a blog is something that couldn’t be done when websites were first introduced.

Since I started working at RBA, we have been gearing for the change of abandoning the current website and creating a new identity through a new logo, new letterhead and cards and a new website.   The future website promises to be completely hands on and illustrates to everyone who visits the site what we are about. The way Randy is constructing the new website will keep any first time and returning visitor always coming back for more. If the site is exciting, visitors will tend to be more interested in the work that is done and become a fan, similar to be a fan of a sports team. It might sound strange to think of it this way, but if you are a fan of Richard Neutra or any other architect, you probably have all of their books and are inspired by their work. Same goes for a great architectural website. You become a “fan” of the firm, you follow their work and receive inspiration from the work they do. For instance, while I was researching potential firms for internship I went to their websites and unintentionally decided by the first impression if I was fan. I didn’t realize until this discussion that I had subconsciously done this. The website was the first impression. If it was boring, too complicated, or just plain unappealing, it didn’t make the second glance. Comparing this to school, they teach us to design everything. If an architectural firm doesn’t design a functional website, it tends to show a lot about the work they do there.

The new website for RBA will be sure to give everyone a positive experience. It is going to be a fully interactive website that is constantly evolving. By this, it will have areas to blog your ideas/thoughts about all the projects shown. Since the first week, Randy has been talking about all of us in the firm writing blogs to upload to the new website. I think this would be a great opportunity for outside visitors to learn more about RBA through what we write. The website will also have a client portal. This will be an ideal way for a client to see the most up to date status on their specific project. For instance, drawings, pictures, proposals, etc. will all be loaded daily to this portal so questions from the client can be answered right on the website. This won’t single handedly rid the need for in person, client meetings, but it should help to answer quick questions where a meeting wouldn’t be as necessary. The new website will have areas to watch behind-the-scenes footage of projects through phases of construction. Referring back to the first weekend working for RBA, Assassi produced a short video of the award winning Data project. This film along with many more, such as the HGTV Extreme Homes video will all be available for viewing on the new website.

With the website well on its way to completion and most of the kinks worked out of it, I predict that this will be a very appealing website. I know from going to school that when you put as much hard work into something like RBA has with this website, only good things are to come from it.

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