The Top Five Architecture Firm Website Designs In 2018
19th May 2018
Over the course of writing Architectural Trios, studying architecture and redesigning Barn21 I've come across hundreds of architecture firm websites. They vary considerably depending on a range of factors, from the scope of the company to their budget to their target market, to name a few. It's interesting how the most wealthy and internationally famous firms don't necessarily have the most intuitive websites (*cough* Zaha Hadid Architects *cough*), instead choosing to focus their resources elsewhere. This seems strange to me due to the widespread use of the internet for research purposes, but hey, who am I to judge some of the world's most successful and revered firms.
Well, actually, I am going to judge; in fact it's the whole point of this article. As a design conscious architecture graduate I can't help but enjoy analysing the experience of using a practice's website, so in the last few days I've picked my way through a ton of sites to arrive at a top five. I've attempted to be impartial in my choices, basing my decisions on the website designs themselves instead of the architecture created by the firms. Join me as I explore some of the highlights of each design and consider why the company has made certain decisions. The sites are in no particular order, and each title is linked to the corresponding website. I highly recommend you pay them a visit first, then read my comments to see if you agree.
The bold colour and strong font complement one another. Image by Waugh Thistleton
Some of the site feels like a blog, in a good way. Image by Waugh Thistleton
The description on hovering is a useful and pleasing touch. Image by Waugh Thistleton
I'm not sure why the wood footer works so well, but somehow it does. Image by Waugh Thistleton
Experts in timber construction Waugh Thistleton Architects were established in 1997 by Andrew Waugh and Anthony Thistleton. Based in Shoreditch, they operate out of a shopfront and have led some of the UK's most innovative timber projects. From my point of view, their site is striking and edgy whilst maintaining a sense of confident professionalism. The colours are memorable due to their difference to the norm, and they complement the bold font that pops against the background. Whilst many firms opt to display only projects on their homepage, Waugh Thistleton Architects have used more of a blog aesthetic. The firm is heavily involved in research and education surrounding timber construction, hence it makes sense to highlight their expertise and raise awareness of the benefits of timber buildings. The blog style also adds personality to the site, which is vital in attracting the right potential clients and showing a human side to the practice. On the projects page images are pleasingly large, and I particularly like the animation that executes when you hover over one project. The title changes colour, and a one sentence description appears below it. This is a sleek and appropriate animation that improves the usability of the site. Finally, I have to mention the footer, which really shouldn't work but somehow does. It is a transparent scan of a piece of wood with the grain and knots in black and the page colour acting as the background. It relates perfectly to the firm and is a unique bookend to the site's pages.
This homepage POPs. Image by Austin Maynard Architects
Project pages have an intuitive layout with balanced proportioning. Image by Austin Maynard Architects
Putting the fun back into architecture. Image by Austin Maynard Architects
Smiling faces make all the difference. Image by Austin Maynard Architects
Up and coming Australian firm Austin Maynard Architects explore "architecture of enthusiasm, treating each project as a unique challenge". Their optimistic, energetic approach runs throughout the website design, from the colourful photos to the description of the projects. The homepage immediately grabs your attention with its minimal layout and bright appearance, and the hover effect on the projects is very satisfying. After selecting a particular scheme, you are taken to its own page, the layout of which is highly intuitive with large photos and balanced proportioning. The descriptions on the left hand side are unlike typical project overviews, with personality and fun injected into them. Headings include "Wearing Sunglasses Inside", "The Floor Is The Cupboard" and "I Am An Island". It is clear that the practice are passionate about incorporating joy into their work on top of thoughtful functional aspects. In my opinion sometimes architecture can be taken a little too seriously, and I admire Austin Maynard Architects for their unashamed clarity of vision. Alongside a charming description of the firm on their about page, the staff photos show friendly, smiling faces. It's amazing what a difference this makes to the appeal of the company, and when compared to those that use serious, sombre staff photos, I know which I'd prefer to work with.
The colour scheme is memorable and consistent throughout the design. Image by Worrell Yeung
The perfect amount of text to explain the project. Image by Worrell Yeung
Pictures are large and wonderfully sharp. Image by Worrell Yeung
Worrell Yeung are a young New York practice formed in 2014. Based in New York, they are currently establishing themselves in its competitive architectural scene. Their website will certainly aid their growth, as it is sharp, minimal and memorable. The most gripping aspect is its colour scheme, with an atypical combination of an aqueous green and deep blue. Its consistency and simplicity throughout the site is wonderful, props to the design team at Once-Future Office who dreamt it up. The text is concise and considered, with just enough to provide sufficient information without it becoming overwhelming. Meanwhile, sharp, large photos on both the homepage and project specific pages showcase the sophisticated designs in their best light. As the firm grows it is likely they'll need to start expanding the site, and if they work to the existing foundation there's no doubt it will continue to be a wonderful experience.
The gentle and welcoming aesthetic of Srah Wigglesworth Architects' site. Image by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
The filtering is simple yet effective. Image by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
Each project page is custom-made to fit the project. Image by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
The text is brilliantly proportioned, and I'm a fan of the brief project previews on hovering. Image by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
Sarah Wigglesworth is a celebrated architect with over thirty years experience in the profession and a multitude of accolades. She set up Sarah Wigglesworth Architects in 1994, whose aim is to make "extraordinary places for the activities of everyday life". Since they tend to work on smaller, more human projects than other internationally revered architects, the practice's website has a more gentle and welcoming aesthetic than firms such as Fosters + Partners. Despite the wealth of information and large project catalogue, the Sarah Wigglesworth Architects site is very easy to navigate through its simple menu systems. For example, the work page has just one filter, which works perfectly; nothing more is needed. Due to the inclusive and informal nature of the site, each project page contains different information which can be scrolled through or visited specifically through a dynamic top menu. This is a sensible way to address the changing layout without it becoming confusing. Hovering over a project reveals a brief description which is a nice touch, however not quite on the same level as Waugh Thistleton's element. Where the Wigglesworth site excels that of Thistleton is in its proportioning. The images and text are well balanced, with appropriate sizing for different elements and a single font maintaining uniformity.
The Foster + Partners homepage oozes class. Image by Foster + Partners
Navigation is slick and effortless. Image by Foster + Partners
Do I even need to introduce Foster + Partners? One of the twenty largest architecture firms in the world, and internationally acclaimed for projects such as the Gherkin and Beijing Capital Airport (as well as being Apple's go to architect), Norman Foster's practice is one of the world's most successful, and boy does it show in their website. The front page contains a rolling carousel of incredible visuals and photos of their projects, which immediately establishes the sophistication and skill contained within the firm. The organisation of the site is intuitive and sleek with menu systems guiding the user through the huge collection of projects and services on offer. Foster + Partners is a mature company now having been established in 1967, and it draws on and highlights all that experience to win big commissions. Being one of the world's most in-demand practices has allowed the company to afford some very refined website design. This is most evident in the sophistication of the animated transitions. The site is full of them, from a circular timer on the carousel dots to a gallery which expands with the users scroll position on the project pages to a coloured fade-in on the project catalogue. None of the other sites on my list use such an array of complex animations, and they help to distinguish Foster + Partners from their smaller and larger rivals alike. The effortless experience of the Fosters site is testament to its design, with every element being in perfect harmony.
So there we have it, five brilliant examples of website design, each with their own distinct style to match the character of the corresponding firm. From the joyous energy of Austin Maynard Architects to the refined simplicity of Worrell Yeung to the high-class sophistication of Foster + Partners, I think we can all agree architecture is a wonderfully diverse sphere of design. It is comforting to know that whilst there are plenty of ways to get web design wrong, there are also plenty of ways to get it right. Striving for that sweet spot should be an aim for all architecture firms, in order to not just attract more clients but also to highlight their creative flair and define what architecture is to them.