Episode 044: 5 Things You Must Have on Your Interior Design Website with Robyn White
Welcome back to the Designed for the Creative Mind Podcast. It’s the start of 2022, and maybe you’re thinking about revamping your interior design website or starting one from scratch. Well, you’re in luck because my next guest and I are chatting all about website design.
In this episode, Robyn and I talk about the overwhelming amount of website designers out there and why functionality and strategy are more important than just looking pretty. Robyn also shares her top 5 things you must have on your interior design website. You do not want to miss this one!
Robyn White is a website designer and owner of RDW Design Studio, a boutique website design studio specializing in strategic, sophisticated, and simple websites for interior designers, home professionals, and creative service providers.
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Michelle: Alright. Hello everybody. Welcome back to the podcast. This is Designed for the Creative Mind. It is a business podcast for interior designers and creatives, and I'm super happy to have you here today. And if some of you are already in the Interior Designers Business Launchpad, you might recognize we have Robyn white.
Michelle: She is a website designer, and she's the owner of RDW design studio. So Robyn offers a refined website design experience for clients who value, quality and want a strategic, sophisticated and simple website designed for their creative success. And like I said, she is very active in our Facebook group, just popping up and putting her 2 cents in when it comes to websites and so forth, because she's an expert.
Michelle: So welcome Robyn. I'm so, so excited.
Robyn: You're here. Thank you so much, Michelle is so great to me.
Michelle: I know it's, it's always fun when people jump off of, um, jump off of social media and onto like onto the screen. Into the podcast and stuff like that. It's crazy. We just had the summit. So I'm not sure when this is going to release.
Michelle: I think it should be before the end of the year, but we had our interior design business success summit, and it was so fun to just meet people. So it feels like I'm meeting you on-screen because even though the listeners can't see it, we're on zoom right now. So there's some little behind the scenes,
Robyn: So nice to put, you know, uh, a name and a voice to the face.
Michelle: absolutely. And it's two-way this way. So thanks for being here, Robyn. Let's just dig in and talk about like, what, what, what brought you to website design? Like what did you do before? How did you end up there?
Robyn: Yeah, it's actually a funny story. I was running a previous business and it was actually a dog walking business.
Robyn: So a lot of fun, but not so much in the winter. Cause I live outside of Boston and New England with all this. Yep. But anyways, I knew I needed a website for that business and you know, it was a small business. I couldn't afford to hire a website designer, so I needed to DIY it and it was hard. It was frustrating.
Robyn: I can't tell you how many times I went down the Google rabbit hole trying to figure things out, but. Eventually, my curiosity got really peaked and I started to get really excited. The more I was learning about website design and, um, I started actually learning even more and constantly working on improving.
The dog-walking website, because I was getting a lot of joy from doing that work. And then I had a friend who said, oh my gosh, you built that website. Do you think you could build something for me? And I was like, Ooh, I had never thought about it. I'm like, okay, sure.
We'll give it a shot. And it just sort of naturally morphed into business for me. And what happened to the dogs? The dogs school. I ran both concurrently for a little while the dogs got phased out and that business got closed down after 11 years. Wow.
Michelle: Well, wow. And now you're nice and cozy and warm inside.
Robyn: Yes, my dog is my office assistant, so she works with me every day.
Michelle: Well, it's interesting that yours is an assistant. Mine is. They are so bossy.
Robyn: I actually call mine, the chief dog officer. So cute,
Michelle: too cute. What kind of dog? She's a pug. Oh, little level. I see that picture over
Robyn: your shoulder. There's a lot of hugs things going on in here. Yeah.
Michelle: Yup. When you know, you know, that's awesome.
Michelle: So, so with that experience and, you know, kind of self-taught, which I absolutely love what makes you different from. Without discounting it, but like, there's, there's a lot of other web designers out there. Like what makes, like, why would people hire you compared to somebody who might be, I don't know, less expensive, more experienced
Robyn: Michelle. That's such a great question. And thank you for asking it. I love talking about this topic because there are so many different website designers it's overwhelming and something I will say is we're all really different. And when you talk to a couple of different designers, Because you're looking to hire one, you have to realize you're not comparing apples to apples.
You're comparing apples to oranges because we all have different skillsets. We all work with different platforms and we all offer different things in our design packages. So I've worked really hard. Figure out and this sort of goes back to my branding. Um, what makes me unique because I think that's really important for us all to have a firm grasp on that.
So for me, um, the main thing that I really focus on with my clients is making things simple for them. So that comes down to speaking in non-techie terms and it kind of circles back to the fact that I'm self-taught and that I used to struggle with all of these, you know, the vernacular out there. Um, yeah, and I went to college with a typewriter, you know, we didn't have computers, then I'm aging myself, but you know, I didn't grow up with the internet.
So for me, it's all about. Explaining these technical terms to my clients and not speaking over their head and confusing them. And I also try to make things simple in terms of the process that we work through because website design is really collaborative. I, I can't do it all by myself. I need. Things from my clients as well.
So coming up with a really streamlined process to keep us on track and have, you know, deadlines and due dates and launch dates on the calendar so that we stay on budget and we stay on timeline is really important to me speaking my love language. And it's actually something I think is really similar between website designers and interior designers.
Um, cause I see in your group all the time, That designers struggle with, you know, um, showing a concept to their clients and then getting the feedback on it. So I actually have a timeline for my revision phase. Um, just so that we're all, and my clients know about this from the get-go, there's no surprises, like I'm very upfront about it, but this keeps everything on track.
Makes everything really smooth. Um, I also have a master's in art history. That was my very first career way back. So the whole aesthetic of how a website looks is incredibly important to me. Um, I want them to be absolutely beautiful, but I also put a very high priority on functionality and strategy because there's no point in just having a pre.
Robyn: Website that isn't going to work as a strategic marketing. And
Michelle: I think everything that you just said from finding your uniqueness, um, and then getting information from the client. And so for everything you just said could be said exactly from the standpoint of an interior designer, but you have to figure out what makes you special in order to promote yourself in order to garner clients that resonate with your voice and, and then deliver something functional because who cares?
It's like a bad shoe. You know, it might be a really pretty high heel stiletto, you know, with a red bottom, but if it's not comfortable, you ain't going to be wearing it.
Robyn: And don't, we all have at least one of those parents that are.
Michelle: Yeah, it looks good, but it's not comfortable. I'm not wearing it, especially as I get older.
Robyn: Yeah. It's absolutely true. But what you said about figuring out what makes you unique? That is, to me, one of the most important, important brands. Foundations, and that needs to come across in your website really clearly, because again, there's a lot of interior designers out there.
Robyn: So why should someone hire you over someone else who does exactly the same thing in the same town?
Michelle: Yeah. And, and that's in my paid program, the interior design business bakery, that's one of the very first exercises we do. And we do it from a variety of different directions because most of us are not good at tooting our own horns or recognizing where we're about.
And oftentimes we hide behind the fact that, well, I didn't go to interior design school. Neither did I, it's fine. You can make it work. So, yeah. And you're, self-taught just, like you said, so you don't have to have all of the bells and whistles to be a bad-ass. Yeah. So what took you into kind of specializing with interior designers?
Michelle: Like you said, that we are, where everywhere you throw, you throw a stone,
Robyn: Yeah. So I'm going to say it originally started from me because I love watching HDTV. Don't cringe. I know that listening. It makes all of my interior designer clients cringe. I totally realize that it is not it's real.
It's reality TV. It's fake, right? It's not the way it actually works, but for me, it brings me a lot of joy to watch the shows on TV. Um, so I really started getting interested in interior design, um, because of that. That I would say the main reasons that I just adore working with interior designers are, um, I really like working with like-minded people and we're both creatives, so that's really interesting.
Robyn: Um, we're also both designers. You guys have physical spaces and I have online spaces. So again, just the fact that there's a lot of synergy in how we work. I really I'm really drawn to it.
Michelle: And the fact that everything turns out beautiful. That's what we all live for.
Robyn: Exactly. Exactly. And that's the third thing is I'm really drawn to visually beautiful websites and interior designers.
Robyn: You guys have stunning visuals. You know, I work with other service providers as well. I did a website for a chiropractic practice, such dull. And your stunning, you know, kitchen renovations and living room and great room and everything. Like that's fun for me to work on your portfolio pages. So those are the main.
Robyn: Yeah, I can. And I've taken a lot of time since I worked with my first interior design client and realize that this was an industry I really wanted to focus on. I've taken a lot of time to really deep dive into the industry and learn a lot about it. And, you know, that's the main reason I've joined your Facebook group because I read the post, I read the answers, I learned a tremendous amount, and that only helps me.
Robyn: No, what needs to go on an interior design website and be able to answer questions really clearly for my clients about their websites. So,
Michelle: yeah, and that brings me to my next question is like, what are, is there like a top three things that an interior designer should have on their website? Like five things, like what are the must-have.
Robyn: I actually came up with a list of five just to keep it a little simple and not overwhelming. I think it's absolutely more, but, um, I would say the first thing is, um, a really clear and concise homepage that shares what you offer, how will it make my life? And how can I buy it?
Robyn: And you want those three things answered in the above-the-fold section. That's the first part that people see when they land on your homepage? I mean, they don't have to scroll. Yeah. Okay. Above the fold. It's just like, if it was a newspapers where it comes from, there was a newspaper that you wouldn't have to open the paper.
Michelle: It would just be at the top. So imagine that with your website y'all is that you just opened. You find that information out and then they can continue to scroll.
Robyn: Yes, because you've got literally a couple of seconds to grab their attention a visitor to your website and move them on your website. So I know a lot of times interior designers, you know, have a beautiful image or a carousel of images at the top, and they don't want to put words over it, but I highly recommend it.
Having some verbiage there that really answers those three big questions. So people will scroll down to find out more and not bounce off. Um, so that's really number one. And then some of the other really important sections to have on your homepage, I think is I call it a failure section where you really illustrate.
That you understand the problem that your ideal client has. Then you have a vision section where you're setting, you're positioning yourself as the expert and the person who's best equipped to solve that problem for them. Then you want to have a kind of like here's how to section and that's where you talk about your services, um, how it works section and the reason I'm a big proponent of that.
And this doesn't have to be your full service, design process. It's more, here's the steps for us to work together so that you're showing, you know, it's scary for someone to reach out to you and invest in hiring you. So if you can just say really simply, this is how it works. You book a complimentary discovery call, you know, we have the call, we see if we're a good fit to work together.
Then we move on to a consultation in your home. So they know. You ever plan you're the expert. This is what they can expect. It eases their mind.
Michelle: Um, love that. Yeah. And I think that people who hire us as designers, interior designers are professionals. So they want to hire a professional to put together their project, to lead their project.
And if we can't take charge from that very beginning and tell them, this is how it works, this is how we can work together. Then their faith in us will not be nearly as much when it comes time to actually write checks. So that is such a great point. Um, so do you, do you with your services, how does SEO work into.
Michelle: And is that something that you have a branch that offers or anything like that and SEO, for those of you who may not be familiar is search engine optimization.
Robyn: Yes. And I know you just had a fantastic guest on who specializes in Meg Casebolt and, um, so I am not an SEO specialist.
The way Meg is what writes you for all of my clients, I build their site with SEO on page SEO, best practices in mind. So I will work with them on keywords and make sure that those are, you know, properly built into the page structure that are written that photographs are uploaded at the proper size and given a proper image name and alt text description so that Google can actually know what's in the image.
And I design all of my pages with speed in mind, because that is really important that we recently changed with, um, some core vitals that changed back in the spring. So I, and I also will. Register the sites with the site map with Google search console. So Google knows to crawl the site. Um, but as far as ongoing SEO goes and, uh, things like that, I always recommend that clients hire a specialist, but I want to build their site with the foundations there.
Michelle: When I paid somebody to do a website. I had no idea that they were two separate functions, so I've felt, and that's one of the reasons why I wanted to ask, because I felt a little bit let down that I wasn't educated on the ongoing upkeep of, of the search engine optimization. I just thought it was like built-in and one and done.
And it's a nonsense thing to expect your web developer, your web designer. To duper you, like, I love the fact that you do so much about the alt text and the meta descriptions and all of that.
Robyn: Yeah. Well, for me, it's really important that the sites I'm doing are beautiful and strategic and they can't be strategic.
If there, if none of that is built-in. Um, so, but yes, you know, and I'll always talk to my clients about an ongoing, fresh content strategy, and that can be, you know, a blogging strategy or, you know, I'll often recommend. Portfolio project pages. So individual pages for each project. So after you complete a project, we can, you know, write a description of the project.
So we actually have the words cause Google knew the words to end it. And then we can add in the images we can add in the testimonial. I'll often recommend to my interior design clients who really have an aversion to blogging that this is a way to add fresh content to your website, right? Because
Michelle: if you're not, if you're not updating it regularly, Google thinks you're dead.
And who cares? What a beautiful sight you might create for a designer. If it's laying there dead, according to Google, they're not going to get any clients to see that beautiful, beautiful platform.
Robyn: Exactly. Exactly. Oh my goodness. Yeah. My next tip for must-haves for interior design websites is professional photography and quality over quantity in your portfolio.
So very good. Yeah. What I mean by that is a professional photographer is always going to be able to. Capture your project in a way that you can't do with your cell phone.
Um, and I realize it's really expensive and maybe it's not something that you do for every project, but since your portfolio is so important on your website, I do highly recommend investing in it every once in a while.
Michelle: What if they are just starting out and really the, they don't have a lot of work to show or they had worked for another designer and can't put that on their website. What's your thought about. That the like little vignettes around the house, even with the portfolio, from your, uh, setting from your iPhone.
Robyn: I think that in the beginning, that's totally acceptable for shorter and then when you have a little more money coming in and you have a little more projects under the belt, then I would definitely suggest.
Starting to invest in professional photography. And also, you know, this goes back to the quality over quantity. No one's going to hire you because of the number of projects that you have in your portfolio.
You want to have your portfolio represent your best work and also the kind of work that you want to attract. So I'll give an example with me. I mentioned I did a website for a chiropractor. That's not in my portfolio. I am happy to work with more of them. I was happy to work with them. It's not necessarily what I'm trying to attract, so that doesn't go in my portfolio on my website.
So if you want to focus on kitchens, maybe have more kitchens in there, then bathrooms. Right. Um, and it's okay to get rid of stuff. Images in your portfolio, as you have more projects that come along. So you can slowly weed out the, you know, the cell phone photography as you start to get more professional photography.
And then, yeah, and I think in the beginning, do some designing and decorating around your own home. Take pictures of those. So you have something in there. You know, I think it's perfectly okay to tell someone that you're just starting out. You can explain that you worked for another firm and they don't allow you to show your work.
You could put renderings and mood boards up there for the time being. There's lots of creative ways. I think to get some images up there without having a lot in your portfolio. Love it. Yeah. Yeah. Alright. Um, obstacle. Yes, for sure. For sure. Um, the next tip is having an about page that is. Unique to you and also has an up-to-date headshot of you.
I'll start with the headshot, which is so, so important. You know, I know most of us are female. I totally relate. We don't like the way we look. We don't want to have a picture of us on our website, but it is so important because. People buy from people and they want to have a connection with you. You've probably heard the term know, like, and trust factor.
It is important. People want to find out about you. They want to see what you look like. And, you know, interior design is a, it's a client-facing industry. You know, we're in their home, they're in their homes. There you ring their doorbell, you show up for the consultation and they're like, who are you?
Because you don't look anything like the photo on your website.
Michelle: Yeah. It reminds me of being single on match.com you show up and you're like, dude, you're in a head of hair ago.
Robyn: Yeah. So try to have an up-to-date, uh, headshot of yourself. And, um, the other thing that's really important when I say have an about page, that's unique to you. Share your story. Um, but share it in a way that makes it about your ideal clients. Um, so show that you understand their problems, position yourself as the solution to the problems.
Share your name. I can't tell you how many times I have looked at a website and I have no idea. What the lead designer's name is because it's not on the website anywhere.
Michelle: Right. If it's not, their name is their business name and also what city.
Robyn: Yes. Yes. Well, that's actually my next tip. That's my next tip is put your location and your contact information on your website.
So location is really important. It actually goes back to SEO because. Most designers are location specific because you're working in people's homes. I know there's a lot of designers who will do III design or who might travel, but I'm going to say the vast majority of you guys service, you know, a certain number of towns near where your business is.
So that location information is so important. And I always recommend. Doing something where you discuss your service area, just a little one or two sentences, maybe you list off the towns, maybe you list off the counties. Um, and I'll put that in the footer on every single page of your website. So that mission is showing up everywhere.
Another little tip is if you're a local business, definitely get a Google My Business listing it's free and, um, it will totally help you come up in search results as well. It's really important for local SEO. Um, and then. Think about what kind of contact information you want to have on your website? I totally understand some people don't want their phone number or their email on there.
Some people do. Um, I highly recommend if you're comfortable with it, having an email and a phone number and some kind of contact form so that you're making it easy for people who want to contact you in various ways to do so. You meet them where they are.
Michelle: That makes sense. Now, if it's, if you put your email on, like, if it's info at ML interiors group, do you find that there's like just a lot of spam that comes in like that, that we weren't quote unquote, supposed to put an email online.
Robyn: Have a little, um, you know, the little envelope, email icon, I might click that and the telephone icon and you have to click on it to actually see the phone number or the email address. And that might help with some of the bots that are trying to spam. You. Damn bottle, you will get spam if you put that on there.
And that's why I said, you want to think carefully about how easy you want to make it for people to contact you versus how much spam you're willing to deal with me. For example, I have, I do not have my phone number or my email on my website is just a contact form. And I decided if you can't fill out my contact form, then you're not my ideal client.
Michelle: Rock on because yeah, you're setting your own boundaries. Like I don't want to work with you if you're too damn lazy to do this, that and the other, whereas so many times you're thinking, well, I just need. Be available to everybody.
Robyn: And I think a lot of it depends what stage of business you're in my contact form asks a lot of questions that are important for me to know before I hop on a call with somebody.
It's also a pre-screen exactly, which I think, you know, can help a lot of interior designers as well. So, um, yeah. Yeah. Um, and then my number five tip is testimony. Please make use of testimonials. Dear Lord. Yes, I, your testimonials are such an important component of any website because they provide credibility and they are a strong sales pitch.
That is not in your voice. They're so important. I, you can have a testimonials page if you want. I generally don't recommend it because it's not one that's clicked on very often. What I always recommend is excerpts from the testimonials and bring them through on your homepage, your about page, your services pages.
Robyn: And then if you have portfolio, project pages, Putting the testimonial that relates to that project from that client on that page. It's more words on the page to the full testimonial there, but you know your about page. You can pull some excerpts from testimonials where the sentence they're speaking directly about you.
That goes on your about page, um, something, where they're speaking directly about your full service design, can go on that page. Something, where they're speaking directly about color consultation, can go on that page. So, um, but those are incredibly important to weave in throughout the website.
Michelle: A lot of that, do some automatic street cred.
Robyn: Absolutely. And if you have a Google My Business page, ask them to post it there because that will help.
Michelle: There you go, and then you can just swipe it from there so they don't have to write it twice.
Michelle: Oh Robyn, this has been so much fun. And you know, I could probably talk about this for like another two hours.
Robyn: You know, your social media accounts are fantastic, but you don't own them. And we've all seen the problems that Facebook and Instagram have had when they go down. Um, so you want to invest in a website because you own it and something I didn't speak about, but it is incredibly important is, um, lead generation on your website, some type of freebie or lead magnet where you can actually gather email addresses and build up.
Michelle: Did you mention that, um, earlier that you had a gift?
Robyn: I do have a gift for your listeners and it's actually something I'm super excited about because it is, um, it's a little different than your standard. Gift. Um, it is an instant website upgrade where, um, if you send me a link to your website, I will actually do a short, personalized video giving you two tips that I would suggest that can sort of make the biggest difference in changing your website right away.
Michelle: Oh, that's amazing. Okay. So I will get that information in the website notes. No, no wonder. Podcast notes.
Robyn: Perfect. And I can tell them right now they can sign up for it if they go to my website. So it's R D w design studio.com/website-upgrade
Michelle: RDW design, studio.com. Slash website dash upgrade. That's perfect.
Michelle: And that will be in the show notes for sure. Yeah. Amazing, amazing. Amazing. All right, well girl, let's let this audience know a little bit more about you with a quick segment of
Robyn: rapid-fire. All right. I'm ready for it,
Michelle: right? Yeah. Okay. So, um, what's your favorite ice cream flavor?
Robyn: Mint chocolate
Michelle: chip. Ooh, yum
Michelle: What is your favorite form of exercise? Swimming in Boston?
Robyn: No, in a swimming pool, somewhere warm.
Michelle: uh, speaking of dream travel destiny. Where do you want to travel to?
Robyn: The Amalfi coast in Italy. Ah, girl, have you been there?
Michelle: Yes, yes, yes. I have. And I would love to go back. We had a Villa. Gosh, it's probably been five or six years ago that we rented and live like the locals for awhile right there off of Positano.
Robyn: It is the most beautiful place on earth. Yeah. Dreamy.
Michelle: Oh, I'm dying. Okay. So when you were there, was it red or white wine?
Robyn: Oh, for me, it's white wine.
Robyn: So it was not even Italian wine.
Michelle: Um, what's your favorite book?
Robyn: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I love that book. Yep. Yeah. They turned it into a movie years ago with Lawrence Olivier and, oh gosh, I can't remember who played the lead woman, but really good book. Yeah. Interesting.
Michelle: Love it. If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Robyn: The ability to read minds.
Michelle: Ooh. Ah, that would be scary if you weren't doing what you're doing now, professionally, what would you do?
Robyn: Hmm, I think I go back to school for a PhD in art history. Oh, so
Michelle: yeah, it's still kind of in the same
Robyn: Yeah. Very fun
Michelle: for sure. Well, Robyn, thank you so much for being on the show today.
It's very appreciated and I know our audience has loved everything that you've shared. So you shared your website and how they can find you there and get the freebie. Um, where else.
Robyn: I am on, um, Instagram and Facebook and LinkedIn, and they are all under the same name, RDW design studio. And I do post, um, links to blog posts and I do a tip every Tuesday.
So if they want to follow me to get some ideas for their website, they'll, they'll see a couple of things each week on.
Michelle: Genius. And that will be in the show notes as well. So I will make sure that it's easy for people to find you. So for those of you who can benefit from additional resources surrounding the business of running your interior design.
Join the growing Facebook community that we referenced earlier, the interior designers business launchpad. I hop in there once a week and do a little mini training as well. You'll see Robin, she's not soliciting, but she gives good advice and more often than not, I tag you and solicit you. So, and finally, for those of you who are listening anywhere, you're catching this podcast.