We just finished updating the BUILD LLC website and it got us thinking about how important it is to keep a website current, relevant, and sharp. Alongside the obvious characteristics of a good website (beauty, creativity, organization) is a lesser discussed quality that may actually surpass all others in terms of importance: Good editing.

We took a liberal editing scalpel to the BUILD website and applied 5 important rules:

1. Focus on what you do and show it accurately. Only the most representative projects should be on the website and while we love projects like the Manhattan/Chicago Tree House, the simple fact of the matter is that it doesn’t accurately represent our typical projects. So we removed the Tree House and similar tangential projects from the site. This is where it’s very handy to have a design blog and a Facebook fanpage where projects like this can still be represented. Weeding out the website also allows more emphasis to be placed on exemplar projects like the Risley Remodel.

2. Only thoroughly documented projects should be represented. We dropped a couple of projects from the website not because the projects aren’t great examples of what we do, but because we failed to document them properly upon completion (entirely our fault). Among other things, thorough documentation includes staging the house for high quality images and getting photos with people in them (we usually get these photos at the open house party). Years ago we just weren’t as skilled, organized and prepared as we are now on the documentation program.

3. Use media quality photos. Use a professional photographer on every project or make sure your photography skills are up to scratch. All of our photography needs are handled in-house and we love shooting our own projects. While there are some side-effects (like geeking-out over lenses and occasionally finding ourselves discussing white balance at dinner parties), it’s one of the best ways to keep a website up to date. Our photography program has advanced enough over the years (with lighting, fancy wide angle lenses, and sophisticated post-processing software) that many of our vendors now approach us to purchase finished project photos, which we provide at a relative discount since we value those relationships. We learn more about photography with each project, which continually pushes the quality of the website. The downside is that the older the photo, the less likely that it meets the quality of the website. Subsequently a few projects were cut simply because the photos weren’t up to par (again, our fault).

4. Establish yourself as the original source. In the age of the internet, digital photos disperse, propagate, and get copied all over the place. When you are the author of the project, it’s important to establish yourself as the original source of images and information. With the speed at which the internet operates, original equals first, so get that project published to your website as soon as you can. That way, when all of the additional coverage references back to one source, you get credit for the project and your website benefits from the traffic. If you’re social media savvy, all of your other media avenues (blog, Facebook, Pinterest, etc) should also point back to the project on the website.

5. Plan for windows of opportunity. On many of our projects we have about a 4 hour window to get our final photos between the finish carpenters wrapping-up and the owners moving boxes in. It is absolutely critical to use that window of time as effectively as possible. Photos with boxes in them are an obvious no-no (see item #3), and taking photos once the owners are settled in is typically too late. Similarly, some projects, like the space we completed for Chase Jarvis, throw big, crazy parties that are a wonderful opportunity to capture photos. Planning for those windows of opportunity and being prepared to capture photos is vital to high quality documentation and keeping your website up to date. Missing that window (which happens occasionally) usually excludes a project from having a presence on the website.

Cheers from team BUILD