I was delighted to get a phone call at the end of last year from a digital agency that has been commissioned to help the RIBA decide what to do with their online directory of practices. At last!
As you may be aware I’m a champion of the online RIBA directory, but I think it is an awful service, and blogged about a change at the end of 2008* which led to click-throughs to our website plummeting to almost nothing. As a result our half hour conversation covered much of the same ground.
Where do you look for an architect?
Now if you were looking for an architect, wouldn’t you think that the RIBA was a good place to go? Their website address is www.architecture.com pretty obvious. If you are an architect wouldn’t you think that one of the purposes of the RIBA should be to promote architects?
As it happens, the promotion of architects to potential clients doesn’t appear as a headline purpose for the RIBA, indeed looking for the topic on the RIBA website eventually turns up that one of Member Services’ aims is:
“To provide relevant support to clients requiring architectural services.”
So as it turns out, promoting architects isn’t really an important purpose of the RIBA at all, which explains perhaps why their ‘Find an Architect’ service is so dire.
What has the RIBA done for you?
One of the subjects the interviewer and I drifted into was the way architects, and particularly ‘provincial’ architects, perceive the RIBA and what it is about. I don’t think I would be contradicted too heavily if I said that many architects in the regions of England see the RIBA as an expensive members club in London which does very little for them with the things that matter, particularly these days, like help them get work.
Yet the RIBA could make so much of their website to deliver a service direct to every Chartered architect in the country, promoting not only the whole idea of what it means to use an architect, why it matters and what good you can get out of it, but also which architects in your area are just right for your project. Which ones have the specific experience, attitude and culture you want to deal with. Which ones are loved by their clients, not just by the trade press.
A full functioning directory of architects would be:
- Directly accessible via google;
- Visually compelling;
- Easy to navigate by the search terms ordinary people use;
- Showcase architects personalities, not just their categories; and
- Deliver results into which you can filter and drill down, creating a shortlist you can mail direct or a list of names and phone numbers to call.
I hope that this exercise the RIBA has embarked upon will delivery a real step change in the way the RIBA works for its members.
A step change in promoting architects as well as architecture.
My original post about the RIBA’s online directory is here: What’s wrong with the RIBA Clients Advisory Service?