In the Spring 2006 issue, we explored the importance of a carefully designed Web site. Let's take a closer look at the crucial elements that should be on your site.

Home Page: The function of the home page is to set the tone and draw users in, so don't try to say everything at once. And avoid visual clutter — strong photos and simple graphics spell sophistication.

About Us: Succinctly state what your company does. A straightforward depiction encourages appropriate prospects to contact you, while gently steering others away. This is also your first chance to set client expectations.

Portfolio: Prospects will judge your online portfolio — and will determine if you are the right company for them before they ever meet you. But after you've been selected, you should review the online portfolio with your client, not only to reinforce their decision, but, more importantly, to create a common “language” of ideas. Remember, clients don't always have the words at hand to convey their hopes and dreams.

Vendor Links: Clients are overwhelmed with choices and decisions. Narrow the field and shorten their search by including links to preferred vendors. Don't forget to include a list of local showrooms and contacts. Done well, this page can drive more repeat traffic than all the other pages on your site combined.

The Team: Feature photos of your staff, including brief bios and e-mail addresses. It's a good morale builder, and it is comforting for clients to see who will be showing up at their door. Include a link for employment opportunities.

Contact Us: In addition to telephone numbers, a mailing address, and an e-mail address, include directions and a map to your office.

Finally, update your site regularly. Staff and vendor changes and new project photos are essential to its effectiveness. Treat your Web site as a true extension of your business — which it is.

Dean Brenneman, AIA, is a principal of Brenneman & Pagenstecher–Residential Architects & Builders, an upscale remodeling company based in Kensington, Md.