With much of our daily lives taking place online, the internet has long become everyone’s favourite playground for entertainment and commerce. Now, as trust increases for everything online, a new breed of online service providers are eying consumers in the hope of providing a better alternative to traditional and local services. “When you look back at current trends such as online fashion and grocery shopping you see that they all had a humble beginning” says Udi Regev, founder of BetterSpace (betterspace.co), a site that offers architectural services that are delivered online. “It’s a case of market education” say Regev. “While critics say that customer look for real world and face-to-face experiences, we increasingly see customers favouring the convenience and savings they can find by using online services”.
A quick web search reveals a range of online companies offering home improvement services, from interior design to architectural design to personal shopping services. With a great emphasis on ease of use, they all offer personalised services for less and at a click of a button.
“There is no catch” insists Regev, “we deliver the same service you would receive from your local architect”. “Look”, he continues “renovation is a very intimidating experience. Add to that unclear pricing and confusing processes, it feels like some architects make it worse than it actually can be. That is the exact problem we are trying to fix.”
Indeed, a recent survey conducted by the Royal Institute of British Architects found that while “architects are rightly credited with unique skills in creativity and in developing great design solutions…architects are also failing at commercial understanding and at applying consistent project processes”. In other words, admit RIBA, “the product is good but the way we get there needs some attention”.
“Not meeting your architect face to face may feel strange for some people, says Natalie from Yorkshire “but I work late hours, and I really don’t have time for long meetings and calls during the day”.
Natalie and husband Tim recently renovated their two bedroom terrace house using online service providers. “We approached two local architects, but neither of them were interested in taking on such a small project”. “I was already spending hours researching design ideas on the design site ‘Houzz’. One day I came up with the idea of googling the term ‘online architects’ and I was really relieved to have found a company who could do the job online. Immediately they made me feel welcome!’.
Regev agrees “Some customers are simply underserved by the traditional firms”. “They need professional advice but they are not sure where to start! We get a lot of emails from confused customers who feel stuck and simply ask for help!”.
As home renovators increasingly turn their attention to the internet it is inevitable that such online services as BetterSpace will become more widely used, but just like in other fields, it is uncertain whether they will ever reach mainstream. But if the competition from online services ends up driving more architects to embrace new technologies and improve their work processes in order to provide more clarity for customers, than that would be a win-win for all.