Effective design software strikes a balance between too much funtion and too few graphics.
That’s the key to successful client interaction. Remodelers complain, time and time again, that the biggest hurdle in a remodeling project is conveying information to customers in such a way that they’ll be able to visualize the completed project and know what to expect.
When homeowners have difficulty with visualization, change orders, complaints and delays pile up. To break through the visual barrier, remodelers must present clients with the most realistic and complete designs they can, and design software becomes a critical tool in the remodeling process.
"Too many design software packages aren’t specifically focused on design," says Gene Pindzia, owner of Riverside Custom Design & Remodeling, in Grosse Pointe, Mich. "They’re often more like a catalogue of products...and that doesn’t work well. I use my design software to get a general design done before I give the customer a price, and I use it on every job."
Pindzia has used design software for more than 10 years in his business, and he’s recently switched from Autograph to 20/20. The upgrade offers him more graphics and presentation options for his designs.
"Graphics are the main element in design software," he says. "Especially with kitchens. I want a good graphics presentation of whatever cabinet line [I’m using], and I want to show my clients the cabinets just the way they’d look in the brochure."
With design software, Pindzia can use his initial layout to close a deal, and then refine the project using the client’s prospectus on the computer. Pindzia’s made sure to purchase a design package that offers him every creative tool he needs, without any elements he doesn’t require.
"I can do a typical kitchen layout in less than half an hour, and it’s much more than just a floor plan," he says. "I’ve got elevations and perspectives, and they’re all done at once. The graphics give the design the bells and whistles—even a plain kitchen can look really nice with good cabinet graphics."
Pindzia cautions remodelers to look for design packages that meet their personal needs. Many software tools include estimating systems, which Pindzia doesn’t use.
"I have to be able to use the program and use it quickly," he says. "You need to be able to do a full presentation for your customer and do it in a short period of time."
Pindzia has found that doing estimates separately from design helps streamline the process for him. He also recommends that remodelers take into consideration the learning curve. If a design package will take too long to be useful, then perhaps something simpler would be a better fit. Make sure to check what printing options each package includes, also. Several design tools only print on 81/2211 paper. For high-quality presentations, look for software that can print in larger sizes.
Computer files are easier to archive than hard copies, and Pindzia finds this useful for repeat customers. He stores designs for a few years after each project is completed, finding them very helpful to reference when the same customer returns to upgrade or update the same kitchen or bath.
"Many design programs are too complicated, or contain too many extra features," Pindzia says. "Other remodelers use them as catalogues for pricing, but I don’t need a computer for that. I need a design tool."