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Seriously, Do I Really Need 3D Landscape Design Software? Is It Worth the Cost?

Every month we speak to thousands of awesome pool and landscape designers.

They ask us if 3D landscape design software is worth the time and money investment, and that’s an important question.

Since we make 3D landscape design software, we sure think it's worth it. But that doesn't mean it's right for your business. So this article will discuss the pros and cons of 3D landscape design software, and you can decide if it's right for you.

Why 3D?

Night_SkyUsing 3D landscape and pool software gives you the tools to walk prospective clients through their redesigned outdoor spaces before ever breaking ground. Plus, the software’s capabilities will wow customers and help you sell more designs.

One of the main pros to using 3D software is that you can show prospects their properties from different angles and vantage points.

The 3D software will allow the clients to digitally experience the property, like walking across the deck into the house. You’re basically able to let them test drive the design.

You can also show clients what their landscapes will look like during the day and at night — something you just can’t do with drawings.

All of these features help you become the tech-savvy designer your clients are expecting. They want personal designs that help them visualize their future space — not flat drawings and lines.

Ninety-five percent of clients don’t understand 2D drawings, says Don Gwiz, head of sales for Lewis Aquatech, which uses Pool Studio. They don’t understand the colors and spaces on 2D. But with 3D, things are put into perspective for the space to come alive, he adds. Gwiz’s team use 3D landscape and pool design software to show color, depth, scale, plant size and more.

You can also add in elements unique to each customer, like a dog or car. That will give them a real connection to the space, helping you close the deal.

To really up the wow factor, Gwiz’s team doesn’t tell clients they are going to create 3D designs upfront. Instead, they say they will give them a “concept sketch.” They don’t want to set the bar too high beforehand so they can exceed expectations with the 3D design.

But clients not only want to be impressed, they also want to know where their money is going. Greg Smith, founder of The Swimming Man, likes to walk his clients through the details of his designs, which helps set realistic expectations. The customers can also see exactly where their money is going.

Having more possibilities can also cause issues, though. Some clients can get sidetracked by what is possible when they see 3D. Without proper client control, change requests can pile up. You'll need to get used to explaining what you as the expert know will make them happy and keep them focused.

Cost of Using 3D


If you’re questioning whether you should buy 3D landscape design software, one of your biggest concerns is probably the price.

To give you an idea of the cost, here’s a look at some landscape design software costs for one year:

  • DynaSCAPE: The software, support and updates cost $3,450, and training is extra (ex. fundamentals plus two intermediate online classes is an additional cost of $1,185).
  • AutoCAD annual subscription: The annual subscription is $1,680 with basic support or $1,840 with advanced support. Training is extra.
  • Land F/X: It is $2,975 for the annual subscription to AutoCAD basic and $1,295 for the software, support and updates.
  • VizTerra: There is a one-time $95 activation fee and $995 per year subscription, which includes updates, training and support.

Look at how much you charge for your design work to see how long it would take to get your money back. For example, if you charge $50 an hour for your design services, it would take about 20 hours to cover the yearly cost of VizTerra.

While the cost is a factor to consider, you also have to look at the time you could save using 3D software — and how that will allow you to close more deals.

Time Considerations

Time_of_DayIn addition to the cost, you also have to look at how much time it will take you to create designs.

Your clients expect a quick turnaround time, and you can give them that by using 3D design software, says Barry Justus, founder of Poolscape Inc.

Before 2005, Justus created all of his designs using a big drafting table, markers and paper. Then, his designer would have to convert the design into a computer-aided design (CAD) program. That process took days — and that’s not even including changes.

But that all changed when he decided to switch to Pool Studio to design swimming pools with 3D software. Now, instead of spending several days on designs, he is able to create 3D designs in a matter of hours. And if a client has changes, he can make them right there on the spot.

By making changes in front of the prospect, you won’t have to keep going back to the drawing board (literally), says Maryrose Bersamin, training specialist at Structure Studios. That cuts down on the number of follow-up meetings you’ll need to close the deal, giving you more time to take on other projects.

While 3D design software can save you time throughout the process, it can become more time consuming than 2D drawings if you let it. The more details and realistic elements you want in the design, the more time it will take to create. You could spend a few hours or several days on a design, depending on what level of detail you want.

If you don’t put in the effort, the designs suffer and can actually be detrimental to closing the deal.

Experience Required

3D_landscape_design_software_interfaceYou’re busy, so you might have a hard time rationalizing the upfront time it takes to learn how to use the software.

Like anything new, 3D landscape software does require training to get the hang of all of the features — and you need to put in the time.

Most design software companies offer training (either for an additional cost or for free), so that will help get you up to speed. Training is ongoing for Gwiz’s team, but he says it has paid dividends.

Most of our members are able to complete a full design just by taking our six-hour Fundamentals Training, Bersamin says. The fundamental class helps users understand the basic concept of the software.

From there, we offer Advanced Training sessions to build upon their fundamentals where they will learn techniques that will make their designs go by faster and easier. For VizTerra, we have a total of six Advanced Training Sessions which are between two and three hours long per session — ranging from Advanced House and Advanced Outdoor Living to Advanced Terrain. To be proficient, she suggests taking all of the training sessions.

You could do all of the training in a few days or spread it out during a few months — just whatever works best for your schedule.

If you aren't prepared to commit to training classes or time watching tutorial videos, you shouldn't even think about getting landscape design software. You'll just waste your money. Many designers choose to wait and sign up until their season slows down and they can spend the winter learning their new software.

In addition, designers should also be ready to buy a new computer in addition to signing up for software. Most 3D software requires a better video card than you would find in a standard computer, so you’ll likely need to purchase a new one. Be sure to check the 3D software’s hardware requirements to see what type of computer you will need.

Worth the Cost

Pro Camera ControlsCreating 3D designs will help you close more deals and give clients what they are looking for — a personalized image of what their space could become.

If you are ready to commit the time and money, this will work for you. If you're too busy to learn software, aren't willing to change your workflow or don't want to buy a new computer, hold off on getting pool and landscape design software until you're ready.

Our members are seeing close rates rise 30 percent or more, and their prices per project are going up 20 percent or more. We are also seeing some designers charge for the designs and make money, even if the prospect isn’t ready to buy yet.

Plus, offering these designs will set you apart from competitors who only offer 2D designs or drawings. You want your experience and services to stand out in every way possible, and 3D designs will help you do that.

Once you start using 3D landscape design software, your ROI will grow substantially and soon exceed the cost of the software. So, think of buying the software as making an investment in your business.


Noah Nehlich

About the author: Noah Nehlich

Noah Nehlich is the founder of Structure Studios. As an entrepreneur, investor, and tech company enthusiast, he’s into everything 3D. With two decades of experience building the design software that pool and landscape designers use, Noah’s goal is to improve lives through 3D experiences.

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