By now, you’re probably aware that most of your prospective clients are doing a bit of shopping online before they contact you to set up a showing. What you may not know is that two-thirds of US home buyers hire the very first agent they engage. Clearly, the first impression you make to prospects is crucial, and increasingly, that first impression is made by your website.
For today’s web savvy clients, your website isn’t just a tool for finding information about your listings or services; it’s an always-on representation of you as an agent. To quote our friends at Inman News, “Other than an agent’s cell phone, the real estate website remains the only tool that works for an agent and a consumer 24/7.”
As such an essential marketing tool for the modern agent, your website should effectively service clients and generate leads, all while reflecting your personality and your professionalism. In today’s post, we’ll review four design principles you can apply to help make your website more complete and compelling.
1. Strive for Elegance
Elegant design isn’t just attractive; it’s simple and effective. Not long ago, agent’s websites sought to establish authority by presenting droves of information on multiple listings, mortgage rates, and more on their homepage. This “kitchen sink” approach got overwhelming fast, and has since become the hallmark of amateur web design.
Modern web design is grounded in simplicity and usability. Your visitors should be able to ascertain what they can do on a page and how to accomplish it almost immediately upon their arrival. Keep your page content concise and focused, and ensure that navigation options are clear and easy to find. Keep your functional objective in mind, and resist the urge to pile on content. When your site is easier to navigate, your visitors are more likely to engage with you and convert to clients.
2. Use Stunning Visuals to Engage Users
You’d be hard pressed to browse the web today without seeing a site using large, high resolution images to set the page’s tone and draw users deeper into it’s content. As the speed of internet connections, and the resolution of the average computer display has improved (Apple’s Retina display for example) web designers are moving away from flat presentation of information toward a more sensory user experience thanks to higher quality images and video streaming.
Premier New York real estate company Douglas Elliman utilizes a slider feature to display beautiful photos of their top listings.
High quality visuals are especially useful for marketing listings. With rich, high quality media you can draw prospective buyers into a property with large, flattering photographs, and a video walkthrough of the home. See how top real estate sites are using this technique to showcase listings and establish their brand at AgentImage’s inspiring collection of Beautiful Real Estate Websites.
3. Focus Content on Outcomes
Before you start laying out your page or writing content, rank your marketing goals for that page. Ask yourself what action you want a visitor to that page to take. Perhaps you want them to view your listings, fill out a request for your whitepaper, or simply pick up the phone and give you a call.
Whatever your desired outcome, focus your page’s layout and content upon your goal and avoid distracting your visitor with unrelated clutter, or as Prudential New Jersey Properties’ Mark Stansbury says, keep it “Google-esque.” This ‘conversion focused’ design works for Google because it focuses users in on the desired action and it can do the same for you.
4. Make Your Site Mobile
Pop Quiz: what percentage of your time online is spent on your phone or tablet?
Of course, everyone’s habits are different, but according to Website Box’s recent blog post, the average joe spends 25% of their daily media consumption time (including TV & other sources) on their mobile device. Considering that house hunting is a fairly ‘on-the-go’ activity, we’ll assume that the share of mobile traffic for real estate searches is higher than that average.
The point is, mobile web browsing is on the rise, and is showing no signs of slowing down. Therefore, it’s critical that your site be as usable on the small screen as it is on the desktop. In many ways, if you’re following the elegant design principles outlined above, you’re already halfway there. The small screen forces you to prioritize; or as HubSpot’s Michael Conway puts it:
“By cutting website design down to the very basics, messaging can be easily conveyed, call to action’s pop off the page and access to further information is one obvious button click away.”
This is the essence of responsive design. Folks on mobile devices don’t have the patience to deal with cluttered design or marketing fluff. In applying responsive design, you’re essentially opening up to a second, mobile market while forcing a focus on content that converts.
If you haven’t discussed these principles with your web designer, we encourage you to use this post as a springboard for that conversation. If you don’t have a web designer, we know you’re busy with clients and a redesign from scratch would likely be a prohibitively time consuming process. Don’t worry, there are several great website platforms made specifically for real estate agents that make building your own website fast and easy. If you’re ready to update, but short on time, check out these great providers and get the ball rolling today: