Whether looking to buy or sell a home, most people begin their research online. For real estate agents this means that the first interaction a potential buyer or seller will have with your business is your website.
In an industry where first impressions are everything, having a well-designed website is critical. Your website should establish your brand, create a professional image and provide a positive user experience. This means having a website that not only looks good, but also functions well. Here are a few elements we think make a difference when it comes to good web design in real estate:
1. Prototypicality and visual simplicity
Within 50 milliseconds of landing on your website, visitors get a first visceral “gut feeling” that helps them decide whether they’re going to stay or bounce and look at other sites. According to Google, the way to make a great first impression is by designing your website with high prototypicality and visual simplicity.
What is prototypicality, you ask?
Prototypicality is the image you conjure up in your mind whenever you think of something. Our brain has an imaginary template for how things should look and feel – even websites. If something contradicts that imaginary template, we’re more likely to have a negative first impression.
When a visitor comes to your site, they have a rough idea of what they’re expecting from a modern real estate agency’s website: beautiful, high-resolution imagery, custom search bars (just like the portals), and a responsive design for a start. They also have an expectation for where things like agent headshots, enquiry forms and maps should be located.
Simple websites are usually perceived as more beautiful. Why? Well, it’s probably because they’re easy on our eyes and brains. Complex websites require more cognitive energy – we have to work harder to decode, process and store the information.
Simple web design relies heavily on psychological understanding. Designers and developers who understand a visitor’s motivations, digital proficiency and thought processes can create a web design that feels familiar, easy-to-use, and – most importantly – drives action.
2. Easy navigation
When someone comes to your website, chances are they're looking for information. Providing a positive user experience means visitors should be able to easily explore and find what they’re looking for without any confusion about where to look or how things work on your website.
Well designed navigation starts with a simple and functional menu bar. Your website provider should give you the freedom to choose what you put in your menu bar – quick links to your listings, contact details, blogs and agent profiles, perhaps.
3. Client testimonials
When it comes to the content on your website, client testimonials are the most important. Reading about past clients’ satisfaction builds credibility, provides social proof and gives visitors a clear indication of what to expect from your business. In fact, studies show online reviews can influence as much as 90% of a person’s decision to purchase – outranking every other form of marketing.
If you’re not already, every time you help a client sell their home, send an email asking for feedback:
- Why did you choose me to represent your home sale?
- What did I do best to help your home sale?
- Would you recommend my business to others?
You don’t need to go overboard. 90% of visitors read less than ten reviews before forming an opinion about a business. But, 73% think reviews older than three months are no longer relevant – so you’ve got to keep them current.
4. Brand uniformity
Your brand is what sets you apart from competitors. It’s what helps potential customers identify you and consistency in your brand creates trust. From your logo and brand colors, to your tone and personality, you must be consistent in everything you do and say – and that includes online. Any changes to that brand can confuse visitors and make you seem less professional and trustworthy.
5. Prominent contact info
This tells visitors you’re a legitimate business with nothing to hide. Make it easy for potential clients to contact you by having a dedicated contact page with a prominent link in your menu bar.
Additionally, putting you contact details in the footer of your website will also allow visitors to find them no matter what page they’re on. Bonus points if you include a map. We may live in the digital age, but it’s important you can direct people to a real life, bricks and mortar office.
6. Enquiry forms that inspire action
The main purpose of your website is to generate leads. A well designed website will help you do that by highlighting a main call to action supported by a strategically placed enquiry form on each page.
Now, you might be tempted to ask visitors for their residential and postal address, budget and the name of their first-born child – but do you really need all of those things? The more hurdles you put in front of them, the less likely they are to enquire about your services. A good enquiry form should be clear, concise, and make it easy for visitors to submit their information.
7. SEO optimisation
A well designed website is a well structured website.
A website’s structure (or ‘architecture’) refers to how the website is organised hierarchically, and how individual pages link to each other. Website structure affects the seach engine optimisation (SEO) of you website which determines where (and whether) your website surfaces in a relevant Google search.
- Webpages should contain page titles, H1 tags and meta descriptions that help Google understand the content of each page.
- Internal linking should group pages together into content topics to help Google to better crawl your site.
- All important pages should be accessible from your homepage within 3 or less clicks.
- Page load speeds should be as fast as possible to avoid penalisation.
If your website isn’t well-structured, you could be losing opportunities to appear in Google’s organic search results.
Finally, your website should be secure. Most people have fallen victim to a computer virus at some point in their lives. As a result, we’re rather wary of dodgy websites – so much so that more than half of us check to see if there’s a little green padlock in the URL field (indicating that the website has an SSL certificate). If you don’t have one, you’re making it difficult for visitors to trust your website – and, by extension, your agency.
In summary, good real estate web design is visually simple and familiar, designed with easy navigation and brand uniformity, contains client testimonials, prominent contact details, well designed enquiry forms, and finally should be secure optimised for SEO.
It’s not enough, however, to pay for a one off website design and never think of it again. What makes up good website design changes – pretty often, in fact. You need to stay on top of new technology, SEO practices, security requirements and design trends.