At Rex we design a lot of real estate websites. We look at real estate websites, we think about real estate websites, we talk about real estate websites and we argue about real estate websites. Sometimes our friends and family ask us to maybe talk a little bit less about real estate websites… So in an effort to reach a new untouched audience, we’ve written down some of our thoughts about four approaches we often see.
1. Search focused
The search focused approach is very widespread, kind of the “traditional” approach. It essentially turns the website into a mini portal. It primarily pushes the user, who we’re probably assuming is a buyer, to search and browse current listings.
Although very popular, we are seeing more agencies move away from this approach. The main reason is it’s a very buyer centric approach and doesn’t cater specifically to potential vendors. This might be a missed opportunity especially because we know buyers generally search listings on one of the portals rather than using an agency’s site.
That said, it’s a tried and true method for a reason, it strongly says “real estate” and paired with a recent listings slider will always be full of content with minimum effort.
It especially suits an agency with niche listings, where there is a likelihood buyers may want to search on site rather than using a portal.
- prominent search bar with options high on the page
- recent listings slider
- turns your website into a mini portal, can give a more custom search experience for buyers over portals
- promotes current listings
- buyer focused, doesn’t appeal to potential vendors
- most buyers will use a portal to search for property, making the search redundant
2. Staff focused
Real estate is an industry at its heart still all about the relationship between the agent and vendor. Often vendors don’t choose agencies, they choose agents. Therefore it makes sense for relationship focused agencies to put their sales team right up front and centre.
This creates quite an intimate approach and often suits agencies with a big personalities. Visually this style often puts the team in a big hero photo right at the top of the page.
Another way to inject staff into the home page is to provide a random sampling, three or four agents, with minimal details, and a link to the full list.
- Team member photos
- Quick contact links
- Quotes from agents
- Appeals to vendors, promoting relationships
- Strong brand tie in potential, photo can portray brand ideals or visual elements (colours etc)
- Requires good team photography
- Photo content might get stale
- Sometimes only a sample of members can be shown, in large teams this could be a problem.
This approach is all about big premium listing imagery. Unlike the search approach the listing images are used not primarily to sell, but to build a perception of the brand. This approach requires beautiful, high quality photography and premium priced houses.
With any kind of luxury design, less is always more, take a look at luxury brands (something like Chanel) the packaging and design is very minimal. Not many ‘brand new’ starbursts to be found.
- large hero image with minimal content
- creates a sense of beauty and luxury
- uses imagery to create a strong brand presence
- relies heavily on beautiful photography
- works best for high end property
- could have usability issues, doesn’t prompt the user to take direct action
4. All in one or “The long scroll”
The “why not just have it all?” approach. Not so common for real estate websites, but in the tech world we’ve been seeing this kind of website for a while now. It often works by dividing the page into horizontal sections and letting the user scroll between them. I don’t know about you, but I find scrolling to be one of the most natural movements for reading and moving through webpages.
Some clients worry that users won’t know there is content ‘below the fold’. At some point this might have been a valid fear. However the web and users have matured and we can say with some confidence now that people do scroll. http://uxmyths.com/post/654047943/myth-people-dont-scroll.
That’s not to say that the top of the page isn’t the most important, it’s still what the users see first and will therefore set the tone/brand message and will get the most attention. Using the long scroll technique you can identify your priorities and place them on the page accordingly. Maybe you’re premium agency so a large hero image goes first. Then you want a quick link for clients that know they just want to get an appraisal. After that you want to promote the personal touch so you put a sampling of your staff in a horizontal strip.
This approach lets you layer your content and provide multiple navigation paths (rather than just the top menu) into your content.
- A mixed approach, long scroll, horizontal sections
- scrolling provides a natural/modern way to organise a moderate amount of content
- scrolling provides an easy way to view your content
- offer multiple paths through the content, accounting for different types of users (buyers and vendors for example)
- is a bit more of a balancing act to ensure content is still relevant and not overwhelming
Maybe it’s a bit of a cliché but designing a homepage is about finding the right mix for you. There’s no hard and fast / right and wrong. At Rex we offer templates that work for these common scenarios. We also offer a totally custom homepage so we can have an in-depth conversation and collaborate with the agency. Either way we’re always excited to work with clients to make beautiful new websites and we love seeing the different approaches different clients take.