Better Real Estate Websites

Better Real Estate Websites

We recently completed a website for a local Real Estate agent. During our market research for this project we were quite surprised to find that a majority of Realty websites were poorly set up. Some sites were difficult to navigate the individual listings and others made it down right difficult to contact the Realtor regarding a specific listing.

Below is a brief look at some reoccurring problems we found on Canadian Real Estate websites and how we solved these issues when developing our client's site making it a more high-performance and user-friendly experience for site visitors.

Responsive Design

Responsive design simply mean your website will look good and optimize itself for display on any device, regardless of the screen size of that device.

The exact same website “code” is used across all devices and via a set of instructions the layout changes (even selectively adding or removing content) so it’s optimized for your device screen size. Often elements like lengthy descriptions or large images can be eliminated for smaller screen sizes like mobile phones.

Mobile-friendly is a thing of the past because a responsive site works across all devices and not just mobile phones.

Real Estate Responsive Web Design
Here you can see how the same website code displays differently on different devices. Note how the navigation menu changes on mobile devices and how the amount of slides change depending on the screen size.

Reasons to have a responsive website:

  • Responsive navigation menus mean people can find what they are after, on any device.
  • Optimized page layout creates an enjoyable user experience.
  • Higher search engine rankings. *Source
  • A modern website likely loads faster, but as well, omitted content for mobile browsing certainly speeds up page loading time.
  • Essentially future-proofs your site as responsive design works for any new device hitting the market.

Search Engine Optimization

Realty - SEO Search Engine Optimization

It's not difficult to incorporate the most basic SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies for your site—Google actually wants to showcase your site to it's patrons... if you have content that people are searching for. It's just not true to say, "If you build it, they will come." You must employee an SEO strategy to get your site found.

The most important key to effective SEO, in Google's own words, "content is king." Page content should be written naturally and not trying to trick robots into thinking your page is stuffed with important keywords. These days attempting to trick "the Googlebot" will work against your rankings.

Our ten plus years of experience go to work for you and we help every step along the way. We use leading SEO strategies that give your pages both beauty and brains.

Using the latest and best SEO practices:

  • Experience higher search engine rankings.
  • We optimize the whole site for SEO (titles, headings, images, text and more).
  • People looking for content might link to your pages which in-turn helps your SEO.
  • More visitors to your site equals more contacts, conversions and sales.
Realty Websites - Better Navigation

The biggest culprit we found frustrating users of Realty websites was the lack of large clickable menu links (think of tapping on your phone a tiny text link), menu items that were difficult to navigate, and even menus that don't exist once you're reached the bottom of the page.

We therefore incorporated some advanced navigation techniques to increase visitor engagement, length of stay for users of your site, not to mention the ability to find content easily anywhere on the site.

An example showing how this site outperforms it's competitors:

At the bottom of the individual listing pages we custom coded "next" and "previous" links which display an image, address and price to encourage users to browse further. The custom links actually remember the users search filter settings so that the next and previous links are dynamically generated based on the users preferences (searching by price, date, etc).

Retention of the user's search preferences benefits navigation. When the user decides to navigate back to the listings index, the site remembers what page they were on AND the settings they had chosen earlier in their session. Many competitor sites just snap the user back to a default main listings page, even if the user had already clicked through many pages of results—frustrating enough to make users leave the site.

Better navigation leads to better conversions:

  • Clear and easy to use navigation strategies are intuitive for your users
  • Using smart urls the website can remember user preferences thereby creating a non-frustrating and effortless experience for your visitors
  • Custom listing links encourage further browsing and keep users on your site

Website Blog

A blog on your website should provide up-to-date and interesting information to your visitors—be it market trends, community events, financial information relating to properties, lifestyle ideas, etc. These posts are monitored by search engines and will bring even more visitors to your site. Seems like a win win all-around. However...

While conducting market research we found numerous Realty websites had blogs that were simply out of date and untouched for many months and in some cases, years. Dates on posts clearly indicate to visitors the blog may be hardly used—a red flag suggesting the Realtor doesn't dedicate much time to their business. Therefore, one piece of advice is if you plan to have a blog, make sure you allocate some time each week or each month to contribute to it.

Blogging Benefits:

  • Current information or tips are helpful and valuable to your visitors
  • Provides additional content which helps your search engine rankings
  • Fresh content keeps your name and brand at the forefront of customer's minds
  • Blogging shows your visitors you are available to help and are engaged with your clients

Slideshows or Image Carousels

Real Estate - Better Slideshows
Real Estate - Better Carousels

The terms slideshow or image carousels are most often used interchangeably. They refer to images either sliding or fading in a container that may have accompanying text, buttons, arrows, or dots to help users move backward or forward through the slides. These large single images are often referred to as a Hero Image.

If you are going to use prime "screen real estate" to display a hero image make sure there is a discernible call-to-action prompting the user to engage with the website, or that the image presented is optimized and valuable to the visitor. Even better, present to the user multiple interesting options! Our slideshows and carousels are designed for optimized viewing on any device, phones, tablets and desktop computers.

Many sites that use regular slideshows without this strategy in mind negatively impact their sites in numerous ways: long loading time using large images, unclear or indecisive messages, poor SEO with only one image displayed, unfriendly control for tap or touch devices, and inefficient use of prime space.

How an optimized slideshow or carousel improves your site:

  • Provides relevant information encouraging engagement with your visitors
  • Multiple options can greatly boost SEO rankings
  • Showcase numerous featured listings with details and not just a single photo
  • Highlight important listing details such as location, neighbourhood attributes, or price
  • Responsive slideshows and carousels are optimized for any device viewing your site

Contact Forms

A helpful contact form is easy to find and easy to fill out and submit. We don't use scribbly words, captcha puzzles, or extra form fields that might deter leads. Our "smart contact forms" benefit BOTH the site visitor and the site owner.

For a site owner our smart contact forms receive less spam as they have hidden fields which robots indiscriminately fill in—something humans don't do, enabling us to filter these leads.

For site visitors our smart contact forms know which listing the visitor was looking at when they clicked the contact button. This way the form automatically adds the information "regarding listing name and address" saving not only the user typing out the listing they are refering to, but also saving any confusion over multiple listings on the same street or with a similar name.

Our forms are just better:

  • Forms render properly on all devices
  • Easy to find, easy to use forms generate leads, not frustration
  • Forms which auto-populate a listing title or address saves input and confusion
  • A smart contact form makes your brand and business look smart

Full Screen Image Viewers or Lightboxes

Better Image Viewers or Lightboxes

A full screen image viewer or lightbox enlarges image thumbnails to fill the screen, often times with next and previous buttons. Somewhat ubiquitous on the web it should be noted that there are good ones and bad ones.

There are a multitude of reasons why you'll want us to create a website for you, but here are some reasons that make our image viewers the best out there, and why other sites are possibly clunky or non-friendly to their users:

A great image viewer or lightbox has:

  • A clearly discernible close button
  • Next and previous links that don't block the image they are trying to display
  • Next or previous links that don't bounce around the page as you move through different sized images
  • The ability for visitors to use their arrow keys on the keyboard to move through images, or use the esc key to close to exit full-screen
  • The ability to swipe images with your phone or tablet to move through images

Content Management and Data Feeds

Real Estate Content Management and Data feeds (DDF) Soldpress

For the purpose of this summary we'll limit the scope of "content management" and "data feeds" to refer to real estate websites. Here's a brief overview of each system, content managed and data fed, with a few additional details of how we provide the best streamlined and feature-rich experience for our clients.

When a website is content managed it means that a site owner or employee has the ability to login into the website and add, edit or delete content.

The content managed websites we create go above and beyond the usual features offered with other sites. Just some of the benefits our sites can allow are:

  • Easy integration with Google Maps
  • A Featured Listing checkbox allowing specific listings to be showcased in slideshows, image carousels, sidebars, and not just on a listings page
  • Graphical tags for neighbourhoods or regions important to your area
  • Drag and drop photo galleries with responsive lightboxes optimized for any device
  • A checkbox marking the listing as sold can add a sold graphic to the listing image(s) and optionally remove the listing from available properties and automatically add it to a "Recently Sold" page on your site
  • Searchable and sortable listing details relevant to your site visitors
  • Auto-filled text or image areas for information that appears on all listings (ex. Your contact information appearing on every listing)

When a website is managed via a data feed the listings and images are pulled from the data feed which then populate the pages of a website. The two major advantages of using a data feed are:

1) When you add a listing to the data feed, your own website plus all other websites using the feed are updated automatically. If you edit a price, add some photos, update a description, all the websites across Canada using the feed update themselves!

2) Maximum exposure. Imagine the same listing data you would have entered into your own singular website now reaches every website across Canada that utilizes the data feed.

However, while a data feed is a great way to manage your listings, it in no way means you have a great website. Many data feed websites are out of the box solutions which leave a lot to be desired. The site solutions we offer, which again go above and beyond the usual features, include:

  • Improved navigation to move easily and efficiently around the site (see Navigation above)
  • Filters to properly handle missing data in the feed
  • Customized Google Maps for either missing or incorrect addresses
  • Slideshows, lightboxes and/or image galleries which are mobile, tablet and desktop friendly
  • Professional customized responsive layouts with standardized pages and listings
  • Custom listing links which can contain listing details or photos
  • Automatic daily feed updates

Conclusion

SOLD - Contact Us

Similar frustrations to those outlined above can exist on any website. These issues aren't just specific to Real Estate websites.

It's our goal at Gabriola Graphics to take advantage of the latest technologies, design ideas and coding tips to package together everything into a functional and easy to use website for you and your audience. We prefer less flashy, more functional, and certainly more of a professional, clean-looking, user-interface that works flawlessly on any device.

If you're interested in getting some help either with a new or existing website, we would be happy to help out.

Contact us

But Wait, There's More

I don't think everyone wants to know what makes a website tick. But if you've read this far, chances are YOU might want to know more about the idea of a "content managed" site, or having your own DDF (Distributed Data Feed) website.