Estate Agents, can your website design improve business?
01 June, 2009 | Web design
Design and usability matter a lot when creating any Web site, for estate agents getting it right could be the difference between success and failure. Troy Stanley, Technical Director of web designers and software provider Resource Techniques, offers some good advice.
Getting Web design right is both hard and controversial. If you ask a cross section of the population their opinion of a particular design, there are usually as many opinions as the number of people. To try to understand design, it's worth asking what's the difference between design and art? I would define design as the constrained application of art. Good designers are interested in the practical application of their creative output. And design is not just about aesthetics, it also embraces usability, good functionality and of course cost.
Designing a Web site that can sell successfully is an art in its self, and as getting it right can be the difference between business success and failure, building a web site that achieves this goal is critical.
The aim of design has to be to support the objectives of the site and in turn the business it's supporting. In the case of a site for estate agents, it primary goal is to attract buyers and sellers of property.
How can design help to achieve this? First of all we must communicate the brand message that the company wishes to convey to the target demographic. If there is any disconnection between these two, this will jar with prospects and significantly reduce their likelihood of buy in.
The next objective of design, and closely related to brand, is the prime message. Maybe the site wishes to communicate a contemporary feel, maybe something more traditional. Whatever it is, it's the objective of the designer to create an emotional reaction in the people engaging with the site. We call it the WOW factor, research confirms that a site has around 3 seconds to impress the user enough make the stay and not press the back button and exit your site in favour of your competition, the WOW factor is critical.
Design has the chance to bring clarity to what is offered on the site, establish trust and clearly explain how the offering can be accessed. Good web design will attract visitors, impress them and make them stay, make them enjoy the experience, keep them coming back and tell their friends about.
Creating a point of difference... How can you as an estate agent in a hugely competitive market place stand out from the crowd? How can you have a clear point of difference? Essentially all estate agents offer the same service, the same selling features, rightmove, newspaper adverting, boards etc, etc...
Your website can create that point of difference, if it stands out from the crowd, if it offers a rich user experience with large high quality images of each property, large easy to read floor plans, PDF brochures, mapping highlighting local amenities such as schools, doctors, dentists etc, Google street view and email alerts.
There is little point in attracting people in your site if they aren't able to quickly access what they're looking for, research shows that 97% of visitors come to an estate agents web site to search for property. It is therefore essential to have clear 'calls to action', 'Property Search' should be clearly identifiable and navigation to relevant property information should be easy and require minimal input.
When designing websites, there are some principles that should always be applied. These include keeping your site simple and easy-to-use. As above, make sure that there are clear 'calls to action' like how to access 'Property Search'. Use common metaphors such as About Us, and Contact Us. Also stick to common concepts, such as making the logo clickable.
Remember that buyers can arrive at any page on the site via search engines, so ensure that each page supports the brand proposition. This is another reason for providing contact details throughout the site, including telephone number, e-mail, and physical address.
Remember the key rule of usability - if in doubt just keep it simple.
The final word
Your web site is your shop window to the World, it has the potential to bring new business 24/7, ensure your website is driving traffic to you and not away.
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