Getting website design wrong will harm your business.

| Web design

It only takes a small design flaw for an internet user to be wary of online estate agents. Therefore your virtual corporate image has to give the visitor complete trust in your website otherwise a good Google rank will be useless. The following simple rules will greatly decrease any chance of the internet user "clicking off" because of your website design. There are only 7 things to consider. These are: Spacing, colour, background, pixels, typography, organisation and being unique.

Spacing - Websites designed with space look great. The logo should be enlarged to create space and allow the user to acknowledge what estate agent they're visiting. An excellent example of designing spacing is the Dart & Partners website below. The logo is large and prominent and still gives the impression of professionalism.

Another important aspect of spacing is using a grid as a foundation for your property website. Without a grid, the elements that make up your website won't be aligned and it will look extremely unprofessional. Below I've drawn the gridlines next to an estate agent website. Notice the organisation of elements on the page.

The design of the grid is not overly complicated or simplified. Remember that we've been taught from a young age to read from the top left to bottom right and giving people this natural flow will make them feel more at ease. Compare the difference to this overly complicated website design below. There's too much information and the eye struggles to find an easy place to rest.

Colour -The best way is to build you colour schemes around the estate agent logo. The logo would have been created with the brand in mind so having a colour scheme to compliment this is vital. An excellent example of designing colour into your website is the Penyards website. Penyards is a high-end estate agent that deals with country estates or properties that are unique or full of character. Therefore they will not want a website design that is wacky but one that compliments the brand image.

The first thing is to look at is the logo to get an idea of what the website design should be.

The logo conjures up an image of a traditional estate in the 'country'. From this you can gauge the colour scheme. It's going to be black, white and grey. Keeping to this colour scheme would make a very dark and boring website. It would keep within the theme but it wouldn't be very appealing to the eye. So let's have a look at what was the final website design...

This is what greets you when you visit the website. As you can see, they have kept to the black, white and grey layout that is in keeping with the logo. This would all be very boring or overly gothic if it wasn't for the green buttons and the vivid picture. These two things really make the website stand out without being over the top or wacky. This is a good example of how an estate agent website can keep its restraint without having a boring colour scheme or a boring subject. The other way that estate agent websites tend to go is swinging the other way and being too wacky. This obviously can damage the brand and the customer's trust.

The green here is even used as a 'call to action'. The buttons on the right are just begging to be pressed and the first one is 'search for property' and is exactly what our websites are designed for. Therefore colour can not only set the tone of a website but it can also draw attention and call people to action.

As we all know, this naturally occurs. I think we all know what the call to action here is:

Pixels - Changing pixels is a great way to add depth to your online estate agent website. The great thing about slightly changing the edges is that it adds depth to your website and creates a subtle 3D effect without being obvious. Fading is one of the effects that can be used. It can soften the edges having a smoother effect on the object. Usually text is not faded so it is clearer to read. Below is an example of the usage of pixels. Zoomed out the website looks like this:

But when you magnify the selected area you can see that both the text and the box outline is pixelated (in which individual pixels are apparent to the naked eye) but in different ways. The text is squarer so that when you zoom out, it is completely clear. The box has a dark outline giving a smoother feel.

Typography - Typography is the art and technique of printing with movable type. The text has to be clear, the right font, size, and characteristic (bold, italic etc). This has to suit the mood otherwise it will look out of place. Below is an example of good typography and bad typography. The tagline is 'Good typography is invisible / Bad typography is everywhere'.

Below is another example of good and bad typography from an estate agent. The typography below the logo is very professional. It gives a corporate image of 'we're serious' and 'you can trust-us' and then they ruin it with the main text and heading. It looks cheesy and unprofessional. The logo at top of the document has been cut off so estate agent is not discredited.

It isn't possible to have every font you wanted. Computers can only recognise a font that it has in its memory. Therefore websites tend to use web-safe fonts. Web-safe fonts are fonts that are most likely to be on everyone's PC and are therefore the most likely to be recognised. This guarantees that websites can be viewed by everyone.

Organisation - The first thing here is to decide what you want your website to achieve. For estate agents, you want to achieve two things and anything else is just a bonus. The first is that you want the user to search and view your properties online. The second is that you want them to desire a property enough to contact an agent a viewing. So therefore your website has to be impressive enough that the user stays and then have a desire to view the properties. After that, the customer needs to view as much information as they require before feeling compelled to see it in real life. Stunning pictures, floor plan, enhanced mapping, summary and a description is a must for an estate agent website. Large and good quality pictures sell. Pictures that are small and fuzzy not give the user the full impression of the property.

Looking at two brochures below, which house below would you buy and which do you think is more expensive?

Next is an online brochure by a randomly selected estate agent. The picture doesn't enlarge any further but changes when you move the mouse over the picture below, it changes the top picture.

You may be surprised but the second is actually more expensive than the first. Adding aesthetic value to each property will entice the user.

Try using the AIDA model. It is the acronym of Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. This model is used in marketing when trying to sell a product or service so that the consumer will buy it and it can be applied to estate agent websites.

  • Attention - does your website have something that will keep the viewers attention or will they move onto another estate agent once they have seen your homepage? This can be creative imagery or something recognisable like a logo.
  • Interest - does your website design keep their interest? This includes description of the product/service? Do you have exclusive features that no one else has?
  • Desire - convincing the user that they need/desire your product or service. E.G. Testimonials from satisfied customers.
  • Action - Do they take the desired action? This can include something like a special offer or a property that is too irresistible to ignore.

Being unique - Unique website design will attract people to your website in their hordes. A good example of this is the enhanced mapping that can give the user the ability to use the latest in viewer technology to search for their website.

All the properties are listed Google maps for the user to click on. It not only has that, but the legend on the right shows local places of interest. This is easy to use and interesting new way to view properties in the local area. Users will keep coming back and even spread this fantastic function by word of mouth! Doing something no one else does in terms of design can be tricky. Usually there's a reason why no one's done it before but use the old trial and error method and you could get unexpected results. A great example of this is Google's home page. Who ever thought that having simplistic search engine would be so popular?