More Web Advice for Commercial Agents
04 October, 2011 | Web design
We are into week four of our journey through the website mistakes and misdemeanours made by ill informed commercial property professionals. Over the past three weeks we’ve looked at the:
- Power of photography
- Crimes committed against design
- Way to use words
This week, we shall investigate the type of User Experience that your website should be delivering to your prospective commercial property client.
I haven’t yet met a chartered surveyor or commercial agent that is not fighting an on-going battle against time. You are some of the busiest individuals I’ve met. That said it always seems impossible to get hold of anyone after 2pm on a Friday!?
If you’re so busy, then by association, so are your clients. So why do so many chartered surveyors and commercial agents websites seem to be designed with the express purpose of wasting clients time with poor website navigation.
Website Navigation – Why Make Life Difficult?
The User Experience is a combination of the emotional (design) and the practical (architecture). Navigation will influence your architecture and how easy and enjoyable the users visit to your property website is.
A radical change happens to all of us when we enter the web. We become impatient, petulant adolescents suffering from a serve case of ADD. If we can’t find what we want quickly with the minimum amount of effort, we are off to another website quicker than you can say ‘rent review’.
Good websites are about width, not depth. Ideally a prospective tenant, investor, landlord or commercial vendor should never be more than a couple of clicks away from the information that they seek. If it’s too hard, they will just go away to a competitors website.
Getting Home Easy
Whatever the reason might be, visitors to your website should be able to get back to the Home Page quickly, wherever they may be in your commercial property website.
Heading back to the Home Page is the default action of visitors, either to refer back to the information there or to find other options. So make getting home easy.
Aside from having a ‘home’ option on your primary navigation, the lion-share of users will expect your logo to take them back to the home page. Your logo should already be positioned consistently for branding purposes, but it plays an important additional roll in website navigation.
Keep It Consistent
Consistency is a powerful phrase in website design. Trying to be unconventional and clever will have a negative effect on the User Experience. Remember visitors spend most of their time on other people websites, becoming comfortable with conventional methods of navigation and layout. In the process they develop certain expectations about how websites will work, which brings security.
Challenging these expectations will only make the user insecure, with negative effects on your business.
Unconventional navigation can also have a negative affect on your company’s SEO (search engine optimisation). It confuses the Search Engine spiders that crawl across millions of websites gaining the information that will eventually determine your position on say, Google for “Commercial Property Agents”.
It sounds obvious, but too often commercial property websites use ridiculously small fonts or point sizes across their websites. This is particularly harmful to the User Experience.
Clear Primary And Secondary Navigation
Try not to over complicate your primary navigation. The aim is to be clear and simple, trying to distil your complex service offering and experience into as few logical options as possible.
Incorporating this primary navigation options into animations or drop downs may seem clever to you, but will ultimately just frustrate and annoy your client and push them away.
Presenting Your Wares.
Commercial agents and chartered surveyors do like to ‘dump’ a huge list of services on their website home page. It always reminds me of those ‘greasy spoon’ cafes that fill the shop window with big text saying things like ‘Full English breakfast’, ‘Bacon sandwich’, ‘Omelettes’ ‘tea’, ‘coffee’, ‘cholesterol!!” It’s a greasy spoon; we have a pretty good idea what we’ve going to get inside. The window of Le Manoir doesn’t list everything from ‘Terrine’ to the ‘Soufflé’.
Be assured, listing everything from ‘acquisition’ and ‘valuation’ to ‘disposal’ and ‘investment’ will not be more effective at getting a new client to contact you than great design and short concise copy.
It is these creative elements can communicate authority and knowledge if done correctly. And it is these elements that will prompt the client to get in contact with you, not that you listed ‘rating assessments’ and ‘commercial leases’ in a huge list of generic services.
Don’t treat you client like an idiot. You don’t need to list your whole menu, including ‘After Eights’ on your website home page.
This is a big area because…well…you’re in the property business. Over 60% of the people coming to your website will click on the property search function first. So we’ll look at this next week, in depth.
They pee people off…basically! Pop-up’s spoil the users natural flow, even if it’s a map reference. It is bad User Experience practice, almost as bad as…
OPENING NEW BROWSER WINDOWS!!!!!
It’s in upper capitals because it is a ridiculous thing to do.
It is a practice that, from a User Experience point of view, confuses and distracts the visitor with the risk of actually pushing them away from your website. You have gone to all that hard work and effort to get the client on your website, why on earth would you then want to help them leave?
And then there are the SEO implications. Opening new browser windows to view property images or floor plans or location maps on a 3rd Party website passes all search engine value and credentials to that 3rd Party. Why would you do that?
If your web designer is not clever enough to be able to design a platform that can support and display such information within the page of your own website, then you should sack them…now!
User Experience is a science requiring a deep understanding of the market and the audience. Next week we’ll look at the most important area of the website User Experience that commercial agents provide their market. The Property Search.
Philip Burrows, Marketing Consultant