Now more than ever, people are accessing the internet through their mobile devices and tablets. Long gone are the days of desktop-only users! According to StatCounter, a web traffic analysis website, a whopping 59.25% of global online traffic came from mobile users alone, followed by 38.53% desktop users, and just 2.22% tablet users.
This displays the importance of where we must start our design, and where we should be focusing our efforts in making an effective and dynamic real estate website that drives leads. Designing mobile first, and then expanding to a desktop friendly site, is the most user-centric and accommodating to most target audiences.
What is mobile first design?
A philosophy which aims to create better user experiences by starting the design process with prioritizing the smallest screens first. This strategy is often referred to as the concept of progressive advancement. Once a mobile design is in place, designing for larger screens becomes easier and we have the core elements of the design established. Starting a design with mobile also enforces aspects such as bandwidth, screen size, and multitasking capabilities. As you progress onto larger devices, it’s easier to expand the functionality with supplemental elements and features. Remember: it’s always easier to add than to take away!
We’ve put together a few design principles to get us started in our mobile first design stage.
Users should be at the forefront of your design
- The design of your real estate website must help users solve a problem or complete a task quickly and effectively. Users should easily be able to view floor plans, virtual tours, check availability, call or contact your community, and ultimately, apply and sign a lease. Keep in mind user flow – convenience is key to generating more leads!
- Look at your competitors’ mobile websites and check out what they do and don’t offer. How can you improve your user’s experience compared to your competitors? Maybe it’s adding a floor plan filter to make it easier for prospects to find exactly what they’re looking for. Or maybe you notice that a competitor doesn’t have virtual tours on the website. As crazy as it may sound, over 80% of renters apply and secure a lease without ever visiting the property, thanks to online marketing. Adding virtual tours to your website can increase website engagement and provide a convenient option for people who prefer to tour virtually as opposed to in-person.
Keep it simple
- Improve content clarity on your mobile site while helping the user focus on what content is most important. This can be done by reducing links in your navigation menu, reducing the number of pages, and keeping borders wide and lines clean.
- Use white space to your advantage to make the layout less cluttered and more readable, which will also improve your SEO and increase organic traffic.
- Prioritize the content you want displayed on the website: Ex: Floor plans, Location, Gallery, Amenities, Blog, etc.
- Prioritize the hierarchy of that content. Understand what the user flow is and how to display the most important content. For example, we recommend prioritizing floor plans because data confirms that people spend the most time looking at floor plans on the website, and it’s usually the first stop after visiting the homepage.
Incorporate bold and consistent CTAs
- A call-to-action needs to be easily located by users throughout your website. Not doing so can lead to a loss of leads and decreased conversions.
Adhere to mobile friendly practices
- Choose fonts that are web safe and keep font styles to a minimum.
- Select contrasting colors and make text legible according to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Now that you know what a mobile-first design is and its importance moving forward, we hope you will incorporate this new knowledge into your real estate website to generate more leads. By remembering to put users at the forefront of your website design, improving content clarity, and incorporating consistent CTAs, maximizing your lead generation should be a walk in the park.
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Written by Heather Ford, Senior Designer & Web Developer
People love a good story. It’s been scientifically proven that when humans hear a story that they like, it can increase their levels of oxytocin, the ‘feel good’ hormone that boosts feelings of happiness, empathy and trust. Savvy marketers have been capitalizing on this for ages, creating engaging stories for brands that resonate with people and, ultimately, persuade them to open their wallets. (Super Bowl ads, anyone?) Storytelling works in marketing because, beyond the brain hormones, it gives people a way to relate to your brand on a human level. And in the digital world we live in, this has never been more important.
While print and especially video media seem the obvious choice for this sort of humanized communication, there is another, maybe counterintuitive, area that property developers and managers can take advantage of storytelling’s powerful ability to sway the hearts of their potential tenants: their real estate website.
All good design uses color, shape, flow, imagery and copy to craft a story. Beyond these things, you can consider the common ‘three-act’ structure that many stories use when laying out the structure of a webpage:
Act 1: The Set Up. This is where your audience is introduced to the main idea of the web page they are looking at. It’s the hook that makes them keep reading, so an apartment webpage hero should be visually interesting and clear in its messaging. Act 1 in a story is also when an inciting incident happens, or a thing that drives further action. In the case of web design, this can be a strong, punchy call to action.
Act 2: The Action. This is where the bulk of the plot, or in the case of property websites the detailed information, occurs. Any text or content-heavy sections of your web page, like exhaustive lists of features and finishes, should go in the middle. Once the viewer has been introduced to the main idea of the page they are on, they can decide they want the information that is below the hero section.
Act 3: The Resolution. If you’re feeling super fancy, you can also call this the ‘denouement’. At the end of your webpage, don’t just let your content fizzle out. People have made it all the way to the bottom; they deserve a satisfying conclusion to the story. Use this as an opportunity to outline how your property solves a common pain-point for renters, or create a sense of urgency and provide a clear next-step for your users, like “Apply Now!”
A single page on your property website can encompass an entire story, or a piece (a chapter, let’s call it) in an overall story you are trying to tell about your brand. Given the way people interact with web pages, scrolling is just like page flipping. Rather than jumping randomly from page-to-page, users progress through information as a linear sequence. Because of this, a story on a website has to unfold vertically, and not in small chunks that have no visual connection between them. Unlike books, there are many ways websites can enhance this to their advantage, such as:
- Using animation. Animation on a website can be used to enhance people’s attention toward important plot points (useful information, promotions, or CTAs) and shift their attention from one place to the next, allowing you to control the flow of the story.
- Stories within stories. Embedded, interactive elements and social feeds can be used to strengthen user engagement. These are natural storytelling mediums that have been proven to improve SEO because Google knows they enhance the user experience.
- Parallax scrolling. This technique allows for interesting transitions from one section on a webpage to the next and can be combined with well-crafted illustrations and diagrams to create strong storytelling.
- Video content. Good stories use what is called “indirect characterization,” which means showing rather than explicitly telling the audience something about a character. Video content is a powerful way this can be used in apartment marketing websites. You can say that you are a family-friendly property, or you can display a video hero that shows children playing and family-friendly amenities which says the same thing—if not more—to your viewers.
Storytelling in web design is much more than words and brand voice. While these are definitely important elements, it is the unique opportunities that the digital platform offers that can really enhance a real estate brand’s story and turn a really mundane experience into a compelling one that will keep your viewers at the edge of their seat.
1 – Speaker–listener neural coupling underlies successful communication
2 – 5 Storytelling Techniques Applied to Web Design
3 – How To Start Your Story: Story Structures
Digital apartment marketing experts will often say that it’s important to update your website frequently, but have you ever wondered why? We are often recommending periodic website updates to our clients, but not always for the same reason. The truth is, there are many different reasons why updating your website frequently pays off for your digital apartment marketing goals. Here’s how updating your website can boost your SEO, improve your user experience (UX), increase your online conversions, and more.
Google Will Reward You With Higher Search Rankings
Google takes a lot into account when determining where your site ranks in search results and how current your site is plays a key role in their search algorithm. Think about it: Google wants to deliver users relevant and accurate info when they search so that they keep using Google. Having updated your site recently signals that your website more likely to be up-to-date with accurate info, modern web design, and other factors that contribute to a positive user experience.
Web Standards Are Constantly Changing
If your website hasn’t been updated in several years, there’s a good chance some of the web standards you’re following have gone defunct, fallen out of vogue, or even become illegal. For example, Flash used to be the main way to display multimedia content, but now fewer operating systems are supporting it because there are better ways to accomplish what Flash was once used for. Web security guidelines and requirements are also constantly being updated.
Helps You Keep Up With Apartment Marketing Trends
You may be keeping up to date with apartment marketing trends in your industry, but does your website reflect that? Planning regular website updates puts you on a schedule to audit your website for off-trend features, messaging, and design elements that can make your community seem older and less desirable. For example, it may be time to update your amenities list to reflect how people are referring to their amenities these days (e.g. dog park vs. bark park, sparkling pool vs. resort-style pool, etc.). Additionally, take a look at the functionality your competitors are including on their site: Do they have a chatbot? An online tour scheduler? Virtual tours for every floor plan? Are you less competitive in your market if you don’t have these features?
On a related note, take a look at the information your competitors are including on their websites. The recent example of COVID-19 messaging, which is now common on apartment websites, shows how important it can be to make timely website updates in order to meet the new expectations of your audience and keep up with your competitors.
Leads to More Conversions
Keeping up with or even pushing ahead of the curve goes a long way to inspiring confidence from prospects and current residents alike. Your site doesn’t have to be flashy and cutting edge, necessarily, but just having accurate information, timely specials, no broken links, and messaging that speaks to trending housing needs can ensure your property makes it from a prospect’s awareness phase to their consideration phase. Plus, residents who see their apartment community working hard to maintain consistent website functionality and provide current information will be that much more likely to renew their lease and recommend your property to others.
Best Ways to Update Your Real Estate Website Regularly
So now that we’ve established why you would want to update your website regularly, what are the best ways to go about that? It all depends on what your primary goals are and what resources you have at your disposal.
Adding a blog to your website is one of the most common ways to incorporate regular website updates into your digital marketing strategy. This isn’t just so that you can share useful information with residents and prospects, it’s also a great way to boost your on-page SEO efforts. Not only does it allow you to update your site each time you post (signaling to Google that your site is current), but it also gives you added opportunities to incorporate SEO keywords without running the risk that Google interprets your efforts as keyword stuffing because your keyword density is too high on a given page (which can actually hurt your SEO).
But while a blog is great for SEO, it isn’t the only way to update your website regularly. Consider: what do your prospects need from your website? Were there features you didn’t initially include that you could add now, like a chat bot, tour scheduler, or virtual tours? Do you have current photos or video of all your amenities and community spaces? Do your prospects have a way to view current specials? Could you benefit from adding resident reviews on your website?
In addition to these considerations, we recommend that once a year or so, you review your keyword strategy. If you’re not sure how to create a keyword strategy, check out our post on How To Do Keyword Research For Your Real Estate Website. As search trends change, you may find that you’re missing out on a lot of potential traffic from keywords you hadn’t been targeting before.
Finally, every few years, we recommend that you do a more in-depth design update. Trends change and a website can begin to look out-of-date quickly. You don’t necessarily have to overhaul your entire website design, but a few tweaks here and there can help you keep up with the times.