The owner of East Austin is Home approached me about redesigning his website and changing it to be a community publication with the business objective of generating real estate leads. I took him though the entire process of concept to launch. Below are the primary deliverables during my process, encompassing strategy, design and marketing.
Here is a screengrab of the final homepage. Below are the details and strategy behind the design.
Research and Planning
Target Market Survey
To better understand the target market I conducted a survey on Google Consumer Surveys. Below are the results and insights collected.
Google Consumer Surveys
View Results: https://www.google.com/insights/consumersurveys/view?survey=xdthtnk6e3gju
Filter: any age, live in Texas
Date Range: 8/26/14 – 9/1/14
Number of Respondents: 1170
Number of Respondents Passing the Screening Question: 35
Question 1 (qualifier): Have you bought or sold a house in the past year?
Yes, bought: 5.4%
Yes, sold: 2.9%
Question 2: What was most important to you when picking a real estates, agent?
Answers from most popular to least. Similar words grouped and summarized.
Referral – “known by friends, references from friends, relationship, reputation, got a referral”
A Good Listener – “having your interest at heart, listening to me, personal attention, understanding both my needs and the market”
Sound Character – “attitude, integrity, they have to match your personality, trust, work ethic”
Availability – “availability, ease, flexibility”
Familiarity and Knowledge
Rating and Reputation
Question 3: How important is it to you that your real estate agent specializes in a particular part of town?
Very Important – 36.9%
Not Important – 4.8%
Question 4: Why did you trust the real estate agent you went with?
10 – knew him or a referral
Grouped terms used once:
track record, reviews
vetted by USAA, referred by USAA
knew his job, knowledgeable, professional and knowledgeable
Other terms used once: they knew the area, showed several houses in different areas
Question 5: What methods did you use to search for a real estate agent?
Referral from a friend – 57%
None of the above – 28%
Contacted a big real estate company – 17%
Zillow or Trulia – 17%
Local home search website – 11%
Web search on Google, Bing or Yahoo – 9%
- Referral is by far the most important influencer in choosing and trusting a real estate agent. This should be utilized whenever possible.
- When speaking about our real estate services, we must emphasize that our agents are good listeners and have the clients best interests at heart.
- When showcasing our agents, we must show that they have sound character and are easy to work with.
- Knowing the real estate agent specializes in a particular area appears to be an important factor to clients.
- Other than a personal referral, trustworthiness seems to be gained by proving to be knowledgeable in the space and displaying a proven track record (testimonials, reviews, references).
User and Stakeholder Goal Definitions
Below are the primary goals we set out to satisfy with content and software.
- To learn more about what is going on in their community.
- To see how much similar homes are selling for in their neighborhood and to learn if they should consider selling.
- To conduct home searches in the early state of home buying and to find a real estate agent for buying or selling their home.
- To gain natural web traffic from people who live in the city or are interested in the area.
- To turn new readers into recurring visitors and subscribers.
- To have visitors share our articles on their social sites.
- To introduce our brand as a company that can help buy or sell homes.
- To move people from the content to the home search or home listings.
- To have potential home buyers come back to the site to continue home searching.
- To have the home buyer request to connect with a real estate agent.
Below are the sitemaps listing all major pages of the site.
User Goals (Community Content) vs. Stakeholder Goals (Real Estate Service) Strategy
Blending user goals and stakeholder goals is a delicate balance. This table maps out how much of each should be applied to major sections of the site.
Website Design and Development
Based on the client’s technical skills, goals and budget, WordPress was an obvious choice for the CMS. After reviewing premium WordPress hosting options, I setup hosting, installed WordPress and configured it based on our categories, navigation and desired homepage layout.
Theme Review and Customization
The project budget led us to start from a premium WordPress theme opposed to custom design. I helped my client examine and choose a theme based on visual style, responsive layout, ability to customize and SEO. I made the theme configurations and custom graphics to get our desired layout and look. I then managed a 3rd party theme developer team to make final customizations to the HTML and CSS.
To add the home search capability to the website we needed an IDX software solution. I reviewed the available software on the market based on capability, customization ability and price. After discussing with my client we chose the best option. I then installed and configured the IDX software to add the real estate browsing, map searching and lead capture capabilities.
Lead Generation Design Elements
Our primary business goal is to get our users conducting a home search and requesting real estate information. To entice visitors to start this process, I designed the calls-to-action to grab the visitor’s attention. Below are two examples.
Organic search was going to be our main incoming traffic channel so search engine optimization was a must. I started off by conducting a keyword analysis by using Google Keyword Planner. I then wrote keyword-rich title tags, descriptions, internal links and URLs.
I installed and implemented the recommendations by Google Webmaster Tools to ensure SEO and Google indexing was proper. I monitored inbound links as a major ranking factor. I also installed Google Analytics to analyze incoming traffic and user navigation to ensure there were no major user experience issues. I setup a custom automated monthly report to be sent to the client to monitor traffic and goal conversions.
To study the visitor’s behavior using the site I installed 2 services to record and report on user flows. I used Inspectlet to conduct user screen recordings and reviewed the video for UX issues. I also installed SumoMe to record heat maps and scrolling content analysis.