Real estate website design – same tools, different results. Before and after.

WordPress, by virtue of being a pretty nifty platform, contains almost a promise of magic. If you go with a WordPress real estate site – everything in the world will be just fine, so they say. I love WordPress for many reasons, and yes we do build real estate websites almost exclusively in WordPress, but the moment at which the platform (any platform) is looked at as a panacea for all ills, is the moment I become wary. See, WordPress cannot teach one sound design practices, anymore than any other combination of zeros and ones can. Nor can WordPress be relied on for creating an engaging user experience, an intelligent navigational structure, a look and feel that will compel one to stick around on your website for more than a few seconds or minutes for that matter. So for this little example, we are using two sites, both built in WordPress and even utilizing the same exact framework, Headway. (affiliate link, btw, but feel free to google it instead, if you are opposed to Headway sending me a few bucks).

Here is the screen shot of the before – built some 8-9 months ago by a company that does WordPress sites for real estate, with my analysis of what was wrong with it, along with some Google Analytics for the one month we had access to it with the old site.Wordpress headway site - what not to do

Outside of the strange design choices and lack of visual appeal (my opinion, of course), this website did not make it intuitive for people to navigate. The front page content never changed, and read off like a collection of keywords that may all have led some place, but one had to work pretty hard to find anything useful.  The sidebar remained exactly the same throughout the site, with just the standard contact and social sharing stuff.  There were over a 150 articles written by Coleen by the time we got to this project, yet, it didn’t seem anyone was landing on any of these. On the back end, the permalink structure was left at default (http://example.com/?p=421) or something to that effect. The client was not given any advice on proper use of categories and tags, so she had created over 100 different categories, and the whole thing from that side was just a mess.

Google Analytics Stats for April for the old site:

Top ten key prhases that landed users on the old site:

As you can see, few searches for anything real estate specific, or Gainesville specific for that matter.

All of these issues, and some other things that are too technical and boring to get into contributed to lousy visitor retention statistics, and lack of conversions.

Here is the screenshot of the current site:

(Of course feel free to just browse the site live at your leisure) and accompanying statistics in less than one month since the new site went live. Please note that the bulk of the content is the same, just positioned in a way that makes it easier for people to stumble on it, and to drill down if need be no matter what page or post they land on.

Wordpress sites for real estate by HaMedia Group

Wordpress Sites for real estate that work

Arrows are pointing to user-friendly navigation options, self-explanatory. The home page features dynamically updated articles that the client believes are feature worthy, as well as recent featured area videos in the sidebar, latest listings etc. None of these the client has to touch on her end – they are dynamically fed to the appropriate places on the site. The ability to do this is the largest and often least utilized benefit of a CMS like WordPress, btw.

If you go to any of the neighborhood pages, including Haile Plantation, you’ll see the video and article stream that are specific to this neighborhood – again, the client only has to add youtubes to the appropriate playlist while uploading the vids to youtube, and make sure she publishes her posts to the appropriate categories in WP dashboard, and the site takes care of the rest of it for her.

Here are some Google Analytics since the new site went live:

Keep in mind, it’s been live since May 11th.
Note the difference in time spent and what people were searching for and landing on.

current stats for the same site, post HaMedia group

Google Analytics for HaMedia WordPress real estate site redo

current keywords that people use to land there

If you’ve gotten this far, I hope that you walk away with at the very least an understanding that the same tools do NOT produce the same results and if you are about to embark on the WordPress real estate site journey – and do not understand how to take full advantage of this very powerful CMS, and you do not speak both, design and code comfortably, cause say that’s just not what you do for a living – your results will be closer to the first set, no matter how many posts you write, and how many links you point to your site. To get it right, one has to consider a million different elements that work together to form a cohesive system that is not only user-friendly and findable on Google, but one that saves you time and headache, and allows you the freedom to do what you do best, in case of this client – it’s helping buyers and sellers with their Gainesville FL real estate needs.

Thanks for reading.

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3 Responses to Real estate website design – same tools, different results. Before and after.
  1. Real Estate in Newcastle
    June 12, 2012 | 5:34 pm

    A difference in conversion rate is apparent almost immediately upon the implementation of a new design – this is something we noticed. Our conversion rate almost tripled by using some better design principles and a more engaging use of colors.

  2. Lisa Heindel
    June 3, 2011 | 5:41 pm

    THIS is exactly the reason I choose to hire you guys. I don’t speak code, but you speak Lisa, so I’m looking forward to the same great results for my site soon!

    • Inna Hardison
      June 3, 2011 | 5:57 pm

      mmmm – :-) Results may vary, Lisa – or is that not the standard disclaimer? :-) Yours will be just fine though, but not because of us but because of you…

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