WordPress real estate sites, interface – a case study

Frank and Sharon Alters asked on a recent blog of mine if there’d be a before and after on the Chris Olsen real estate site design project, so here it is.  Instead of just bragging, although we are very happy with this site, I would like to use this as an illustration of building a site interface that works for the consumer.  Something that most wordpress real estate sites miss, in my never humble opinion.

The before is no longer live, so we have to resort to screen shots.

First things first:  the purpose of this site is mostly to attract sellers and other agents.  It is NOT a buyer-centric site, but a corporate presence that most visitors will go to only upon receiving a postcard or seeing a sign etc.

Here is the before Home Page.

olsen-ziegler-site-design-before

Since visual preferences and design tactics differ, let’s concentrate on the important stuff.  The menu to the entirety of the site is a thin bar across the very top.  There are also links on the very bottom.  Beyond that – the layout of the entire site is linear.  A visitor has to figure out what to click on based on nothing more than a rather standard selection of buttons on the navigation menu, and whatever page they end up on, they are stuck on it, scrolling to the bottom, and moving on the to the next.  There is nothing on the side bar, for example, that relates to what the person is reading about at the moment that might pique their interest.  It’s a top-down approach that is all too standard, and not terribly effective.  So to us, the home page was ok, visually speaking, but boring to navigate and didn’t accomplish ‘grabbing’ the attention of the visitor.  At the end of the visit there was no difference between this site and so many others, and by side-effect, this Cleveland Real Estate company and any others.

Here is the New Home Page.

Olsen Ziegler Realty new site by hamedia group

Note that while there is still a menu at the top, there are five additional call-to action places from which a visitor can easily navigate to areas of the site that might interest them.  They need only glance at the first few lines of text in any of the leafs to know where those will take them, and if the triggers in the text match their mood, they will feel emotionally in the right place.

The same principle of relational navigation applies to the other pages.  Here is a snapshot of renovations page, for example.

olsen ziegler realty wordpress real estate site example - hamedia

Main area of the page talks about renovations services that Olsen Ziegler provides, with links to cases studies for those wanting to explore more, and the side bar reinforces the strong points of working with Olsen Ziegler when selling a home.  The testimonial at the top right is renovations specific, and leads to the actual case study for that property when clicked.  The well presented rotating featured listing under it shows that Olsen Ziegler can make your home look good on the net, which gets further reinforced with Exceptional Photos-buyer bait ad (which leads to a marketing page).  This seems like a lot at first glance, but since people, by and large, are skimmers and not quite readers, providing small but well designed snippets of internal advertising that’s relevant to the content of the page will increase the chances that the visitor will keep navigating your site.

Takeaways – too many WordPress Real Estate sites rely on the convoluted top level navigation as the entirety of site’s interface.  The sidebar seems to be treated as just a place for links or blog categories – which is fine, but if these links are generic and not specific to the content of the page your visitor is on – you are still asking your visitors to work too hard to complete their journey through your site.  I know that for some, it’s simply an issue of the themes that were chosen.  Most Genesis/Studio Press sites I’ve seen, for example, all have the same navigational structure.  But even sites of those who use widget based themes or ones that support leafs – these tools seem largely underutilized.

If you are building or revamping your site, analyzing how your visitors will move through your content is probably the most important thing you can do.  Guiding user behavior on your site is what makes the difference in your overall conversion, not where you score on Google.  Because simply coming up well in the search engines is akin to catch and release without the benefit of supper.

If you are not up for going through all this on your own, this is the sort of thing we do, daily, as part of building WordPress Real Estate sites, and we’ll be glad to help you with yours.

Thanks for reading, as always…and feel free to browse Chris’ New Olsen Ziegler site @ www.olsenziegler.com and let us know what you think. Criticisms are just as welcome as compliments:-)

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4 Responses to WordPress real estate sites, interface – a case study
  1. Chris Olsen
    April 8, 2011 | 9:35 pm

    It was obvious from the first conversation that you get user interface design, and your experience with understanding how users navigate, how other industries do it and your keen understanding of real estate makes all the difference and it shows. A asked a former client of mine who is extremely tech savvy to give my new site a road test and she said she ended up spending WAY more time on the site than she had planned, didn’t realize how much time she had spent, so she said that is a sign of a well designed site, as she is normally on and off of sites in general pretty quickly.

    • Inna Hardison
      April 8, 2011 | 9:40 pm

      Time spent on site (willingly) is as good an indication as any that at least the user interface part was done right, and of course decent content has a lot to do with it as well… :-) Here is to hoping that those for whom the site was designed, your buyers, will find it just as fun to navigate and then actually use it for their home searches, and of course, trust you enough (and who wouldn’t?) to hire you!

  2. Chris Olsen
    April 6, 2011 | 10:43 pm

    The one thing that you graciously left off was my “before” site was custom-designed by a big-name real estate web design company and my new website which you developed is far superior on every level: aesthetics, functionality, navigation, user-interface behavior, consumer ease-of-use, advanced technology concepts implemented, my own ease of use of creating content (you made it so incredibly easy), open systems architecture, ownership, and the list goes on. I have already gotten many rave reviews from past clients who check on me occasionally, new clients, and even a few agents! :)

    • Inna Hardison
      April 8, 2011 | 7:21 pm

      Chris – it doesn’t really matter how large or small a company designed the “before” site. Most sites tend to overlook the importance of user-interface, at least when it comes to real estate sites. Strangely, we don’t seem to run into it much when it comes to retail sites, no matter how expensive or inexpensive the goods or services offered there are, but real estate, mortgage etc – usability is sadly neglected. Of course this would imply that getting it right is something simple, it isn’t, but it’s certainly necessary. :-)
      PS: Glad the site is getting decent reviews! Just what we like to hear.

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