Keys to Building a Better Website

by admin

By Marc Abrams

Building a great Web site doesn’t have to be a daunting task, especially if you find the right team to assist you with development. You should do your homework because the industry is new and many providers don’t have the proper marketing experience to understand what it takes to develop a successful site. Following are a few pointers to keep in mind when building or enhancing your site.

Your Web Site is Not for You
One of the first things to understand is that your Web site is not for you. It may sound strange, but the reality is that you need to convey something to your site visitors, not please yourself. There is no guarantee that your audience is interested in what you are interested in anyway.

Developing a Web site is similar to construction. They both start with a vision, which needs to be agreed to by all parties. Then, a developer is hired to execute that vision. It may sound simple in the real estate arena, but in Web site development, it rarely is. This is because most Web site professionals don’t have a solid plan and many are intent on developing a design that you will like. To combat this, make sure everyone on board focuses on how to effectively appeal to your prospects, clients, media, and other visitors. Ask these questions: What does my visitor want to see? What will encourage them to interact with me, my company and brand? How can I use my site to better assist my customers? Once you have these answers and any others you can think of you will be able to develop a site plan.

The Site Plan
The first step in developing a site plan is to further define the objectives of the site. Do you want to generate leads or are you selling online directly? How do you want to go about achieving that goal? How does your site fit into your overall interactive marketing efforts, and for that matter, your overall marketing efforts?

The second step is to outline what navigational “tabs” or sections to include in the site and what should be included in each.

The last step encompasses determining what the homepage should feature. Only when all of these steps have been taken should anyone embark on the design element.

Don’t Forget the Basics
First and foremost, visitors expect sites to function. All the links should work. The content should load quickly so limit the amount of new software required to view the site. All pages should have content, instead of telling visitors they are under construction.

Second, visitors want Web sites to be easy to view and navigate. No one wants to be confused or get trapped within a site. Requiring the use of the back button to navigate out of a page does not provide a positive user experience. Make sure extra attention is spent on guiding visitors through the site.

Third, and probably one of the most important things you can do for your site, is to make sure that once the visitor has made the decision to interact with your brand they can do it easily. Is there easy access to a phone number or information form? Does your site offer “chat” functionality? Once the visitor initiates contact, is someone available to speak with them?

Make Sure to Check Under the Hood
One of the most important interactive marketing techniques that should be implemented for every site is Search Engine Optimization (SEO), which is the process of getting your site “ranked” or listed on the first page of search engines.

Contrary to what most people think, this process doesn’t start after the site is completed, rather at the development stage. The goal of the initial steps is to make the site easily read and “crawlable” by Search Engine Spiders. There are approximately 150 points on a site’s homepage that Google reviews to determine ranking potential. Such things as keyword density, coding, file titles, tags all impact a site’s ranking and must be considered during the design and production stages.

Better Control with Content Management
When negotiating with your web designer, insist they include a Content Management System with the site. This will allow you control over the site and the ability to update it internally without requiring the assistance of the Web designer. This feature will save you money and time on the long run.

Guide Your Visitors Experience
When presenting a house for sale, do you allow the prospect to wander at will and poke their nose anywhere they want, or do you attempt to guide them through the home? The same type of thinking should apply to your Web site. When designing your site, you want to guide your visitor instead of allowing them to wander. You can accomplish this by creating “Conversion Scenarios” that lead visitors to specific pages on the site.

For example, you may have a new listing that you think may be in demand, but the property has a few negatives. You should therefore highlight the main features on the homepage of your site and then expand on the property on a dedicated landing page. This way, you present your selling features just as if you were in front of a client, only you utilize “clicks” to move to the next step.

The final step is the close. Make sure you have a contact form, contact phone, or a click to call back form at the end so you can truly begin the sales process.

Put Your Best Foot Forward
Research shows Web sites have less than 10 seconds to get visitors’ attention before they move on to another site. It is important to make sure that you meet your visitors’ expectations immediately upon the site loading. For Realtors and the real estate industry in general, visitors are really looking for a few things, such as a particular type or selection of properties and/or information about you or your company, regardless of what tools or gadgets you have on your site.

With that in mind, make sure you put your best foot forward by placing your most appealing assets/properties front and center. What makes you or your product unique? What edge do you have over the competition? Tell your visitors, but not in a self-serving manner. Inform them in a way that piques their interest. For example, highlight the fact that the building is within walking distance to schools in lieu pf promoting the standard two-bedroom, two-bathroom descriptions.

It’s Not Done Until Your Customers Say So
One of the critical issues in Web development is that everyone thinks the site is done once the client has accepted it. There is one final step after client acceptance is user acceptance. The site is only complete once the content and design have proven to be of interest to the visitor. Do visitors visit the homepage and leave abruptly, or, are they clicking through the site? Are they going to the sections and areas you want them to? These are all metrics you can track and are some of the key indicators of a successful site.

As you can see, it’s not just about design. A well thought-out plan, a solid foundation and a mindset that looks outward at the consumer are what make Web sites successful.

Marc Abrams is the founder of Miami-based MLA Consult Inc., an interactive marketing solutions company that consults clients on online marketing and strategic direction, and develops, programs, and designs Web sites. Abrams, who has 30 years of experience in marketing, takes a holistic approach by strategically integrating its services with clients’ other branding and marketing strategies.

Copyright 2009 Agent Publishing LLC

Read More Related to This Post

Join the conversation

New Subscribe

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.