Having built over 1900 websites for estate and lettings agents in the last 16 years, we know a thing or two about what is involved in developing a new agency website.
For any business to succeed it’s essential that they have a successful online presence and it can be argued that this is even more important for those in the property industry, especially at a time where over 90% of people start their search for a new home online.
Now more than ever, agents need a website that delivers results, and success in this comes from having a clear set of objectives in the first place.
For a website to succeed, you need to have a definition of success in mind. Is its purpose to secure valuation enquiries? Is it simply to display properties? Is it to provide information on the progress of transactions? Make payments? Interact with the agency 24/7?
Once you have a clear set of objectives, that you can measure fulfilment of, it becomes possible to define the visitor journey that will get them to your desired end points intuitively, quickly and securely. This is often described as the ‘user experience’ or ‘user journey’.
This thinking process is all about finding the right balance between function and form. We have to understand what the function is that it’s trying to achieve so that we can then create a design that visually maps and enables those functions.
Visitors won’t interact as well with a poor or plain visual experience and we know that good use of colour, pattern, shape, image and relative size results in an intuitive journey and good conversions. At the other extreme, too much can make for a visual clash requiring too much interpretation.
A good design should not cause the visitor to have ask themselves a question like ‘What do I do next?’ or ‘What does this mean?’
There are two ways of thinking about this design process:
1. Bespoke design. Speak with a designer and let them do the hard work of coming up with the look and feel. This process usually takes a little longer and can involve more of an investment, however you will have a site that is completely in line with your brand, online objectives and is unique to your company.
2. Design templates. Most web developers also have pre-existing designs you can use. Some call them templates, themes or ready-to-go designs. These can then be modified to the company’s brand and customer proposition. They are typically quicker to produce and can save time and effort, usually benefiting from a lower price point.
After the design stage is complete, the build can begin.
An experienced web development company will have expert project managers who will make sure that the build part of the project meets your needs in terms of time, price and deliverable.
An industry specialist will also be able to ensure you meet all the specific legislative requirements and use their expertise to keep the development time, and thus cost, to a minimum.
The project manager will work with you to coordinate the delivery of content for the developers to complete the site.
For some agents, the thought of spending time at a desk writing content for their website leaves them with a feeling of dread, let alone it being time that could be spent talking to clients and getting more valuations.
Fee paying work will always come first to the agent and a good web company should recognise where some of the work can be outsourced to a copywriter in order to keep a project running on time.
Of course, input into content production will always require some of your time as you know your company song. It is up to those of us working with you to learn how to sing it!
With good project management, from an industry expert, the whole process can be broken down into simple, achievable steps and success achieved.
Using an experienced property professional web developer means using a path well beaten by someone who knows the way.
There will be no experimentation, they know all the software you use, the laws you have to comply with, the language you speak, as well as the time frames involved, and input required. This de-risks the project/your investment and means working in a way that reduces the impact on your business.
Choosing the right partner to work with to develop your website as an effective business tool will save you money, make you money and keep you compliant.
*Mike Smithson is managing director of The Property Jungle