In my last article, Website Basics for Professional Property Managers, I gave you an overview of common website related topics and provided information that can help you make better preliminary decisions. I also recommended you think through what you really want your website to do for you. Website creation is a strategic process; you must have an end goal in sight before you even start the project.
Your website is one of the most valuable marketing and service assets you have so it is important that it work well for you. But, that is not always the case.
In fact, as I am writing this article, I am listening to a live webinar by Appfolio, 10 Things Successful Property Managers Have Stopped Doing, and they shared the following statistics about website users:
45% say that a bad site is worse than having no website.
30% say key features are missing from the website.
29% find broken links or other errors.
You only have one chance to make a first impression with website visitors. So, how can you maximize the value of your website and optimize every opportunity?
You will need to balance several high priorities that occasionally compete with one another: Design, Content, and Usability. The design is the wrapper; content is the information; usability is the experience.
A property management website should definitely be attractive. The design elements, like images, colors, and typography are important. The website design facilitates emotional connection, visually segments content, and helps focus visitor attention. The design is the “packaging” for your website, like wrapping paper and a bow on a birthday gift. While the wrapping is pretty, enjoying it is not the goal of the recipient; they want to know what’s inside. Similarly, website design should be visually pleasing, but should also enhance the goals of your website (not distract from them).
The imagery you use should communicate value quickly and forcefully. However, make sure your website design accurately reflects you and your business. In other words…keep it real! Marketing Experiments ran a test to find out which converts better, stock images or real people. They found that real images convert better because they are more relevant and relatable. Another benefit of using real images is that you can get exactly the people, poses, and situations you want to use to represent your business. If you’d like to dive deeper into this aspect of web design, check out my previous blog post, Image Marketing in the Property Management World.
Color is also an important design factor. There have been a lot of articles written about the psychology of color in marketing. Some of them suggest that colors induce moods or emotions. Others suggest that they create specific perceptions. The problem with color analysis is that responses are hard to generalize because they are subjective and based on personal experience. However, that does not mean color is not important. It is.
Use of color in your website should:
- Reinforce company brand and personality
- Convey professionalism
- Help users understand and navigate your website
- Draw attention to important information
- Make the website more cohesive by tying all design elements together
Here is a very comprehensive article about color usage published by Entrepreneur.com, The Psychology of Color in Marketing and Branding so you can research further.
Typography refers to use of fonts. The art of typography has received more attention over the last few years. But, like the other design elements, website typography needs to enhance your business goals, not detract from them.
Here are some best practices:
- Use fonts that are easy to read.
- Choose web-safe fonts; ones that are commonly installed across various operating systems.
- Don’t use too much variety. A consistent rule of thumb I’ve encountered is 3 font types (e.g. Arial).
- Use fonts that are consistent with your other marketing (business cards, print brochures, letterhead, etc.).
- Keep a record of the font types used in your website so you can easily use the same fonts in other marketing: newsletters, brochures, videos, social media imagery.
Website content can include text, video, audio, forms, client portals, rental listings, payment portals, and more. Initially website visitors are attracted to the design of your website, but they are really there for the content. Be purposeful about developing the content for your website by identifying the “why” behind including it in your website.
I’m not going to elaborate as much here because I’ve written other articles that dive deeper: The Dos & Don’ts of Writing Marketing Copy for Property Managers / Property Management Website Copy 101.
Here are a couple of observations related to recent content trends.
Minimizing text & increasing use of images – If your value proposition can be explained in very few words and people do business with you based on impulse, then this might work. However, that is not true for most property management companies or other businesses. Text allows you to explain your value with precision and clarity. When stakes are high or relationships are involved, some elaboration is required. Just make sure that you only say what you really need to say…don’t ramble.
Video – More and more property management businesses are incorporating video into their websites, which is good! However, video does not necessarily replace text. Website visitors like to scan content. Don’t bury all of the important information about your company in a video, provide on-page text that summarizes the key points (by the way…search engines like that too…). Make sure the videos are designed to really serve your audience, not just enhance SEO by increasing time on page.
The content of your website is extremely important and you will need to provide your website creator with this information. Invest the time needed to do this well.
An article I read recently stated that “website design is closer to product or industrial design than it is to print design.” And, I agree. Why? Because website visitors interact with your website like they interact with tools, electronics, software, appliances, and more. They come to it with a need or a goal and expect to achieve their purpose quickly and easily. An attractive website is important. However, a beautiful website that’s hard to use will frustrate visitors and won’t serve your needs either.
Another article I read said, “Users are rarely on a website to enjoy the design; furthermore, in most cases they are looking for information despite the design. Strive for simplicity instead of complexity.”
Usability is not as “sexy” as design or even content, so it can often be overlooked until a website is live. Since it is one of the MOST important aspects of your website, I encourage you to invest proactive planning time into it. As you do, keep the mantra, “don’t make me think,” running through your head. A poorly designed site can cause “paralysis of analysis” because visitors get distracted, confused, or lost easily. Then they’ll look for the quickest escape route and search for a property management company site that provides a better user experience (probably one of your competitors’ sites). It won’t matter how your services compare if you can’t keep a prospect on your website.
Here are some important usability concepts to consider:
- Organization – This may seem boring, but it is SO important. There are 2 types of organization. The first is overall site organization. Map out the pages you want on your website and identify their related sub-pages. This map will become the basis of your website navigation. The other type is page organization. Sketch out page layouts that cluster related content in consumable “chunks.” Design elements can enhance page organization by using color and typography to tie related elements together, make pages easy to scan, and create a predictability that puts website visitors at ease.
- White Space – A cluttered website is overwhelming. Making good use of white space reduces the visitors’ “cognitive load” (in other words, they don’t have to think as hard) so that they can quickly assess, organize, and identify the information that applies to them.
- Use Common Conventions – You don’t have to think outside the box for everything. In fact, it can be better not to. Predictability is a critical part of usability. For instance, you don’t need to create a fancy, custom Facebook logo. Your visitors might not recognize it. Meet their expectations by using the one they’ve seen on a zillion other websites.
- Navigation – Site navigation includes menus, links, and buttons. Here are a few ways to make your site navigation more effective. Usability is not just about minimizing number of clicks, it is about creating a logical, easy-to-follow path.
- Have a simple main navigation menu in a predictable spot (top or left side of page).
- Include a few key navigation links in the footer of your site to make it easy for people to change pages after scrolling through page content.
- If you are blogging or creating lots of pages on your website, include a search box to help visitors find information quickly without following a click path to get to it.
- Clarity – Try to remove ambiguity from your website. When information, instructions, or click-paths are not clear, the website visitor has to think too much (remember, you don’t want that…). Create clarity through your use of words, calls-to-action, and organizational structure.
A little warning…
As you plan your first company website or put together a strategy for upgrading your existing one, be really careful about blindly following the latest trends; just because something worked for a big brand (like Apple) does not mean it will work for you. Filter the trends and only implement the ones that will do a good job of serving YOUR website visitors and YOUR business.
Remember the mantra I mentioned before? (Don’t make me think!)
It is your responsibility to do the thinking so your website visitors don’t have to.
I know this is not easy so I’ve put together a free worksheet to guide you through the process. If you are already a newsletter subscriber, you can log into our Customer Center to download the worksheet right away. If not, please subscribe to our newsletter first, then come back here to request access to the Customer Center.
Here are a few additional resources that I’ve found useful:
Web Design for ROI: Turning Browsers into Buyers & Prospects into Leads
Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works
Website Usability Guidelines from the US Dept. of Health & Human Services
NN/g Neilson Norman Group: Evidence Based User Experience Research, Training, & Consulting
Disclaimer: LandlordSource does not represent the article content in this website as legal advice. It is shared information only and up to the reader to use this information responsibly, seeking legal advice as necessary to their business.