A commercial real estate website cannot succeed with a compelling design or thought-provoking content alone. It needs to a have a style that feeds into your website’s user-experience, have functionality, and be easy-to-understand in a glance.
Beauty is in the eye of the mouse-holder! Different people prefer different styles and color schemes, but there are a few guidelines you should follow when deciding on an overall theme for your website. Honestly, most commercial real estate websites are hideous and horrible to navigate. If you put even a small percentage of thought into these guidelines, your website will out-perform top-industry competitors.
1) Minimalistic home page. In my opinion, people try to cram way too much onto a homepage. Visitors spend the least amount of time on this page – 4x less than your content pages (source) – so don’t go crazy with information. Ensure people can figure out exactly what you do with a glance. Use large headings like “Commercial Real Estate Brokerage” and smaller headings with basic services “Buy, Sell, Lease Commercial Real Estate”.
While the slider or “hero” image can be a cool animation, try not to get too fancy with fly-ins, animated text, and obnoxious flipping or color changing. Be subtle with your animations. The goal is to attract attention, not blind your visitors.
2) Design with a visual hierarchy. Have you noticed most websites use a block-like design? There are two reasons for that. #1, Responsive (mobile & tablet) design requires the ability to take those rectangles and stack them. #2, Visual hierarchy allows you to tell a story in chunks. The different background colors and large header texts allow us to easily skim for the pieces of information we need, skipping the non-relevant content.
The use of sectioning your content in these rectangle formations will allow your visitor to find what they’re looking for fast, and easily.
3) Easy to read website. Over the years us website designers have incorporated larger text than before. This is for readability – visitors will stick around longer if it’s easy to understand. Consistency is key, your brand identity shouldn’t change for your website. Even your company has an obnoxiously bright color-scheme, it can be paired with white, grays, and black to modernize and even out the tones. When using background images, ensure you can just as easily read the text on a desktop and mobile. Some adjustments may need to be made before background images are perfect!
4) Easy to navigate. Never send visitors on a wild goose hunt. Keep the menu simple and easy to understand. Link your home page to the logo or an item “home” on your menu. People will return to your home page if they get lost – give them an easy way to do this. Ensure your mobile and tablet navigation is as easy as the desktop version. These can be overlooked, but when 52% of traffic comes from mobile devices, reviewing this is a top-priority.
5) Responsive design. When 52% of website traffic comes from mobile devices, responsiveness cannot be ignored! Be sure to put yourself in the position of the user and try your website on different devices. Borrow your friend’s Kindle, your kid’s iPad, and run online testers like Quirktools.