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Thoughts on Site Design

a good thinking place

I’ve been doing some thinking recently, going through some of my favorite techno-geek/online persuasion books in preparation for my talk over at REBarCamp in New York next week.  And I’ve also been in an extended conversation with a friend about a new site design.  So all these things have been sort of swirling around in my head for a while, and a couple things finally came together into salient thoughts.

First:

Instead of approaching design from the content perspective – I want a buyer section, a seller section, and About Tucson section, and a place for market reports – I think, first, we have to decide who the site is for, and what they want and need to see in order to be persuaded and assisted.  We need to approach design by defining our audience first, before coding a single tag or picking a theme.  And when we know who we’re talking to, then we know what kind of content to put on there, and in what place and presentation. 

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Second:

We need to know what parts of our site drive our business.  The parts that make people email or call you or otherwise start them down the path to becoming your client.  If we have a site for our business, we’re trying to persuade someone to do something, no?  Otherwise, we’re talking about Chick-fil-a.  Which also has a place.  But it doesn’t necessarily drive my business.  Do we really know what parts or our site are succeeding and failing?  How do we know where to spend our time and energy – in terms of improving our sites – if we don’t know which parts work and which don’t?

And that’s what’s been in my head recently.  Now – how do I figure that out and apply it in the new year? 

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Written By

Kelley Koehler, aka the Housechick, is usually found focused on her Tucson, Arizona, real estate business. You may also find her on Twitter, where she doubles as a super hero, at Social Media Training Camp, where she trains and coaches people on how to integrate social media into successful business practices, or at KelleyKoehler.com, a collection of all things housechick-ish. Despite her engineering background, Kelley enjoys translating complex technical concepts into understandable and clear ideas that are practical and useful to the striving real estate agent.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Kristal Kraft

    January 1, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Google analytics is the answer, but you already know that.

  2. Bob

    January 1, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Kristal’s site is an example of site architecture done right.

  3. Monika

    January 1, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    I love Kristal’s site. I know what you’re going through trying to figure the what and where of a site design. We just re-did mine and I’m still messing with the layout. But it is fun!

  4. Teri L

    January 1, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Oh Housechick. I’m stuck in the quagmire about this issue.

    Give me a push. How do you track, how do you interpret the data? Start at the beginning, and don’t leave anything out.

    Oh. Well, maybe not all in one comment… 🙂

  5. Missy Caulk

    January 1, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Good question, I use different things to see what is driving traffic, just added a new feature with Altos Market Reports for people to come back on a weekly basis as they update automatically. It has not been tested yet for me but others who use them say their site stat’s say they come.
    So we will see.

  6. Bob

    January 1, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    How do we know where to spend our time and energy – in terms of improving our sites – if we don’t know which parts work and which don’t?

    That starts with knowing the goal. Is it traffic or conversion? If conversion – then buyers or sellers?

  7. Maureen Francis

    January 2, 2009 at 8:33 am

    I have been pondering the same questions the last few days (and years) and was hoping you were about to spoon feed me the answers. Help I need them quickly.

    Yes, I love Kristal’s site too. We can aspire.

  8. Chuck G

    January 2, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Hi Kelley,

    I’m really glad you brought this topic up, and I’ll apologize in advance for the loooong reply.

    I came to real estate via the technology world, having spent 20 years in technology sales prior to hitting the fork in the road that would take me down this path.

    One company I used to work for spent a ton of money surveying users on how to make their corporate website better. The results of this survey were pretty astounding, if for no other reasons than their simplicity:

    1.) Have what the site visitors are looking for.
    2.) Make it easy for them to find.

    (Note that the STYLE or look of the website was never mentioned.) Duh, right? Well, I think many of us are still missing the boat on one or both of these as we structure our blogs.

    Let’s look at both, and how they relate to RE blogs.

    1.) What are our clients looking for in our blogs? How do we know? We need THEIR feedback. The biggest tip I ever received on this topic was from Reggie at MTO, who turned me on to Crazy Egg. This is a neat little click-tracking software layer that tells you what’s getting clicked … and what’s NOT. After I started tracking clicks, I was amazed at how off-base my assumptions were.

    Example: I post sold data every week for my farm, which is not difficult to do but it’s very time consuming. I almost stopped doing it because of this reason, and I thought nobody was reading it. WRONG — the software showed me that these are the most highly read posts on my site. Ooops.

    Another way to get feedback is to look at which topics get the most replies. Also, ask your clients in person what they like best about your site. People LOVE giving their opinion, yet we rarely ask.

    2.) Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for. This one poses the biggest challenge IMO. The aforementioned survey we did also yielded this gem on advice:

    If users can’t get what they want within 2-3 mouse clicks, the vast majority will LEAVE YOUR SITE and look elsewhere. Ouch. If they found you via Google, it’s only two clicks on the BACK button and they’re looking at your competitors site. How do our blogs stack up in this manner?

    Example: MLS Searches. First, I applaud those who have incorporated MLS into their blogs. PEOPLE ARE THERE TO LOOK FOR HOMES, RIGHT?? But guess what? Many of the MLS modules we’re using are the biggest violators of this rule.

    Try it yourself — see how many clicks it takes to bring up all of the homes for sale in your farm. If it’s more than 2 or 3, you’re in BIG trouble. A good iDX solution can do this in 1 click — how slick is that??

    A final observation (if I haven’t already put you to sleep.) Blogs are like fishing nets. They wider we cast, the more we catch. Translated: The more people that know we buy and sell RE, the better. So neighborhood info is still vital, and the magic of Google will bring you readers you NEVER imagined you’d get. I just picked up a client who read one of my posts on schools. They would have likely never found me otherwise.

    So keep writing about Chick-Fil-A!!

    Best,

    CG

  9. Chelle

    January 2, 2009 at 9:54 am

    There’s two things that could help with that – search phrase traffic (google analytics or gostats are both free and give decent stats) and another thing that might help you is a heat map of your site. (Just google “heat map for website” – lots of options!)

    That way, you’ll know exactly who’s coming, and where/what they’re clicking on before you launch a redesign.

    Good luck!

  10. Kelley Koehler

    January 2, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Hi Chuck – Don’t think I’ve heard from you before. I like you already. 🙂 Love CrazyEgg. And since you brought it up, my husband has been designing my IDX stuff for years, we’re finally reselling it to others. Homes in one click? Oh yes.

    Teri – you gotta go back to step one. What’s the goal? Who are you trying to reach, and what would they like to see and do on your site? People relocating to the area want information differently and in a different order than those already living there and just down/upsizing. Once I know what I’m trying to do, I can figure out how to measure it, see if it’s working or not, with my analytics and with some testing.

    Maureen – hello blog redesign winner! Methinks you’re getting some assistance soon! My advice is to know who you’re targeting and with what kind of information going in. Pretty and colorful is fun, but fun isn’t always effective.

  11. Chuck G

    January 3, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Hey Kelley,

    I’d be very interested to see what kind of iDX solutions your husband is offering to the market (do you have a reciprocal agreement with REIL in the Bay Area?) I use Diverse Solutions, which I think is best of the many that I evaluated….but like any other tool, there’s PLENTY of room for improvement even with their solution.

    All the best in ’09!

    Chuck

  12. Jack Leblond

    January 5, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Here’s article from one of my favorite AG authors (OK, it’s me) about how to track where people go on your web site and some tips on what to do with that information.

    https://agentgenius.com/?p=8427

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