And before anyone gets twisted out of shape and thinks I’m just dissing someone’s site, keep this in mind…
One can learn by watching the good things other people do. But you can also learn by observing what not to do.
This particular site is not alone, there are countless examples just like it scattered all across the Internet. LOTS of real estate practitioners have web sites. There are many brilliant sites out there, and many that are not-so-swift. Be brilliant.
What were the three glaring errors I saw?
Three Common Real Estate Website / Blog Mistakes
1) Poor spelling / typos:
Watch me write, and you will swiftly see that I can’t spell nor type worth a flip. Fortunately we have the spell checker. No, you should not be a slave to your spell checker. After all, this passes a spell check with flying colors:
Eye wood like two bee leave that spell Czech pro grams are perfect. Butt the fact is their knot. Ewe kneed to bee care full.
Yeah, that’s an extreme example, but you get the idea. Don’t just rely on spell checkers, but use them in conjunction with common sense and proofreading.
The glaring error on the site in question? They had “Search the MSL” in their menu. That should, of course, read “Search the MLS”.
2) Not updating your site:
I am a bit of a news junkie. So when I arrive at a site I tend to click on things that say, “NEWS”. Doing that on this broker’s site takes you to a page with one “news” story. It’s a story about how younger generations are buying more houses. The first sentence ends with mentioning a “Homeownership in America Study” that was published by a large national real estate brokerage – in 2006.
2006? Uhm, we are less than a week away from 2011…
Four to five year old content and sources do not qualify as “news”.
Another example in the same site was a contest. Contests are a great idea to attract attention and traffic. But this is not the correct way to do that:
. . . results will be posted by August 5, 2009. Entries must be received by May 30, 2011 . . .
So results will be posted some 19 months before entries must be received???
If you can’t commit to keeping up a news section on your site, if you can’t put correct dates in a contest announcement, then don’t do it. Far (FAR) better to have nothing than to have five year old sources or utterly incomprehensible dates / instructions in your copy. This, along with typos, screams “I PAY NO ATTENTION TO DETAIL!” Is that really the message you want to send to current and potential clients?
Pay attention. People notice stuff like this.
3) Go easy on the fonts, colors and various text enhancements:
Every single word of text on this web site was bolded. Every. Single. One. There was also black text, red text and gold (?) text – on the same page. In fact, there was black and red text, underlined in gold – in the same sentence. There were font changes within the same paragraphs.
Granted I am no expert in typography, but I know an almost impossible page to read when I see one.
I have also seen people that center everything.
Which is incredibly annoying.
And difficult to read.
Please, left justify your text.
When it comes to typography, the simpler the better. Pick one color and one font (and not some fancy font!) Be consistent. The occasional bold or italics is fine, it’s a great way to emphasize something. Underlining on web copy is generally a bad idea – people will think it’s a link. For the love of all things holy, please don’t bold every word on your site. Why in the world do you want to make your site difficult to read?
You don’t have to be an expert in design (clearly I am not). Less is more. White space is your friend. Use common sense. It is very easy to get blinded by what is happening on pages you build for your site. Find a neutral third party and ask them, “How does this look?” Can’t find a neutral third party? Try this…
Take your laptop to Starbucks. Pull up your site. When someone walks in say, “Hey, I just did a little re-design on my web site. If you’ll take 10 seconds to look at it and give me your honest opinion, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee.” People (well, most people) like to be nice, so it won’t be hard to find someone to help. Due to their niceness, they may say, “looks great!” Dig a little, ask them specifics like, “how are the colors”, “do you think it’s easy to read”, “what is your first reaction/impression”, “what do you notice first”? Heck, say, “we’ll never see each other again, so if it sucks, just say so.” You don’t want them spending a lot of time on this. They don’t want to spend a lot of time. You are looking for a quick, first impression.
Because first impressions count.