Some tips and tricks for your next website redesign

I make mistekes all the time. In fact I like to tell my boss “All the mistakes I made today were to learn.” 3 years ago I was asked to redesign our website. If my boss was to ask me to grade the end result, I would say a B. If you cornered me alone I would probably say B- or C+ depending on my mood. Don’t misunderstand, the site IS effective and overall I feel that it’s a good one (You be the judge by visiting) but maybe because I was so involved in the whole process I am more judgmental. There are things I love about it and there are things I wish I had done differently. Lately with all of the new technologies and the growth (more like explosion) of social media my redesign itch has become more and more prevalent. Here are some key things I’d like to implement on our next website redesign:

The website’s template colors do NOT have to match the logo.

We have a dark logo. (Dark green and burgundy). We added some light brown colors for contrast but darker colors make the site feel claustrophobic. Sites today seem to be going with the lighter colors; white, lighter yellows, greens and browns. The new site will use a lighter palette thus making the site feel more comfortable. Bottom line is it’s important to pick the right colors because they can really shape how someone feels about your brand. Check out this great article: Empathizing Color Psychology in Web Design

Outsource.

Whether you outsource to multiple design teams (SEO experts, graphic experts, social integration) or a single shop; make sure you outsource. We are Property Management experts. (okay maybe not all of you) I am an IT guy and I program our internal applications but that doesn’t mean that I have all of the know how necessary to create a Webby Award masterpiece. (Trust me I don’t) Take your time and shop around; make sure you start looking within your own industry. Hire the experts who know your business.

Better Integration with Facebook and Twitter.

Years ago we weren’t talking social. Most people in here never even lifted their heads above their cubicles. Now we NEED the Twitter feeds, Facebook like buttons, and latest Facebook status updates. I’ll be the first to admit it; I didn’t see this coming 3 years ago but I feel it’s a requirement to have now especially if you’re selling something. It brings your web presence full circle, encourages conversations and can increase your page views. Plus .. it’s FREE!

Blogging.

Blogging can keep people on your site longer, can make you seem like a big player in your industry (even if you aren’t… seriously folks I speak from experience here), and it’s a good way to get people to come back. Our next site will have wordpress installed and ready to go.

Reviews / Comments.

It would be awesome to pull up a property page and allow the prospect to write comments or leave a review. I mean why give all the reviews to Google or apartmentratings.com? By providing your own you can help with your SEO and empower your prospects or residents to converse about your brand. Win, win. In addition because you are creating this section on your own website, you can choose to remove those grammatical train wrecks without having to pay a yearly fee.

I’ll pay more attention to Search Engine Optimization.

I’m not a SEO expert. I know that I need better keywords. Setting up your links like Baltimore-Apartments/AmericanaSouthdale.html works very well. Blogging and putting up relevant content will also help with your search engine placement. Do you want to learn more about SEO and how to do it? Here’s a great how-to right here. Don’t want to read about it? Outsource. But I already said that.

Personalize the experience.

This is something that Amazon does very well. I want to allow my prospects to register (but don’t have to) where they can receive personalized service when they visit again. “Hello Mr. So-and-so I see you searched for a 2 bedroom yesterday @ Neverland Apartments… are you still interested in that?” or show communities on their main page that offer the price range they are looking for. In addition we’ll capture their email address if they register so we have an outlet to contact them. It isn’t cheap (or easy) to implement but it can sure heighten the interest in your apartments if you’re tailoring the content for their specific needs.

Happy renting everyone.

Thanks to Tiger Color and BlogSpot for the images.

About the author

bsitko
  • Nice post and really in tune with how things are evolving quickly when it comes to website design and its optimization. You do need to count the costs but my feelings lean towards the push pull phenomenon. Budgets can’t change much and there is very little cash sitting around to experiment for many so that means you need to pull something that is not working so well and push something that statistically for others is working well but needs to be molded to fit your model.

    Careful analytics of where your leases come can help but also moving with trends like you mentioned in the social world is important to.

  • This list is my order but certainly that will be different for everyone. What is most important to you and what are you willing to spend the money on? I want the personalized the most but I also know that as far as costs go it will be the most expensive.

    Thanks for the comments Jonathan. You rock.

  • All great points, Bill. Besides the design, I’d also add that not all content management systems will be able to deliver what you need. It’s really tough working with clients who have invested thousands in proprietary systems that don’t allow much in the way of flexibility. To your point about permalinks and SEO, some CMSs can do that stuff for you out of the box. Others can’t. You won’t know unless you take the time to educate yourself and ask the questions of your website team. If you’re going to outsource (a good choice), make sure someone else can support the site if you ever decide to break ties with the designer/programmer/agency you select.

    The other thing I’d add for the multifamily industry in particular is to know how you want the website to work with your property management software, screening tools, payment processing and any other third-party programs that will need to integrate into the site … not everyone or every site can work with Yardi or a MITS feed. Again, asking more and better questions will produce better results.

    Have you considered any kind of social sign-on features to take care of the social and personalized features in one fell swoop? Keep up the great conversation.

  • Thanks for commenting Mike. As you know CMSs out of the box are never a sure fit. Ask several PM companies how they do something and you’ll get several different answers. We have always taken a more hands on approach here (alright more of a we can do it on our own for much less). For us it is never a matter of finding the right team to support it because … we have done the supporting ourself. For our next site I want to break away from that. Leave a lot of the decisions up to the experts. The site I envision is too complicated for one mind to comprehend. (my little itty bitty one)

    Website to work with the property management system. Boy is that a loaded one. We use Jenark in house which I’ve customized heavily to fit our needs (web). Integration IS easier because of it. Jenark MITS compliant? HA don’t be ridiculous. The ultimate would be to build a content system that is PM software independent and can be dropped in to work with any system. I’m probably dreaming some there though.

    I always forget about that social sign-on features. I have not worked with any integrations in that regard but would be interested to see the back end processes.

    I love conversation … let’s continue….

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