5 Easy Steps to Improve the Usability of Real Estate Websites

Know Your Audience!

Time and again, I tell all my clients that they must identify and understand their audience. This particularly true with websites.

Play to Your Audience!

Someone who maintains a website for a toy company in the Netherlands told me that any website designed for kids in his country, must make use of extensive animations and graphics otherwise they hold no hope of getting a piece of the market. Yet, in Greece, many there have slow computers and Internet connections and those same websites would probably fail.

Here in the US, we have something in between. While many have the latest computers and high-speed connections, others have average equipment and the more economical, but terribly slow, dial up access.

Newbies & Silver Surfers, Are They Your Audience?

As a group, the most overlooked Internet audiences are new computer users and silver surfers (those over 55 years old).

They Have Buying Power!

Silver surfers, many of whom are also true newbies, are among the fastest increasing group of Internet users right now. They typically have more time to surf the Internet and have more disposable income. They are doing more of their retirement home shopping on the Internet. The numbers are going up every year and the trend will only continue.

You May Be Losing Them!

Why then, do so many Realtors who hope to attract retirees and silver surfers fail to make websites that target them? Oh, sure they have pictures of happy, smiling, gray-haired people enjoying the communities they serve; but they often have websites that are not designed for new users.

5 Easy Steps to Greater Usability

Beginning with only implementing the five changes listed below, your website can become a friendlier place for silver surfers and newbies of all ages.

  1. Don’t disable the back button! 
    What do you suspect the first thing someone who is new to computers will do? This gotcha only frustrates and angers; it never instills trust. I’ve watched several silver surfers approach this by simply closing the window. Think they’ll ever come back or set up an appointment?
  2. Don’t require them to give their name, address and phone number just to view your listings.
    Silver surfers are more apt to be home during the day. That availability also means that they probably get more telemarketing calls than people like you and I do. The silver surfer in my home, when met with a registration requirement will quickly leave a site and never return. They loathe the idea of being added to yet another target call list.

    Visit my article Restricting Access to Core Content to see more reasons why this tactic could be hurting your site.

  3. Particularly if you cater to retirees, do not create a website that uses itty-bitty teeny tiny print.
    They can’t read it! And even if they can, they probably won’t find your site worth the effort. Remember websites are not measured in column inches – use the space on the screen; don’t try to scrunch it all into an inch-by-inch spot. That said, be mindful of bifocals. Long lines of text can be problematic with bifocals; make the page longer rather than wider.
  4. Create pages that can be printed easily. 
    Trust me, they do not want to save your menus, logos, or contact forms; they want to print your community and listing information.

    I wasted so much time cutting and pasting listing information to create printed sheets for my Mom when she purchased her last home. We went into Realtor’s offices armed with those sheets and prepared to request viewings of those properties. Every agent questioned where the sheets had come from, knowing instantly that their site hadn’t printed like that. Had my mother not had me to do that for her, she may have never asked to view the properties in question.

    If you are maintaining your own site, please visit my other website, HelpForWebBeginners.com and read How to Create an external stylesheet for printing to learn how to make your pages print better.

  5. Even newbies will notice when you take shortcuts. 
    I have seen so many websites where the agent provides links to a myriad of other websites rather than take the time to include some original content about the community. I am always amazed at how frequently agents invite that shiny new prospect to leave their websites. Would you send them across town to get information once they are in your office?