There’s no crystal ball here (if you know where to find one, I’m all ears). But I’ve paid close attention to web design and functionality trends this year.
Although not all web trends originated or are heavily used in real estate, there are definitely some that I recommend you take into account when sprucing up your website in 2018.
It shouldn’t be news to anyone that the number of people searching the web on their mobile phone continues to grow.
According to Statista, in 2009 only 0.7 percent of all web pages served were on mobile; fast forward to 2017, and that number is up to 50.3 percent. That’s compared to 35.1 percent in 2015, and 43.6 percent last year.
Folks, this trend clearly isn’t going anywhere.
Mobile is such a dominant force that Google is unleashing mobile-first indexing, a process that it announced in 2016 and is just now getting ready to release.
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What that means is Google will index the mobile version of a site first and use that to serve organic results both on desktop and on mobile.
Essentially, it means having a mobile-responsive website is a must. Forget the days of mobile sites, those are old news. Skip right to the responsive version, which is better for SEO and provides a better user experience.
Be sure that the responsive or mobile version of your site is fully functional.
Think outside the grid
It is definitely time to think outside the grid. In the past, we used a grid for everything! Designers loved snapping everything to it, but those days are gone. The grid was depended on for easy navigation, but the way we use the web has changed.
Although this might be harder to get around if using WordPress or other content management systems, new tools are being introduced to help overcome this shortcoming.
In 2018, we’ll encourage agents to break free from the constraints and design with a greater focus on neutral space and content that flows. This modern design will help users navigate your site and focus on the content that is important.
The best part about breaking the grid is the effect it has on the time spent on a site. A site with more whitespace allows users to easily find information and enhances their ability to read it.
Thus, buyers and sellers will actually want to spend more time on your site and less time on clunkier more dated sites.
Here’s a stellar example of a website that skirts the old-fashioned grid system.
Reduce steps, and keep it simple
With every passing hour, it seems people are becoming more and more accustomed to simple engagement online.
One-stop actions rule all — think liking a photo, swiping left or posting an emotion to a text message. These are quick and effective ways to interact with users on the web.
What is the end result? People are naturally shifting toward a shorter process to interact with any website or online tool.
You can implement this principle on your site, by limiting the information or the process for a form submission on your site. If you can keep visitors on the same page, even better.
The goal is to try not to interrupt the flow. Make sure any interactions that users make with your site are simple — particularly when it comes to exploring properties and contacting you. If something is too difficult, your users will abandon ship.
Make it easy, and keep the process to the smallest steps.
If you haven’t already caught on, users want simple. They don’t want overly convoluted messaging, they don’t want to take needless steps, and they certainly don’t want to click over and over again to get to the information they need. That is where parallax and scroll animations come in.
Make the experience of navigating your website fun and easy. Clicking and waiting for pages to reload is so 2015. Don’t get caught with a website that frustrates users.
Instead, make micro-interactions to help improve the user experience, reduce the number of form submissions and other actions that require several clicks.
It isn’t surprising that chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) are going to play a significant role in the near future. Communicating with bots on your site is going to be expected by visitors.
In fact, AI will be able to have full-on conversations with your visitors that help you capture the lead. For example, bots will be able to scan information and respond to basic questions about a home and even preliminarily schedule home showings.
Chatbots that nurture leads are going to be a game changer not only for agents, but also for visitors.
Visitors will enjoy seamless interactions, and with increasing technology, it will be easier for bots to understand them. This is technology that should definitely be incorporated into your web plans if you want to remain competitive.
Make guests feel safe
Security continues to be at the forefront of our minds and with good reason. It appears that we read on an almost daily basis of sites getting hacked and data falling in to the wrong hands.
Due to amplified concerns over security breaches, clients are less inclined to provide personal information over the web.
Don’t prevent leads from submitting their information simply because they don’t feel safe. Alert guests to the safety measures you are taking and what they can expect when they provide their information.
Google has taken serious measures to ensure that visitors aren’t at risk when surfing the web.
Make sure certificates are up to date, not only to ensure that visitors are interacting with your website, but also to guarantee that Google won’t blacklist you and prevent you from showing up in searches.
Clearly, this list doesn’t cover everything that’s to come for real estate websites in 2018, but these are my top five most important considerations for giving customers the experience they deserve when navigating your site.
Other tips to keep in mind:
- Replace PNGS for SVGS
- Use scroll-triggered animations
- Incorporate big and bright typography
- Use flat design
- Start implementing video-mapping, virtual reality and more
If you are looking to create a new website in 2018, do your homework, and make sure that your investment isn’t going to be outdated any sooner than three years from now.
Future-proofing your website is critical, and this is a great time to do so. Real estate doesn’t have to be boring, so long as you keep your customers happily surfing your site.
Laura Ure is the CEO of Keenability, a marketing agency specializing in lifestyle marketing that targets the affluent buyer. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.