Website design, especially in such a competitive world such as real estate, should never be a static entity. Brokerage websites should act dynamically for the consumer and for the brokerage. In this age of constant updates, brokerages are constantly looking for the best ways to continue to optimize their website and hopefully drive their business and lead generation. That being said, I composed a list of the most popular trends in real estate design in 2013.
- Make it Google-esque: The new trend in many home search sites is that it should be as close to the Google design as possible. This means no clutter, just a search bar along with site navigations at the top. All I continue to hear from brokers and website design teams alike is that “it should be Google-esque.” The trend used to be to have mortgage rates, blogging, recruitment, etc., all on the home page, but now major syndicators like Zillow and realtor.com are becoming Google-esque, which in turn makes brokers want the same thing.
- Responsive design: It is very frustrating when using a tablet or smartphone to toggle between the right and left side of the page. Well, with the ongoing switch to responsive design, sites are now able to adapt to the size of the screen. For developers, responsive design means only having to produce one site instead of having to develop both a mobile site and a main site.
- Transition from Flash to HTML5: More developers are using HTML5 than ever before, and there is an ongoing debate on which method is best. The two major arguments for the transition are: (1) Apple devices are not supported by Flash, which counts for 35 percent of mobile search; and (2) Flash code is compiled, which means search engines cannot spider Flash content, giving the host no SEO benefit, but HTML is seen as plain text.
- Parallax scrolling: Do you remember playing “Super Mario Bros.” and Mario would run through the levels, but the background would just slowly scroll depending on the movement of the character? That is parallax scrolling. Essentially, this scrolling technique consists of background layers moving slower than the front layers. This is beginning to make an appearance in major brokerage sites and website design in general. Typically, websites are laid out like a newspaper, the most important information is “above the fold,” or, in the digital age, “above the scroll.” Now, this basically eliminates that hierarchy where you can scroll down the site, but the most important graphics are still in front of you.
- Moving to open-source blogging platforms: This may seem obvious, but a lot of real estate blogs have either just made the change or are in the process of making the change from a proprietary content management system to a WordPress or Blogger platform. The main reason being that proprietary blogs are a bit closed off, which disengages the user and broker to major networking and SEO opportunities.
Mark Stansbury is the marketing communications specialist for Prudential New Jersey Properties; he manages the social media, blogging, public relations, and advertising for the company.