Design your site for your users and not your ego. Lets face it, most users landing on a real estate site are most interested in searching for properties not whether you are a GRI, CRS, CRE, ABR, SRES, etc…. I think you get the point.

I re-designed my site back at the end of 2008. The goal was to give the user more what they wanted and easy for them to get there. If you do that your conversions will drastically increase!! My old sites home page and main area landing pages had several call to actions links like: MLS Search, etc… to get the user to the property search page.  They actually converted alright, but there was definitely a lot of room for improvement.

adrhiOn the new site we placed the Property Search on the Home and Area pages above the fold. It is easy to use and gets the users quickly to search results. We also started pulling in the newest listings on the area pages so the user could also see they were listings to view in that area (kind of like an example). That also helped with new fresh content.  Another important change was the new contact and sign up forms. We made them pop up in light boxes instead bouncing them to a different page to make it less confusing and a better user experience. All these changes made a huge difference in conversions, bounce rates, pages views per user and actual time spent on the site.  It also increased our returning visitors substantially.

Below are some stats from our analytics comparing them before and after.

Here are some of the old sites bounce rates:
Oahu – 28%, Kauai – 37%, Maui – 31% & Big Island – 30% with an average of 31.5% of all the area pages.

Here are the new websites bounce rates:
Oahu – 15%, Kauai – 13%, Maui 18% & Big Island – 20% with an average of 16.5%. That is a 50% decrease in the actual bounce rate.

Here are some other interesting numbers to look at as well:
The home page also saw a decrease of about 30% in its bounce rate.  Our sign ups went up by 50% mainly because of the way we started doing our sign up forms. The average page views saw a 33% increase and went up to 10.5 page views per user from 7 page views per user.  We also even saw a huge increase on the average time spent on the site from 3:30 minutes to over 6:30 minutes per user.

The next big feature we have been working on is our interactive map search. The goal here is the same. Give the user what they are looking for plus make it simple and easy to use. We think it is very important for the user to be able to scan results and also see the properties on the map. We also think it is a better user experience if the user doesn’t get bounced from page to page and not know how to get back. That is why we display the properties on the left side and the map on the right plus we Ajax in the properties were the map is for the user. They can then page from property to property and easily get back to the map. You can check the beta map search out by doing an advanced search here. Choose your area and then click on map search.

Maybe next time we can discuss ways to improve conversions by using a good lead manager (CRM) and also what you are sending the user as far as email updates.
Map - Lead Manager
I would love to hear how you have been able to improve your bounce rates, page views per user and most important, your conversions into real business 🙂

FYI: We also did the same thing on this San Diego real estate site and the sign ups went up over 400%. The site design and usability does make a difference no matter what market you are in. For those of you that say your market is unique 😉