Real estate home page breakdown:

When you think about real estate brokerage innovation, it’s hard not think about John L. Scott.

This is a company that has consistently adopted technologies and digital marketing tactics well in advance of its peers. They did single property websites before they became hot, then cold; they adopted mapping from the get-go; and I can remember the company’s CEO, Lennox Scott, talking about deploying wi-fi in his offices to an audience of blank stares.

I say this because I am going to point out a few things that could be done better on their website – things that a lot of real estate companies get wrong. I don’t intend to diminish their larger effort by doing so.

It is my hope that that you’ll find this way of looking at a home page helpful and try to apply it to your own site.

It’s by no means comprehensive. When we dig into a client’s site, it takes weeks or months of discovery, information architecture, writing and designing to get it right.

View interactive screenshot

John L Scott home page

  1. 3 things here: First – and this is something that’s very common – “Interactive Map Search” isn’t really telling me, the user, what this is as clearly and explicitly as it should. What this really is “Home Search” or “Property Search”. Call things what they are – always! Second, this heading, and most of the others on the page, are images, not text. This is a big SEO problem. Thirdly, and again related to SEO, “Interactive map search” is surely not one of the top search terms users input to get to this page from Google or Bing. “Home Search” or “Home Search in Washington, Oregon and Idaho” would be better.
  2. This is an unnecessary duplication of the search functionality in the center of the page. This is problematic because it forces the user to process much more than they should when they hit the page – in an area of absolutely core functionality. User attention is a fleeting thing. Demand too much – which is actually quite a little – and you’ll exhaust it.
  3. I, the user, came here looking for an “Agent” or a “Realtor” – I don’t know what “specialists” are. This is an example of internal naming and brand positioning getting lost in translation on a site that should speak in the language of the user.
  4. How many? Always be specific when you can. Numbers and quantified claims go a long way with users who may be wary of real estate generally. Something like “83,672 listings from 433 brokers” would be better here.
  5. Calls to action are better than questions; positives laced with benefits are better than negatives. The user is not exactly enticed to create an account on the site as it stands. Something like: “Create a FREE account – save properties, get alerts and more”
  6. This call to action (or lack of call to action) should be changed. Users aren’t coming here to get a map – they’re coming here to get a look at homes. This button should thus say something like “View properties” – heck, even good old “Search” would be better.
  7. The user sees the John L Scott logo, and they came to the site because of name recall, a company or real estate related search, or off another real estate related site, but one of the most important jobs of a home page is to let people know where they are. In this case, something like “Full-service real estate brokerage in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho” would be helpful. Secondly, there is no positioning or value statement on the page so, in effect, the user is not being told why they should stay on the site or take further action. What differentiates John L. Scott?
  8. Stock photos are by now the opposite of engaging – they are meaningless images that cheapen a site and tie to nothing in particular. It would be much better to tease real listings here to get people into the site.