Real estate home page breakdown:

This is the second in our series of posts presenting critiques of real estate brokerage home pages. Our objective is to offer constructive insights on design, usability, content and brand presentation. What you see below is admittedly a quick pass, but we hope you take away a thing or two.

This week we move from big to boutique. Surterre Properties is a small brokerage located in the most upscale areas of Orange County, California. We picked this site from the many submissions we received because it’s pretty darn good.

The design quality is generally good. It’s relatively uncluttered. A clear sense of place is established. And there’s a coherent visual brand expression.

But there’s always room for improvement, right?

We’ve used a cool app called Notable to present our critique. If you click on the “View interactive screenshot” link below you’ll be able to see our notes and the specific location on the page to which they refer.

Would you like your company site critiqued? Shoot us an email to

Surterre Properties (

View interactive screenshotDownload report from Scribd

  1. This is a convention that we would suggest *not* breaking. Most users will expect primary navigation at the top of the page. Moreover, people tend to read web pages like they do a book – they start at the top left and move to the right. Lastly, placing the primary nav in the middle of the home page makes it next to impossible to maintain consistent navigation throughout the site, which always makes things more confusing than they should be.
  2. This is an unconventional brand placement – and one that works here given the unconventional nature of the brand identity itself.
  3. It’s clear that the company is trying to evoke a strong connection to place and an association with the upscale lifestyle it offers. And they largely succeed. However, when the user hits the page it’s a good idea to make it very clear to them where they are and why they should stay. This page is currently missing the mark on that score. Some sort of headline, positioning statement or value proposition should go here.
  4. Form field labels should usually go above the field. This is a small convention that should not be broken. Think about how we read – top down.
  5. Given the relatively small market footprint, offering search by neighborhood or subdivision would likely get more people to what they’re looking for more quickly – always a good thing!
  6. It’s not a good idea to present a choice at this very important point of action. A simple “Show Properties” button would be preferable. In addition, in our experience, many users simply get lost in a map search interface. It’s better to present a “Map view” option on the search results page to accomodate those with the inclination and aptitude to view and refine results in this mode.
  7. Great idea to call out value-priced properties, but it would likely see more clicks with a short description of what, exactly, these are. “The most competitively priced listings, hand-picked by Surterre agents” for example.
  8. Generally not a good idea to call attention to the fact that you don’t have something people are inclined to want.
  9. This is an interesting idea, but it distracts from the most important tool on the page: the property search function. The auto-complete on the form field is a nice touch when entering a property address, but that parameter could be added to the main property search function. A site search function is a good idea on most websites, but in our experience with real estate sites, too many users confuse it for property search and end up lost.
  10. For a real estate site that’s all about selling luxury property, it seems odd that there are not photos or call-outs to some of the gorgeous active listings. People like to click on pictures – particularly great looking homes that are on the market. We’d replace this generic call-out with a filmstrip of active luxury listings in order to get people interacting with the site.