Boydens visit the Site Doctor

What’s in the video?

Homeflow’s Site Doctor has conducted a thorough examination of the Boydens website. In the video he explores what’s fit and healthy, but also identifies a few ailments which could be improved.

In sum:  The current site is solid and clean, with clear usability throughout. Of course there are plenty of ways to improve the entry into the search pathway (see below the video for more links) and notably there are opportunities to target vendors and landlords on that page far more directly. However, the basics are pretty solid already with clear routes to contact the branches etc.  It is worth noting, that this basic solidity comes out in your Benchmarking results too (which is not always the case), so we need to be VERY careful not to throw out baby with bathwater, in terms of the base usability.

In terms of design we explore how you could modernise things; striking photography, more white space, bigger fonts, nicer typography, which would allow your new branding to really sing. Your new colour palette and logo animation will be gifts in this regard too! Clearly as you do this, you’ll address going fully responsive, and we can chat about the difference in quality of building responsive properly (vs the lazy approach of just making a single break point for phones).

Now if it was just about stunning design, then many hospitals (ahem, estate agent web design companies) could help sort out a facelift, as lots of people can build great looking agency sites. But it isn’t just about great design, that’s important, but it’s only half the story, so the site doctor digs deeper into some underlying ailments too…

Further into the video we explore two very important topics: optimisation for speed, and a broken spine for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Both of these issues, which are platform level points, absolutely need to be fixed if you want to meet your stated objective of strongly increasing your lead flow.

So, with that said, you can skip straight to the Doc’s prescription here, or settle in and watch the full consultation.

We hope it proves useful. Enjoy…

The Doctors Orders…

(1)  Design Impact / Homepage

The biggest positive of your site design, in our opinion, is its clarity.  There is very strong branding across the top of the site, clear user accounts, clear routes to contact information, and obvious navigation (all easy enough, apart from the fiddly roll overs)… it’s great, and it packs a really powerful punch.

By the time you freshen this up, with your new branding, the classier colour palette, some striking big scene setting photography, and so forth, you’ll be stunning in no time.  And that sets the right, younger, more dynamic tone you have identified you want to strike.  Easy peasy.

Actually, whilst we don’t mention it in the video specifically, we noted that both your brief, and some of the staff comments, included some thoughts on featured properties on the homepage, this would be a great place to use Implied Search to make sure you are populating those properties with ones that suit the user. This helps you “act like a chameleon” with vendors, if they have a 600k house to sell, you can show them your 500-800k stock, whereas if they have a £90k flat, you can show them similar properties too, based on their site browsing behaviour. Advanced stuff, but it helps you mirror them so they feel at home with you, you become “their kind of agent”. In a world where you are working towards a Superior Homes service, this will really help.

(2)  Response for Mobile

Probably the biggest point for the site is that it isn’t responsive. This is very important and a great opportunity.  We won’t labour this point as that’s half the reason you came to surgery in the first place.  And any redesign will sort this out.  When we chat however, we should absolutely talk about the differences in quality between lazy, single, or double break point responsive, and properly thought through, high quality responsive design with 4 or 5 progressive break points.  All cars have got 4 wheels, not all cars are a Porsche 911.

(3)  The Need for Speed

Here’s the first big diagnosis though, and it’s monumentally important, as important as the design update…

You have a significant issue with your site speed.  When we measured it, the site was clocking in at 56.  See how that stacks up here and here  Well into Google penalty zone.  It may well be a big part of your lack of search engine traffic (evident both in the results, and I’m afraid in your Google Analytics).  When we meet, we should look at this point in your Homeflow Benchmarking results too, as the symptoms are even more striking there.

You should look at this as great news though.  The fix is easy.  A simple dose of MongoDB for ultra results speed, a decent CDN, and much more attention paid to front end coding for caching and speed optimisation, and we’ll have you leaping around like a youngster in no time.  If that’s all mumbo jumbo, don’t worry, we can explain the broad principles, and we don’t expect you to be a heart surgeon.  But it is essential to understand the need for the surgery.

(4a)  Property Search Pathway (& User accounts)

We love the clarity and simplicity of your search results.  Nobody is going to get lost following them.

However, as your own team observed, there are a few ways in which the property search can be improved.  You could open up the entry search (above fold, and on the buying page!), remove the email request, make it work with postcodes, and even more importantly, switch from centre-point and radius to true polygon search.  Once you’ve addressed the basics, you could smooth out the saving to user profiles (lots of nice animation effects are possible here), though we were delighted to seeing you doing accountless save, that’s great.  We couldn’t get map search to work, but note that you are interested in draw-a-search anyway, so you’ll be wanting to integrate that there in the redesign.  It’s worth understanding the different qualities of draw-a-search available if you are considering that.

Alarmingly, a couple of the comments came back saying “why do we need search, all the applicants will be on Rightmove anyway”.  That’s not true.  Clearly the bulk of property search does occur on portals, but you will still find 80% of your (not inconsiderable) traffic is running down this main search pathway.  They enter by seeing boards, or by email alerts, or simply to find out if there is a scrap more information on your own site than the portals (we see this behaviour a lot, and were delighted to see it suggested by one of your staff as a neat idea, let’s work on that).

We particularly loved your “next” and “previous” property presentation.  An example of brilliant, basic, solid usability that you currently enjoy.  However, we’d like to take the concept and make it work much harder for you.  It’s biggest benefit is in reducing your “single page bounce ratio” (the number of people who visit your site, and disappear without digging in deeper).  We’ve tested this mechanism before and after, and can prove it reduces bounce rate on those key pages by 8%.  And we’ve never done it with a presentation as nice as your own, so we’d love to try that.

A few miscellaneous other points:

  • We loved your 1+2 photo presentation, but think there is an opportunity to do even larger photos now (especially if you go for a high quality responsive treatment, rather than a basic one).  You could also include a grid view – that’s definitely a trend these days. Have a look at Seymours or Bond Oxborough Phillips for example.
  • There’s also an opportunity to add in “Infinite Scroll” – have a look at that on the Bond Oxborough Phillips site too.
  • The saved property details are lovely. You do this accountlessly.  However, it’s not obvious where the shortlisted properties have gone (its obvious in the header, but not obvious at the time of saving).

(4b) Property Details Page

This is a nice looking page in general.  You might want to watch the “Perfect Property Details Page” video for some of the points below…

There are a couple of obvious opportunities on your property details page however, notably in its “calls to action”.  Pop on some friendly staff faces (we’re delighted how keen you seem to be on making much more out of the staff pages) and your conversion rate will jump.  Add a direct, exposed on page form, and it will take another big jump forward.  You could also work local area guides into this presentation, and be smarter about similar properties too.  All of which would lead to that all important one more click  – which will increase your conversion rate of enquiries, and encourage longer site journeys.

(5)  Solid social media – opportunities to improve, but not the main game

A quick look at your social media shows it is in good shape.  Well dressed, and alive.  There are opportunities to integrate your social media deep into the fabric of your branch and staff pages.

(6)  Important SEO Points

In the video we look at two of the major types of search traffic volume

• “Estate agent in Colchester (etc)”, and
• “Houses for sale in Colchester”

What we noticed:

  • Then the most important thing we notice, is the URL structures on results pages. They are not clean URLs, and fixing that point would release a huge commercial opportunity for you.
  • Next up, you have two further serious illnesses which will be impacting your SEO health. (This is good news, as it means there are clear places to get additional instructions and widen your patch this year). They are the top level heading (“H1”) page titles (not incorporating the location names).  Worse, there’s no location name in the meta page title, that’s a very important thing to fix too.  You can see the impact of this on search results pages later in the video.  These are essential fixes in our opinion.
  • You could also combine some of the text, eg the results count could be incorporated into a “38 houses for sale in Braintree” combined header, that would simplify and clean up the page, reduce visual elements, and improve SEO all at the same time!

The same is true for branch pages, and other content pages around the site.  But in the interests of time, we’ve only looked at one area.

Indeed we also didn’t talk about location guides.  Something we understand you are keen on.  If you are going to invest in this kind of content (which is great, and will help your SEO no end), then we should chat about how to integrate it properly, so that you flow traffic from results lists pages (where there is lots of visitors) directly into the relevant area guides.  Hopefully you will also want to open up the flow between staff pages, branch pages, and this local content too.  So when on a branch page, you have promo boxes for all the relevant location guides in the same area, and vice versa when on a location area guide, you promote (with branch and staff photos) the relevant offices, team members, and of course properties within that location.  This is doing location guides properly, just adding in a few content pages, would miss 80% of the value.

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