Top Real Estate Websites: Howard Homes Chicago

Co-founder Kim Howard explains how a slick, modern design and easy navigation boost the user experience on the site.

In today’s digital world, having a functional website is essential for real estate businesses. However, simply purchasing a domain and sharing content is not always enough to generate results. It is important to create a carefully branded and dynamic experience that is easy for potential clients to navigate.

One business that excels in this practice is Howard Homes Chicago. With a slick, modern aesthetic and easy navigation, prospective clients can quickly and easily find the information they seek while genuinely enjoying their time on the site.

ESTATENVY connected with co-founder Kim Howard to gain insight into the qualities necessary for a strong real estate website.

Who designed your website?

Me, myself and I. It took a lot of time and effort, but with my marketing background, I was confident I could do it. It just took more time than a professional would have probably.

What tips do you have for beginners creating a real estate website?

Think through who your audience is, and what you want to portray to them. Also, make it informational because today consumers are expecting to do a lot of navigating on their own. We are in a self-service world so the more useful information you can have, the better.

What is the main goal of your website?

The goal of our website is to be a resource for our clients and also for them to get to know us–the real estate business is personal and we wanted to make sure it had a personal and welcoming feel!

Why do you think your website stands out from the pack?

We have a clean, modern aesthetic, and also we do not have search functions on our website. I think in today's consumer world that clients have enough places to search for properties that we wanted our website to be an information hub and personal, but also a place to share our client stories and videos–which more of are coming soon!

Evolving with the consumer is key in any successful business, and we recognize that our website needed to be more than a search function because our clients have literally hundreds of websites to do that and practically speaking they are going to come to our website to learn about us and our company, not to search for real estate usually.

How did you decide on the balance between photography and content?

Content is key for any website, but in today's day and age you really can't just have a plain-jane website and expect the traffic to flow in. Instagram, Facebook, and all of the other websites that rely on visuals have created a world where you not only have to be smart with content but also have to be attractive to the eye. We wanted our content to shine, so there's not a lot of clutter on our website, and we kept it clean, but our photography is also simple and clean in nature and is a good blend.

I've seen websites that are much "busier" than ours that look and feel amazing too, it just takes proper planning and keeping in mind that you also have to be practical and easy to use. The worst websites are the ones where you have to scroll all over the page to try and find the one thing you're looking for. Looks matter, but functionality is also something that needs to be considered or you will lose your consumer as soon as they come to your website.

What are the 3-5 key elements that must be included on a real estate website?

1) Information should be in the form of useful content, whether that be a process overview, step-by-step guide, or market statistics.

2) Have a personality and voice. Know your target audience and what you want them to get out of your website. If you serve luxury clients, you should make sure your website has a luxury feel. If you're focusing on a specific area of your market, you should highlight that in all of the visuals and content, etc.

3) It should be visually appealing. People WILL 'judge a book by its cover" so to speak and if your website doesn't look professional but also have relevant content and information, this could be a first impression that loses them immediately. Clients search online first and will most likely see your website before they even reach out or speak to you personally.

4) Make sure it is easy to navigate. Don't be one of those people that makes clients look all over for the one piece of information they want to find. Have your contact information front-and-center, too.

What is the biggest challenge you faced when creating your website?

The time spent on it, and also making sure it got across the key messages of our business brand. I want potential clients to feel like they know us and trust our expertise after visiting our website, and I feel we accomplished that but it took many revisions and critically thinking through all of the details. An ongoing challenge is adding up-to-date and relevant content - that is something that takes true dedication, time and also creativity.