In this video, Guest Vlogger, Meredith Oliver, “busts” Myth #1 wide open: Websites can be beautiful or functional but they can’t be both.
Hey there Kimberly, Meredith here. Thank you so much for the opportunity to contribute to your blog. I really appreciate the invitation, and I’m happy to do it. You’ve been so gracious to contribute several articles to our blog, so I’m happy to be here with your group and your audience. For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Meredith Oliver. I love new home sales and marketing. I have for the past 18 years. Clearly, I started when I was 5 years old, right? I am the President and Chief Digital Strategist of Meredith Communications. We are a full-service digital marketing agency that specializes in homebuilder marketing. I have written a couple of books on the subject because I can’t stand to stop talking, and what better way to record all your thoughts, then to get them on paper.
This year at the (International) Builders’ Show (IBS), I presented Fact or Fiction: 5 Digital Marketing Myths Busted. We are going to take the first myth today and talk about how this is really not true. The first one is, “websites can be beautiful or functional but they can’t be both.” That is absolutely a myth because we have to strive for both beautiful and functional whether you’re a builder or an associate member. We’ll take our builder members as the example here, and the truth is, you must have a stunning visual website. You’ve got to position your homes in their best possible light with exquisite kitchen photos, breathtaking owner suites, and really unique and inspiring exteriors. All these things are really important, so you can’t spend too much money photographing your homes, doing the video, doing virtual tours; all the ways we show-don’t tell our online audience about the quality of what we build. That is incredibly important, but at the same time, if they can’t find a home within one click from your homepage, and it takes too long to get to your communities, or to get to your portfolio, or to look and find an available quick move in home, then, “Forget it. I’m out!” At least 60% of your traffic is viewing your website on a mobile device, and they are so quick when they’re on a mobile device – text messages are coming in, Facebook notifications are coming in, phone calls are coming in. All these things are happening and distract us from what we’re looking at, so you only have a short window. We have to make sure people can find us. The problem is, if we load up our website with too much, it can get really cluttered and crowded. Then the whole message is lost. Whew, this is exhausting, right? So, how do we balance it?
Well, we don’t do this. (Image of the extremely cluttered homepage). Whoa! What is happening here? I put in a Google Search for the world’s worst websites, and this screenshot came up. Here’s the good news, your website screenshot did not come up when I Googled the world’s worst websites, so that’s awesome. But on a serious note, this guy has a lot of navigation here. A lot of ways to find a car…I guess…I’m so confused here, I don’t know what we’re doing here, but who wants to? This doesn’t exactly inspire me. It doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence in his business, so this isn’t it.
Let me give you a couple of examples. (Image of the clean and sleek home page.) This is the New Home Company, and they were, are you ready for this? The Gold Award Winner at this year’s Nationals. What are the Nationals, you say? I’m glad you asked. The Nationals is an awards program through the National Sales and Marketing Council (NSMC) which is part of the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB). So those of you who are local members to your local HBA (Home Builders Association), you can also be a member of our National Sales and Marketing Council within the National Association of Homebuilders. The National Sales and Marketing Council puts on the Nationals every year at the Builders’ show. It is the Oscar Awards. It is the Emmy’s. It is the Grammy’s. It is the top-level awards in Sales and Marketing in our industry, and this website right here won the best website. I’ve had the good fortune to chair this event and be one of the judges, and I know how competitive it is. In any one category, there could be 50, 60, 75 entries. So, however many entries there were this year for best builder website, this one took the gold. That’s pretty cool. Google the New Home Company and take a look at this. This is just a screenshot, so it’s not even really going to do it justice, but what I loved about it, and what the judges probably love is that it’s functional and beautiful. What I mean is we have a giant orange button right here (prominent menu selection highlighted well)” Find Your New Home”. That draws your eye, and you can very quickly get to one of their communities, floorplans or inventory homes. But it’s also beautiful in that we have a huge hero image. (Smiling mother in the kitchen lifting child overhead while gazing lovingly at her.) This image here (referencing screenshot of New Home Company homepage) is called the hero image. This huge hero image with this aww, touchy/feely mom/daughter lifestyle is situated in the product that’s actually being built, so it feels very relevant to the website. There’s a nice tagline, you can scroll down, and there’s a lot more functionality that continues down this page. This is a great example – clean, crisp, attractive; it gives you the feels, yet I can find a new home right here (pointing to the orange highlighted menu button “Find Your New Home”.) Love it!
Here’s my next one (screenshot of another homepage.) This is Ashton Woods. You are probably familiar with Ashton Woods Homes, the national builder. They were one of the Silver finalists in the same category. In each category, there will be one Gold winner and usually, 4 to 5 Silvers depending on how many Silvers the judges want to award in that category. This is one of the Silver finalists. Out of the dozens, and dozens and dozens of entries, a Silver is something to really be proud of. What I like about this one (referencing homepage screenshot) is how clean it is. When you pull it up for yourself full screen, you are going to see that it is just crisp and clean. (Meredith explains about some wording missing from the screenshot due to the animated title captured while it was still appearing on the screen.) What I like about it, not only am I getting a nice big hero image (inviting modern kitchen) of their home that’s just beautiful, I can choose “Find Your Home” (pointing to the prominent menu item) really quickly. I can choose “Market Selection” (menu item to select metro area) really quickly to get to a market and further drill down. Right here in the middle of the hero image, I’ve got a nice big “Quick Search” tool to get me to a market page.
I do understand if you are a national builder, you may not be able to get to a home from your home page in one click; you have to get to a market first, but once I’m on a market page, it is game on, people! Game on!
I want to encourage you to figure out how you can get people to your information faster and better in fewer clicks, while at the same time maintaining a modern web design which means clean, uncluttered and crisp.
Here’s the last example (screenshot of the third builder homepage.) This is a website we have in development right now. It’s not live. It’s not completed. This is just our homepage comp that we’re working through. This is Brighton Homes out of Boise, Idaho. They are going to do a nice big hero image like this (industrial modern kitchen). This is their recent Parade of Homes kitchen from their Parade of Homes entry. We are just going to float the logo and the navigation right on it because frankly, there is just no need for more web design, but yet, this “Find Your Home” will be a series of dropdown menus that will include a list of where you can get to communities in one click. You can get to available homes. You can get to the list of available homes organized by community and price point in one click. In this drop-down menu, there will be a home designs page where you can see all the home designs on one page. This is another example of getting people where they need to go quickly and easily without sacrificing really beautiful work that portrays your homes in the light that they should be.
Our Giphy bird (animated image with bird shaking head no repeatedly) says, “ No, you do not have to sacrifice beauty for functionality, and you do not have to sacrifice functionality for beauty!” We can bust that myth wide open.
Again, Kimberly, thank you so much for having me. I am happy to contribute to your blog. If you’ve got questions or comments on this topic or want some advice or need help, everybody can get me at Meredith@CreatingWow.com. Thanks guys. I look forward to seeing you at the next Builders Show, and maybe you’ll be the Gold Award Winner for Best Homebuilder Website. Wouldn’t that be amazing and FANtastic? See you soon!
Meredith Oliver, MIRM, CSP is a sales and marketing strategist, professional speaker, and author. She is the co-founder and chief marketing strategist of Meredith Communications, a digital marketing agency in Raleigh, NC. Meredith holds a Masters Degree in Communication Technology and is the author of three books, Click Power, FANtastic Marketing, and FANtastic Selling. She is a CSP (Certified Speaking Professional®), the highest designation conferred by the National Speakers Association. She has spoken to audiences from 10 to 2,000 at prestigious trade shows and conferences such as The International Builders’ Show, National Auto Dealers Annual Conference and Expo, MozCon, High Five Conference, and Volkswagen National After Sales Conference. You can learn more about her at MeredithCommunications.com, follow her digital marketing blog on Twitter @MeredithCSP and her fabulous high-heel shoe collection on Instagram @MeredithsShoes22. Additional Social Media Site Links: LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/mereditholiver | Facebook https://www.facebook.com/meredith.oliver