The Website: Vancouver Island Real Estate
My rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Normally when I see another black Website I say to myself, 'Oh no, not again. Didn't black Websites die in 2003?' John Cooper of Vancouver Island Real Estate pulls it off though and does it with style. John uses a combination of earthy colors, especially a cool lime green that makes the site classy and tells me I'm on an island and he has some nice properties to sell me there. The use of color on a Website can do just as much to narrate a story than the text sometimes and that's what John has done with his Website. I was bought-in to learn more about Vancouver real estate because of how the Website looked for sure.
John created his site using WordPress and customized a nice theme to create it. At first glance not many people would know it was a WordPress site because the assumption is that WordPress is just for blogs. John shows us that WordPress is a CMS (Content Management System) so he can update his site fast and from anywhere, which can be very important in the real estate business as listings come and go and descriptions & prices change. This is a very nice choice indeed which more small businesses should think about. Using the right tools to create your Website will not only reduce your work but will help your site tell the story of what you are about. One of my favorite things about the Vancouver Island Real Estate Website is John himself. The use of his photo as one of the main elements of the site is what I want to see as a visitor. Real people on a Website personalize the experience and add a much higher level of trust, especially when they are photographs of the team or the owners. Using photographs and testimonials of customers will add another layer to this and that would be a great addition to John's site as well.
Not everything was roses on John's site though. The fonts on the site need to be larger and bolder. Great fonts are readable and large enough that visitors see everything easily, especially with contrasting colors. You can use any font you want in WordPress by using the Cufon Plugin or for a normal Website try the Cufon Generator. John also didn't use contact forms on his Contact page or Property Evaluation page. Contact forms will increase leads because visitors do not like to write an entire email about a simple inquiry but will easily fill out a quick form to learn more. John is also overplaying Social Media on his front page. At first it appears as a nifty idea to make his front page content about the real estate listings he is posting on Facebook and Twitter. The problem is John isn't updating or interacting enough with his followers and friends to go this route (I counted only 7 Tweets in the last 30 days & only 11 posts on Facebook in the last 2 months). I would have preferred to see his Feature Listings as his front page content and add another column on the right side of the Website for his Twitter and Facebook feeds.
Another thing I would like to see on John's site is his toll free phone number under his name on the top of every page. Also more space is needed between the left column and the main content of the pages. These areas are very close together and it makes it difficult to read them both if the text looks like its running together. I would also like to see the Resources page linking to the main domain name instead of to a separate Website. This is great content for search engine optimization if kept on the originating Website. I would also get rid of the duplicate Websites that Vancouver Island Real Estate is using right now. http://islandlifestyle.ca/ and http://islandlife.tv/ are the same content on different Websites. Focus on ONE Website and create a Link To Us page and ask your Facebook friends, Twitter followers and customers to link to you. This will go much further in getting better search engine rank than duplicating the same Website over and over again.
Another quick fix that should be a part of every Website is a sitemap. In John's case the link is broken on the bottom of his site and he doesn't have a sitemap now. You can build a quick sitemap for your Website using XML Sitemaps Generator , it creates HTML sitemaps for visitors and also sitemaps for search engines you can upload.
Overall John has done a great job with his Website, you can tell he 'gets it' and with a few more hours of work on the Vancouver Island Real Estate Website it will be a 5 Star Website for sure.
Does your business's Website suck? In future posts, I'll critique more Website designs and offer tips on how to make them better. Submit the url for your company's Website here.