Website Design: Intelligent Content Integration
April 26, 2011
introducing a new weekly feature – Tech Tuesday. Every Tuesday we will publish an article th at looks at what technology can do to help a business, from the latest in computing news to using social media effectively.
Following on from last week’s article on Cloud Computing, this week Young London’s webmaster talks us through the core reasons for implementing a complete re-design of the site and the process of doing so.
As webmaster at Young London, I have recently implemented a complete re-design of our website.
There were two core reasons for doing so, one being that the old site was being asked to do things that had not been considered when it was created 3 years ago – and the strain on
the back-end was starting to show.
The second reason was that a lot of additional content on the site was being missed by site visitors. Since its original launch, a lot of content has been created for the Young London site to provide prospective tenants with a variety of information.
This includes area guides with local information, like local authority contact details and recommendations of things to in the areas we cover. All of which, for the most part, was being missed by the majority of site visitors – and that needed to change.
The core functionality of our website is to display available properties, but the second thing uppermost in my mind was to make the added value content more obvious to site visitors – to make the different aspects of the site talk to each other.
To solve this problem, I asked myself: ‘what do people come to the site for?’ – a fairly obvious question, with a fairly obvious answer – ‘to look for somewhere to live’. Therefore I knew that anything else I wanted to show them in terms of additional content would have to show up while they were trying to do that; by incorporating information into the property pages that they do look at, but without detracting from the usual particulars / photos / descriptions / maps that they rightly expect to find on a property description page.
I categorise our previously (mostly) undiscovered additional content into two sections – our area guides with local information, and our downloadable guides which include viewing checklists and information about tenancy deposit schemes (to name just 2).
I incorporated this additional information in a tabbed description box underneath a slide show of images from the property the visitor is looking at, allowing relevant information to appear “above the fold” with the description and additional content neatly tucked beneath. The downloadable guides are also in the tabs, and early indications show that downloads are running at 10 times the previous rate.
The redesign was an opportunity to have a new look at how the user interface worked.
The first thing I did was to change our emphasis from search to browse, as
search gives you no clue about what is available on the site.
For sites such as Right Move this is not a problem as they will have all combinations of postcode and property types available – but for Young London, who do not usually have more than 50 properties available at any one time, you could spend hours searching for postcodes or property sizes that are currently not available.
In light of this, I added a clickable property map and the option to filter results by postcode or number of bedrooms, increased the number of properties shown on the browse page to all of them and controversially removed the search option.
The reason for removing search was that on a site such as Young London’s it actually acts as more of a barrier to content than a useful way to find it.
A bounce rate is the measurement of the number of people who leave the site without clicking on anything or viewing any pages other than the one they arrived on.
So far our bounce rates are running at 50% higher than before the redesign. This is traditionally seen as bad, and taken to mean that your site is failing your visitors. However I would say that in this case the opposite is true.
The traffic to our site has not dramatically changed over night, the type and range of properties available has not dramatically changed over night, but most tellingly of all – enquiry levels have increased. This suggests that instead of failing our visitors, the high bounce rate means that visitors find out earlier that we do not have a property to suit them. Those that are ‘bouncing’ off would not have been making enquiries previously (they’d have just not been counted as ‘bouncing’ because they’d have taken a few clicks to find out there was nothing that suited their requirements), so the challenge is now to tighten the off-site advertising to better filter out the bouncers before they get to the site – and because the bounce rate now gives us a more meaningful statistic, we’re better armed to do that.
A few tweaks have been made since the site’s launch. After the first day I noticed that people were not using the map on the rental home page, so I changed its zoom level to show more of London and people started clicking on it.
Nobody was using the option to filter the properties by postcode either, so that has now been removed and replaced by a box showing featured properties.
The site is going well, but as always you can’t get everything right before launch. Tweaking will continue until we are satisfied that visitors to the site are seeing the information they want and need to find.
Like any good website should be, this is a constant work in progress, being analysed, adapted and tweaked to how visitors are interacting with it. Feel free to take a look at www.younglondon.co.uk and let me know what you think. I’m always really interested to know what other people think, whether you’re a web-geek like me or a house-hunter, it’s feedback that makes the world go round.
Why not leave me a quick comment below…