The secrets of the lone broker website to nab 2015 ‘Webby’ honoree status. Houlihan Lawrence’s clean, image-forward design and innovative search experience contributed to recognition.
By: Paul Hagey
Houlihan Lawrence, the large real estate brokerage based in New York, overhauled its website last May with a focus on bringing images front and center and offering consumers a streamlined search experience.
The tweaks helped it become the sole brokerage site of the 13 websites recognized by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences for its 19th annual Webby Awards — a leading award for “excellence on the Internet” — in the real estate website category.
Webby Award spokeswoman Denise Roman declined to share how many firms submitted their websites for consideration in the real estate website category, but she said the group received a total of 13,000 submissions across all categories.
Although it’s not clear just how many real estate sites the 1,200-agent firm competed against for the honor, it shares a nomination with tech heavyweight Zillow and startup Revaluate, so it’s in good company, and a look at its site may offer some brokerages ideas for how to spruce up their own.
Houlihan Lawrence’s head of digital, Anne Marie Gianutsos, attributes the Webby honor to the screen-filling design of the firm’s new site, especially the heavy investment it makes in custom HD videos for its most photogenic listings.
Each Houlihan Lawrence listing video varies, but they all have a storyline tailored to the home itself and sometimes feature hired actors or interviews with the home sellers, who share what they love about their house, Gianutsos told Inman. The brokerage uses video production company PlatinumHD to produce all of its listing videos, she said.
Whether they have video or not, all listings feature large photos that dominate the property detail pages, made more prominent by the site’s design, especially its clean, white background.
As with many websites nowadays, the site features a mobile-responsive design that highlights one of its standout features: search.
When homebuyers select a property from the site’s list-based search results page to get more info, the listing simply expands on the page, streamlining the home search process by eliminating the need to open up a new page for each property a user wants to explore.
For its map-based search, Houlihan Lawrence built custom icons to delineate between land, homes and units in buildings for sale, and made visualizing the listings easy by grouping listings into bunches when the zoom level doesn’t accommodate easy viewing of all properties, a feature that several real estate search leaders (like Redfin and Zillow) incorporate.
One thing that may not have affected its Webby Award nod but has been nonetheless significant for the firm was the addition of social media-sharing buttons for Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus on the property detail pages of all the listings on the site, Gianutsos said.
Adding those buttons to the site, along with a new social media ambassador program, helped Facebook supplant Trulia as the top source of lead generation traffic after organic search and direct site visits for the firm, Gianutsos said. The program put one person in each of the brokerage’s 30 offices in charge of hyping the brand on its official social media channels in its local market, she said.
Houlihan Lawrence’s site is one of eight real estate-related “honorees,” a new Webby Award designation this year that honors the top 20 percent of the sites submitted for consideration in each category. Consumers will vote a winner from this group.
A different set of five real estate sites make up the Webby Award real estate website category’s crème, known as “nominees,” which include Zillow, home remodeling site Porch, and rentals sites Lovely, Rent.com and Nooklyn. Webby Award judges will choose a winner from this set.