July 23, 2014

Critiquing CRE Websites

Everybody’s a critic, right?   So just for fun, I decided to take a look at the major CRE brokerage sites. And I’ve got some expertise to do it thanks to a degree in information management that included courses in website architecture.

Okay…you don’t need “higher education” to know whether a website is good or not, but there’s more to it than just aesthetics and even content.  A site can look great and have terrific content but if you can’t find anything, it’s an architectural problem.  For all the sites, I performed what I believe to be common visitor tasks:

  • Find an office
  • Download research
  • Search for properties
  • Find out about a service offering (I chose investment…)

Since this would be a very long post on its own, I’m going to break it up into 4 posts.  And since I don’t want the suspense to kill anyone, I’ll be posting them 4 days in a row.

CBRE

Find an Office – 3 clicks
No locations link on menu.  Tried “Our People”.  No good.  Finally saw offices map. Select country, city… On the office page, there are links to find people and search properties, I (wrongly) assume, for the office page I’m on.  Instead, I’m brought to the generic people search page and have to fill out everything.

Download Research -  1 (5) clicks to download link
Clicking on “global research and consulting” link brought me to a page with the most current reports. Viewing did not require any sign-in/registration (good) and clicking on document links brought up the PDF doc to open or save (also good).  But it took 5 clicks to get to a list of US reports…

Search for Properties – 3 to filter page

  • Find a Property link easy to find on main menu.  It brought me to a map on which I had to choose a location.  Then it sent me to new tab (why?) where I had to select by type of space (sale, lease, small space…).  Oddly, BIG image next to space type wasn’t linked…had to click on inline text “search now.”
  • Some of the types (small space and investment listings) require sign up.  Investment okay.  But small space users?

Find out about investment services/offerings – 1 click

  • Clicked on “investment management” though I wasn’t quite sure if that was right.  Appears to be correct and page contains some news and a report, but there’s nothing here about services offered to investors – just a link to log in to an existing account.  Then I realize I’m on an entirely new site with new menu items…
  • Decided to find an investment professional.  Clicked on contact link and of course, I have to go through the whole select your office thing again.
  • Under North America there are 4 related services.  What is “Strategic Partners?”  Clicked…and finally, the contact info.
  • Have no idea what “strategic partner services” are.  Couldn’t find a link with that name in the investment management section.  Used the search tool.  Got an error.  Oh well…
  • Can’t figure out how to get back to the main site.  Finally find a link at the bottom of the page.

Overall
Basic navigation is good, but some of the menu/sub-menu item names are dense/have no idea what they mean and are inconsistent across the site (Global is “home” in the breadcrumb menu…Home is used elsewhere, for example).  And putting important navigation items like office locations off of the main menu isn’t a good idea.  You can repeat these items in the body of the page, but people always look at them menu first, so that’s where they should be.

Number of clicks for each task is acceptable considering the scope of the site but there are a few instances where number of clicks could be reduced – like the US report list.

Also there are “mini-sites” for many of the services and pages that open in new tabs.  I know CRE specialty groups like to have their own site, but they are very confusing to the user especially when the branding and menu are noticeably different and the way to get back to the main site is not evident.  If anything should open in a new tab, it should be “associated” sites so visitors could easily go back or refer to the main site.

Comments

  1. One of my favorite subjects. Since we have to visit each and every website of every single member that joins our site, we have seen all of the large company websites and many of the single broker websites. The large company websites are by far the most difficult to find people. Many just make you go through too many clicks to find a colleague. However my biggest pet peeve of any issue is the lack of social media icons on the main page. If I want to find a Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin or Google+ site, forget about it. They are far and few between. It is very painful to really connect with any cre firms today, let alone their people via the websites. The smaller firms are more nimble and quicker to adapt, of course, so those firms generally are more likely to have those URL links in an easy to find location. When we want to reach people today, social media is by far the most effective method, over any other form of outreach, through a corporate website! That is just us, but I would imagine that will get more and more common as we evolve to using today’s virtual business networking tools!

    Thanks, Chris, much appreciated post!

    Linda

  2. Just my opinion, but many companies convinced themselves to spend a lot of money on inflexible websites a few years back and refuse to update them to make them easier, nor did they design for ease of use. Just a guess, but executives will spend more time on what their lobby furniture looks like, or their office exterior, rather than critiquing the main portal to their company.

    What I find most interesting is that many focus on website development, and then totally forget people need to find you. I did a quick search for CBRE (staying on this theme), and can’t find them easily, unless I get very specific. They are not on Google’s page 1 of searches.

    In my opinion, if you did nothing else but have a good landing page, or home page, with contact information right up front, and are found by Google on page 1, you are way ahead. Content is nice, but SEO is critical and should be the top priority.

  3. This is a great post.

    Just a couple of thoughts on peoples responses.

    Linda, I agree at this day in age if you aren’t social you are behind. But if there isn’t a social strategy behind what your doing then the point of being social is missed. Social media to me gives people or businesses a voice to engage others, generate business. To just have a Facebook page or twitter profile without a strategy behind it just means your another number or twitter follower. And then time spent doesn’t equate to dollars made.

    Gary, Here is a link from Forbes that you might find interesting and I think is on point. At least as far as the not to distant future goes. Basically, the top minds in SEO are saying that SEO is dead. That the way to truly make your way to the top is to be an influencer to create content. And Google is doing what they can to make this happen by introducing new algorithms that measure content rather then the number of sites your linked to or key words you might be using.

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenkrogue/2012/07/20/the-death-of-seo-the-rise-of-social-pr-and-real-content/

    • Hi Jared,

      How are you doing? You have to call me or let me know when we can chat to catch up!! Hope all is going well for you. As far as strategy, I do see that as the painful part for most folks. I am finding myself coaching and demonstrating to people what this is all about. I tell them over and over, it is not magical or mystical, it is just another form of communication. Do not panic, do not feel threatened, just communicate with people. For me it is an evolving technology that gives us more touch points. Be yourself and respond to people. That is how I look at it. Marketing changes every single day and has in my lifetime. This is nothing new to us. There are new techniques to reaching people and technologies. It is just that, new and people panic with anything new!

      Thanks,
      Linda

  4. Jared
    Totally agree with your SEO point. It is no longer about Meta Tags, Keywords, etc. Content is key. Links still help though for now. So do videos (on YouTube, owned by Google), heck, even Google +1 links on a page help. Every little bit helps…I hope…

    My point is that large companies often spend much on a website, but they don’t get found by Google (forget about the rest). The CBRE example is just one of many. A lot of bits and bytes are being wasted while languishing on page 5 of a Google search….

    And yes, SEO as we know it now may be dead in two years. But it was not long ago that SEO was a new term, so changing the formula is not surprising. Good article. As usual, content will be king….

  5. Some great comments here… I hope people are reading!

    • More importantly, doing something about it! Good luck with that! Gary is always teasing me about theBrokerList because we cannot even get people to add a website link to a profile. We see so many on Linkedin with no URL links or any real way to get in touch. Transparency is NOT alive and well and finding people is really painful. I am amazed every single day when folks join our site and leave all of these blanks AND use free email accounts with no domain name as a clue! I am not sure if they do not know what a URL is exactly or if they just do not know what their URL is? I think you are inspiring me to write a blog post called:

      “URL” what on earth does it mean to my business?

      Thanks!!!

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