All Property Websites Look the Same—And That’s a Good Thing

In the rock-paper-scissors of the World Wide Web, functionality beats design.

Bogdan Odagescu headshotIf you have even the slightest contact with web design and/or UX people, odds are that you tend to hear time and again that all websites on this planet look exactly the same and that easy access to templates has forever ruined originality. If 20 or 30-something web designers are not your crowd, you probably still noticed that online content does have the tendency to, well, be cookie cutter, agencies included.

Not at all coincidentally, multifamily property websites are following the same trend. But this is good for you, whether you are a manager, an owner or a potential resident! Let me explain. One of the biggest challenges when it comes to innovation in the online field is the fact that, in the rock-paper-scissors of the World Wide Web, functionality beats design. The website needs to be easy to use and relatable, and whenever a trick is proven to work, it will be quickly adopted by the large players, becoming part of the norm.

From Greystar to Pinnacle and from Winn Cos. to Alliance Residential, properties managed by big names have a menu bar—usually a horizontal one in desktop format—that includes pretty much the same categories. Each category answers a question that is vital to potential residents: location, on-site amenities and nearby area, floor plans, photos, contact information.

A phone number and a link to the residents’ portal are always easy to find, although not necessarily the first thing you see. And because phone and tablet-friendly websites are a must, the landing page/home page is responsive and scrollable, taking you through a one-minute sales pitch that is way sexier than a slideshow and more efficient than a PDF brochure.

Other heavyweight managers, including Lincoln Property Co. and Equity Apartments, are currently going for a more traditional option, displaying properties within the company’s website and showcasing a sort-of-hybrid between traditional listing websites, hotel portals and good-old Tripadvisor & AirBnb. And the reason they are doing so is the same as for the above recipe: it works for them, just as well as it works for large hospitality conglomerates.

These two general design lines are, at least for now, the best ways to combine functionality, efficiency and search engine optimization when trying to attract new residents. This and, of course, a good mix of high-resolution renderings, cozy on-site photos, nice floor plan sketches and smiling residents. People don’t need to be blown away by the design of your website. Potential residents need something that provides the information that they’re looking for, and makes them want to live there. XYZ Apartments. Welcome home!