Imagine you are on a work trip and rent a car. It's got all kinds of awesome features. The sound system is great and it easily syncs up with your phone. The car has semi-autonomous steering. It has advanced collision warning systems and can detect large animals coming onto the road.
There's just one problem: The car doesn't have an engine.
User experience (UX) on apartment websites isn't about bells and whistles.
This is similar to what we still sometimes see on apartment websites. The websites look awesome. They have cool video effects. The community looks contemporary. It will definitely wow visitors.
Unfortunately, the site is almost impossible to use well because the navigation menus are hard to find, the community phone number is nowhere to be found, and there isn't any floorplan-specific information on the website.
Here's the problem: Bells and whistles are great. They're fun. They're easy to talk about. They're great selling points. But at bottom, apartment websites, like your rental car, have a single non-negotiable purpose: Helping you lease apartments. If you have a really cool website but actual apartment shoppers are not able to use it to find the information they care about when making a leasing decision, then your website is like the souped up rental car that's missing an engine. It does all kinds of really cool things—just not the one big basic thing you need it to do.
There are three main user experience areas we need to talk about with apartment websites.
Website Design and Functionality
The first heading we need to consider is also the most obvious: Does the website actually work and can people navigate it? This covers questions like:
- Does the site load quickly?
- Is the menu navigation easy to read and find on the page?
- Does the site work on mobile devices?
- Is the font easy to read?
You might call these pre-marketing kind of questions. People will not be more likely to lease apartments based on the answer to these questions, but they may be dramatically less likely to rent based on the answers. Put another way, a fast-loading site does not at all guarantee someone will lease your apartment. A slow-leading site will, however, make it less likely that they will lease. Why? Because it is entirely possible that your community is a great fit for them, but if the site doesn't load they'll never find out because they'll close the tab, move on to the next property, and never think about you again. So this is a baseline that doesn't positively guarantee you any signed leases, but if you can't clear it then it will cost you leases.
What are people looking for when they come to your apartment website? They're looking for a place to live. Cool skyline photos and neat video effects on the homepage might help convince them that you are the right place for them. You're projecting an image of being cool, modern, trendy, etc. and that may well be what they are looking for. But the image you project is only going to sell them if they also like the underlying product—the actual apartment they'd be leasing. And if they can't learn about the apartment on your website, then the cool image doesn't do you a ton of good.
Effective apartment websites help potential residents learn about their apartment. There are a variety of ways you can do this:
- List rent prices.
- List square footage, amenity information, etc.
- Show photos of each individual floorplan.
- Show video tour of each individual floorplan.
Finally, it is important to list relevant amenity information on a clearly labeled page. Avoid using ambiguous labels like "Living" or "Lifestyle." Simply label the amenities page "Amenities."
Also: You absolutely must include your community's pet policy. Studies have shown that prospective residents prefer ads that state the pet policy because whether or not your community accepts pets is frequently a deciding factor in whether or not they will rent with you.
If someone comes to your website to learn about your community and they're able to find everything they're looking for, you've given them a superior user experience. And given the paucity of solid websites in the multifamily industry that design with UX in mind, you'll create some delighted web visitors who convert into leases.