I know this is going to step on some toes, but it is amazing to me that when real estate agents are setting up their web sites in a template, they insist on putting in every menu item conceivable including "the kitchen sink", somehow thinking that "more is better". Oh, I understand template providers (like Advanced Access, Point2Agent, etc.) come up with every kind of content they can think of to offer their template subscribers. They do this so that their clients have a vast array of choices to consider selecting to fill in the web site pages without the agent having to do anything but "pick this and select that". But it reminds me of going to a cafeteria (which I use to love going to as a kid). I could put 4 different desserts on my tray (if my parents weren't looking) because there were so many to pick from. "I'll have one of those mortgage calculators, please." "Oh, the 7 Buying Tips look lovely! I'll have one of those too." Ha!
These template providers don't necessarily seem to advise their real estate clients to stick to the KISS principle. So these agent sites all end up with outrageous menus with 25 to 50 (yes... I have seen 50) buttons going down the left hand menu (some requiring a scrolling page of their own since they are so long) together with the cookie-cutter template content. For example, go to www.dchomes.com (I hope Andy doesn't think I am picking on him). Only 10 navigation links on the Home page. Not so bad. But once you click an item and go inside, the visitor is faced with a daunting 39 menu choices. Wow!
Does having all of those really work or does it merely confuse your visitors? Since many of you are playing "web designer", think about this -
Digital Web Magazine in Sept. 2004 wrote about Cognitive load and the rule of seven (or how many is too many)
Published in psychology journals in 1956, the rule of "7 plus or minus 2" states that people can easily process between five and nine pieces of information at a time. Think about the magical number 7. What about the 7 wonders of the world, the 7 seas, the 7 deadly sins, the 7 daughters of Atlas in the Pleiades, the 7 ages of man, the 7 levels of hell, the 7 primary colors, the 7 notes of the musical scale, and the 7 days of the week? And probably some of you real estate agents were taught to never show more than 7 homes at one time to your buyers.
A counter to this is made by James Kalbach in his article, The Myth of "Seven, Plus or Minus 2, where he writes, "Generally, the key to navigation design is a balance between breadth and depth with a clear presentation of navigation. Don't avoid broader structures to arbitrarily conform to the 7±2 guideline or to accommodate a pure design aesthetic. But also don't confuse users with information overload: Present only what is truly necessary for your primary target groups in the most understandable fashion within an attractive design."
So when creating your navigation, think about limiting the number of choices to between 5 and 9. It's not always possible, but it can help to have a reasonable number of choices at each level in your navigation. You'll have to carefully balance putting a limited set of choices with making too many levels and depth to your site.
Do you really need that "Testimonials" page? Most visitors don't really believe them anyway... since you are never going to put up the bad ones. ;-)
"I would never use him again. He almost financially ruined us at the closing!"
Bob and Mary
"He listed our house and gave us lousy service. We never got it sold! We wouldn't recommend him to anyone."
Tom and Sally
If you are going to show testimonials, maybe it is better to sprinkle them in on more appropriate pages like your "Helping Buyers" page or "Helping Sellers" page where they will have a greater impact. And on those pages, you can tell them more about yourself and how you can help them to buy their next home or sell their present house - which is really what the consumer is more concerned with anyway, rather than "I have been a Gazillion Dollar Producer for the past 15 years...". They only really care about what you can do for them tomorrow, not what you did yesterday. See, we have eliminated the "About Me" page and button as well as the "Testimonials" page and button already. 2 down, more to go!
You really don't need all of that extraneous content like "Lenders", "Mortgage Calculator", etc. to make a favorable impression on your visitor. Probably 97 out of 100 visitors are just going to go to "Properties" or "Search MLS" to surf through homes for sale. A succesful real estate web site isn't about just having tons of content requiring a vast array of buttons. You don't need to offer 5 main entrees, 4 types of rolls and 6 dessert choices. It is about having well-optimized content... and that is a completely different topic for another post.
When building your site or updating it, see how you can slim down the navigation menu to more managable choices for your visitors. They will find your site easy to use and far more useful. This usually translates into more inquiries for you.