Website Structure Dissection -Part 1: CommonFloor
A makeover is supposed to make things better, not worse. Why, oh why, did the peeps at CommonFloor take the lazy route to personalization? A website that doesn't nurture the user's journey is a waste of space, resources, and audience's attention. If only personalization meant the use of second person in speech! But it doesn't. That is why we had cookies and now have AI. Personalization which isn't authentic, is just another way of 'messing around' with your audience, and asking them 'bounce' off your website!
Enough said. Now let me show you why I've said what I've said. Let's get down to it!
Disclaimer: I like CommonFloor and am a member of the CommonFloor Groups. This post is meant to be taken as constructive feedback. If there are errors in my observations, kindly feel free to share your feedback and help me improve!
Alright, then. Let's get cracking!
Primary Products: Real estate listings + Groups
Audience: Property buyers + Property sellers + Tenants + Landlords + Agents + Residents
I'm not sure if there is a preference for a certain audience segment, but for this exercise let's consider them to be at par.
Above the fold:
Top left corner:
There’s the logo and the company name. That’s expected. The three bars on the far left are puzzling. Has the logo been redesigned? Nope. That's a menu! That's not a great placement for a menu IMHO.
Top right corner:
What’s the ‘gear’ symbol for? A click revealed an offer for brokers. Where did that come from? How is a gear supposed to be related to brokers? Isn’t it widely used for the ‘settings’ section?
Next to the ‘gear’ symbol is ‘Log In’, and next to that at the far right is the Post Property button. I’m okay with the last two: 'Log In' for the returning customers and 'Post Property' for prospective/new customers.
An understandable effort towards monetization. However, it rotates a bit too fast. Five seconds for each menu item would have been okay had the visuals been singular. However, some of the items have up to 3-4 video snippets. So the end result is cluttered and chaotic. A viewer would feel rushed and confused, and we don’t want that, do we?
Next: Under the Banner & Beyond
“Hand picked projects for you”
Thanisandra? Really? Why? I haven’t searched for anything in or around Thanisandra in my entire life. I logged into my account to see of the suggestions would change. But they didn’t. Thanisandra -1. Cookies - 0. Artificial Intelligence – 0. Clearly, this is is a monetization effort. Or just plain bad AI that’s providing wrong conclusions on the basis of my search history.
Quick-fix? Just say ‘featured projects’ and lose the ‘you’ until you fix the algorithm. The 'Sponsored Projects' in the older version was honest at least!
Below the fold:
“Collections for you”
This is interesting. I’m immediately drawn to kids-friendly homes and nature homes. The selections seem limited until I realize that they’ve listed only new, and not existing projects.
As a home buyer or a prospective tenant, I would be interested in both. At the end of the day, all that matters is a good deal!
I come away feeling disappointed.
By the way, why can’t a home be budget + kid-friendly + nature? Why do these categories have to be mutually exclusive?
Next: Top Developers & Featured Agents
So, why are the developers listed in this section described as ‘top’? Is this on the basis of a survey? Is this the result of some awards? Or is it an opinion of somebody in the editorial team? Or is this again a stab at monetization? Either way, guys, if you expect your audience to believe you and take the next crucial step which is to contact the builder, tell them why they should believe you.
Okaaay. So they’ve just been featured. No harm done. But if this section is purely “pay and get featured” kind of section, I don’t understand why, as a customer, I should be interested.
Next: 3D Viewing
This has serious potential. However, the website lists only over 2000 properties for Bengaluru. Moreover, these 3D views must be complemented by similar views of the project exterior. That’s when people will probably feel comfortable going ahead with a deal without even visiting the project!
Next: Data Block & CF App
A data block that lists the number of properties listed since the inception of CF, properties listed in the last 24 hours, and the number of sellers contacted in the last 24 hours. Okay. This helps reinforce trust in the platform. You know what would be more effective? Data from third party (Ex: Google) on the number of hits on Commonfloor vs other property websites.
This is about the Commonfloor app. Okay. Yawn. Next?
Next: Top Localities & Real Estate Guide
So, they’ve listed three localities – Indiranagar,Koramangala, and Whitefield, and rated them. First, everybody knows these are ‘posh’ localities. But ‘top’? As per what aspect? IMHO Basavanagudi and Jayanagar would be ‘top’ for culture and heritage. Peenya, Bommasandra, and Jigani would be some of the ‘top’ industrial areas (Bengaluru is not just about IT!). HSR & Koramangala would be ‘top’ for startups. And Koramangala and Indiranagar would be ‘top’ for party-life.
So, who exactly are you addressing when you say that these localities are the ‘top’ localities? How does this section help a home buyer?
Real Estate Guide
This is useful.But why just one functional video? Create one on RERA instead of just creating a text based blog post.
Next: Recently Added Properties, CF Forum (LOL Alert!), & CF Groups
Recently added properties:
How does it help with personalization? Why the hell would any average home buyer be interested in recently added properties, when the concern is to get a specific type of property in a particular locality, and within a specific budget? This would make sense if this is personalized using AI. What the hell, I’ll embrace the notifications on recently added properties that fit my search criteria. But pan Bengaluru? No, thank you very much! Is the target audience Agents? Not sure how that would work.
Humour alert! I clicked in this box and it took me to a page where one Mr VK Chinhdolia has advertised for “love problem solution babaji”. In fact, the first page in this forum has nothing related to real estate. Hello… Is nobody monitoring the posts?
I believe this is one of the biggest products of CF. Why has been relegated to the deep end of the Home page? If the target audience of CF is 1) Property Buyers 2) Property Sellers 3) Landlords 4) Renters 5) Residents
The fifth group has been allocated just a tiny fraction of the Home page. Why this discrimination? I’m sure that CommonFloor Groups is chargeable.
Next: Da Vinci Awards & Disclaimer
Da Vinci Awards 2017
This is interesting! But when was this held? A google search threw up results from one that JLL holds. Ahem. Visitors would love to know more about these awards – the criteria, the selection methods, and the complete list of winners with detailed scores. This would help multiply the trust factor. Move it up the page!
The Mega Factor: Search
A website's success depends upon how well it aids its visitors' search for information. There are four modes of seeking information. Donna Spencer has done a wonderful job defining them. Let's see whether the CommonFloor website deliver against these requisitions to redeem itself.
- Known item – Check. I would have liked Search to be at the top of the page. It’s intuitive. That’s how most websites are built. You come to expect the search box at the top right corner or the top middle space. But That’s okay. I understand that it would have been impossible to fit all the fields (Rent/buy | BHK \ Budget etc.) to fit in that space.
- Exploratory – Nope. The personalization game is way off the mark. As a visitor I was annoyed rather than aided in my search by almost all the sections under the Banner (Collections, Top Builders, Hand-picked projects etc).
- Don’t know what you need to know – Nope. This can be achieved only by studying each individual visitor's data and making intelligent conjectures about their requirements; such as a launch offer for those sitting on the fence, maybe?
- Re-finding – Nope. I couldn't see my search history.
Conclusion: Potential squandered in the rush for monetization
Your website's Home page is your elevator pitch to your target audience. Whatever you show and tell must address your audience's requirements. Have several audience segments? Allocate space accordingly! Each and every word should be directed to a specific segment to move them further ahead in their customer journey. Lazy personalization tactics, such as the usage of second person in speech to draw the audience's attention to something you wish your audience to see, can be disastrous. If you are promising that something is "for you", it better be for me! Otherwise, the end customer experience is that of disappointment.
I've covered only the Home page in this post. Anything more than this is better suited for a discussion with stick-on notes, plenty of color pens, and coffee!