Websites are an integral part to home building businesses, and, like most modern-day technology, they are ever evolving. From responsive designs to pop-up widgets to online buying capabilities, builder websites in particular have come a long way in the past few years, as more companies revamp their sites to not only be attractive and informative, but also include functional features that can lead to higher conversions.
At the 2022 National Association of Home Builder’s The Nationals award ceremony, AR Homes—founded in 1978 by award-winning home builder Arthur Rutenberg—received a Gold Award for Best Website for a Builder.
Headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, AR Homes is a network of custom home builders with over 40 independently owned and operated franchises located in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
The builder’s new website launched in March 2021 and offers detailed builder profiles and enhanced navigation and functionality. To find out more, BUILDER spoke with Jim Rosewater, CEO at AR Homes, about the process, important goals and features, and tips for a successful website redesign. See his responses below.
BUILDER: Tell us a little about AR Homes and why the company was interested in a new website?
Rosewater: In 1978, Arthur Rutenberg launched the custom home franchising model, the first of its kind in the industry. With his innovation and ideals, Rutenberg became the largest franchise network of custom home builders in the country. This also led to his induction into the National Housing Hall of Fame, among many more incredible career milestones.
Today, his innovation serves as the foundation of our company, and we honor Art’s legacy with a continued focus on customer experience. We strive to bring new innovative home designs to life with the finest materials, craftsmanship, and techniques available, treating each client’s vision as our ultimate inspiration.
To create and foster a culture of innovation, we repositioned the brand identity toward a modernization that better aligned with our customers, technologies, and reputation for quality.
Once the rebrand was complete, we worked to redesign the website to better represent the brand direction, reflect the innovation-focused design, and highlight features unique to AR Homes. The new website design now represents the elevated look and tone of the AR Homes brand through our focus on features, imagery, and high-end photography.
BUILDER: What were the main goals for AR Homes’ new website?
Rosewater: We focused on improving our overall site performance by driving new website traffic to all of our builders and generating new web leads. Now, each builder has their own site within the AR Homes’ website allowing customers to meet their local builder, hear their stories, see their expertise, and learn more about their personal approach to building luxury, custom homes.
BUILDER: When designing a new website, where should builders start?
Rosewater: Before starting any large-scale project, it is important to start with clear objectives, define the scope of the project, and agree on goals for success. All too often builders design a website simply to deliver information, but a website should do more than that. Your website is critical in running a successful company, it should generate new web traffic, increase web leads and sales conversions, and tell your brand story in a compelling way.
BUILDER: In your opinion or through your research, what are the most important aspects to a builder’s website?
Rosewater: Builders must be able to understand their customers and communicate directly to them through the website and digital marketing to achieve business goals. Through research, we discovered that enhancing the user experience with an emphasis on imagery of the model homes, displays of plans, and a location-based search function were all instrumental to the customer journey. After implementing these changes, clients feel empowered and informed before their first meeting with AR Homes and its network of builders.
BUILDER: Did you design the website to be more desktop or handheld device friendly? How do you navigate that?
Rosewater: In today’s times, it is crucial to have responsive design that looks visually appealing for mobile, desktops, and tablets. We found that much of our website traffic is split between mobile and desktop users, and we wanted to ensure a seamless experience viewing our plans and imagery regardless of how our customers are connecting with us.
BUILDER: What data or feedback have you received so far on its performance? Does the company intend to improve anything?
Rosewater: The results of the increased web traffic and longer time spent on the site led to higher conversions and web leads for our builders in each of their respective markets. The engagement signals customers are enjoying the new site, more engaged with the enhanced flow, and are connecting to builders as a more qualified lead.
We are always optimizing the website to create positive customer experiences, implementing new best practices, editing our SEO keyword search, and updating with new technology and offerings. We consistently analyze the overall performance of the websites and use data to enhance the site to produce the highest quality customer journey for our clients.
BUILDER: What advice or tips do you have for other builders interested in redesigning their websites?
Rosewater: If we could offer four tips for those embarking on creating a new website, we would say:
- Focus on the user experience and customer journey;
- Utilize surveys, research, and A/B testing to guide your decisions;
- Continuously optimize your site to support your business goals and give customers a reason to engage; and
- Track all metrics and analyze the data to update the site accordingly.