With the new Davidson Homes website being live for over 3 months we thought it would be a good time to recap on the project and discuss how we built the site and some of the challenges we encountered with this large scale WordPress project.
Founded in 2009, Davidson Homes are one of the fastest growing home builders in the Southeast of America, building stunning new homes in Huntsville, Raleigh, Nashville & more.
We partnered with Davidson Homes to re-evaluate their online presence and consult on a better technological solution after their company doubled in size in the past year. Their previous website wasn’t fit for purpose, unable to scale with the companies rapid growth. It was slow, looked visually outdated and the process of adding new properties was inefficient. The marketing team was unable to provide all the information and tools they needed to present to potential home buyers.
They required a new website that automatically pulled in their available homes as soon as they were placed on the market by their sales team. The website also needed to be fully customisable, not only being able to edit all the details on each home (not previously possible) but also customise and build new pages within the website for campaigns or promotional content. Davidson Homes also required a website that was going to aesthetically match their own ambitions and reflect their recent growth.
Understanding a new market
Our first task on the project was to understand how the U.S housing market and real-estate developers operates, in order to provide the best possible user journey for the user. The housing market in the U.S works differently to how it works in the UK, with different terminology and buying processes. As part of our research phase, we put a large amount of effort into understanding exactly how properties are sold in America and how it changes state by state, in order to provide a seamless user journey.
As we’re based either side of the atlantic, we managed the project with weekly Skype calls with the Davidson team to review items that had been completed on a weekly basis and added to the calls third party partners such as IT, Data Feeds and CRM providers.
What’s an MLS anyway?
In the U.S, property listings are controlled through Multi Listing Services (MLS’s). Each US state has its own MLS that looks after all properties for that individual state. Davidson currently sell homes in Alabama, Tennessee and North Carolina. Although it is possible to pull properties into the website using each individual MLS, we chose to filter the three MLS’s through a listings API (provided by SimplyRETS) in order to get all of Davidson Homes’ properties through one single data feed. SimplyRETS combined all three MLS’s into one feed for us allowing for data to be easier managed when importing it into the website.
Using the Simply RETS API we were able to pull properties and store them into our WordPress backend structured in a way bespoke to our client. A module was implemented to look for new properties every two hours and pull them into the CMS – this saves lots of hours of administration for the client as previously this was a manual task.
Once properties are pulled into the CMS we store them all as drafts. This allows the Davidson marketing team to check over each property to make sure they are happy with what’s been populated by the sales agents and pulled into the CMS. The fully editable CMS allowed them to change any information before publishing the property to the front end of the website. Again, something which was difficult in the previous website.
The result left Davidsons with a website that is constantly evolving, where new properties are being synced to the website daily, from multiple MLS’s. As their company grows, the website is scalable to handle an increase in demand, with the integration of the Simply RETS API we also have the capability to easily add new MLS’s to the property feed as Davidson expand into new states.
Building with components
As with all our websites, the Davidson website was built with components. This bank of reusable, drag and drop customisable components allows our clients to build out new pages or edit existing pages with tonnes of flexibility.
The use of ready built components allows for a website to constantly evolve, enhancing how content can be displayed on a page, without the limitiations of locked down page layouts.
Working on the new Davidson Homes website was a great opportunity for the team to expand our knowledge into new markets and for us to work with new and more complex API’s. The feedback for the new website has been positive and in the short time it’s been live, it has already picked up best UI, UX & Innovation awards from CSS Design Awards. Whilst we are continuing to track performance and work on new features, we are already seeing positive results, with +476% average time spent on page, +319% average session duration, -42% average page load time and a -31% reduction in the website bounce rate.