At Home Apartments (AHA), one of Minnesota’s preeminent property management and development companies, first approached DB Marketing in early 2021 for help in improving the performance and usability of its existing corporate website. They sought to make it easier for prospective renters to find apartments within AHA’s impressive portfolio of more than 4,500 apartment homes.
DBMK was able to help them achieve their short-term objectives, but both AHA and DBMK were aware that the website would benefit from a more substantial overhaul. In mid-2021, AHA invested in a refresh of their corporate branding and messaging. Soon, the time was right to start imagining and building a fresh new website to match.
PROJECT GOALS, SCOPE & TIMING
The goals for the website project focused on incorporating the brand refresh and adding search and navigation functionality to further improve the user experience for potential renters, thereby further improving performance. The massive effort – encompassing not only a multi-page corporate website but also 70+ individual AHA community pages – kicked off in December 2021. The new website launched in late September of 2022.
INITIAL POST-LAUNCH FEEDBACK
According to AHA Director of Marketing Shelly Steitz, who worked closely with the DBMK team throughout the project, both internal and external feedback has been “overwhelmingly positive from everyone at all levels,” with one AHA executive describing it as “a breath of fresh air.” Steitz continued, “I’ve had a lot of feedback from colleagues within the industry on how much they love the site. We haven’t gotten specific feedback from our residents or prospective residents, but the stats on the website have improved in the short time the site has been live.” One month in, the bounce rate was down by 3%, pages per session had increased by 9%, and session duration had increased by 23%.
For AHA, a secondary focus of the website project was to attract new employees. Still, they didn’t anticipate the response they would receive. Explained Steitz, “Before launch, we barely received any applications through the website. We noticed an immediate difference once the new website was up and running, with seven employment applications in the first week alone. It’s really helped our recruiting efforts.”
What features of AHA’s new website helped to support this improved performance across areas? Read on to learn about some of the key choices and functionalities.
A TRULY WELCOMING HOME PAGE
The AHA and DBMK team sought to create a home page with messaging and visual imagery that would immediately engage and resonate with residents, partners, and prospective renters. AHA’s brand refresh had hit upon the inviting “Find Your Place” verbiage and emphasized AHA’s goal of “creating communities.” The new branding also embraced warm colors, modern fonts, and imagery conveying the concept of “home.” Ultimately this led the team to the concept of using a short video of a door opening as a tonal “welcome” to the site and AHA’s properties, beckoning users with messages such as “come home to community,” “open the door to your story,” and “the best stories begin at home.” AHA President of Operations Tami Wegwerth spearheaded an effort to create exactly the right video.
The “Find Your Place” button offers users instant access to the revamped search page. At AHA’s request, DBMK also embedded the functionality to find specific communities by name. A simple top-of-page menu enables users to quickly search for apartments – including the ability to instantly “view pricing and apply” – and to learn more about AHA, find resident resources, apply to work for AHA, or access contact information and options.
A NEW-AND-IMPROVED SEARCH FUNCTION
Finding the right apartment almost always involves a search – but such searches aren’t always easy. AHA wanted to create a truly user-friendly search function that would help prospective renters quickly hone in apartments that fit their parameters for location, budget, and amenities.
DBMK Agency Director Doug Backman and Senior Web Developer Thomas Wright worked with Steitz and her team to create an Apartment Search page featuring an interactive map alongside a scrollable sidebar highlighting different AHA properties. The map is immediately filterable by key criteria such as neighborhoods, pets, rent ranges, and specific properties. “Advanced Search” options allow users to further narrow in via filters for specific neighborhoods, community types (e.g., amenity-heavy, historic, waterfront), or amenities (e.g., balcony/patio, garage parking, onsite fitness center).
REFRESHED & REORGANIZED COMMUNITY PAGES
With more than 70 diverse communities on offer throughout southern Minnesota, it was crucial for AHA to be able to thoroughly highlight each community’s unique assets. Earlier community pages required users to scroll to find the info they needed, so DBMK had added sub-menus for each community page in the first phase of the project. In the second phase, the new sub-menus were retained, and a new community page format was created to make it even easier for potential renters to find key information about properties of interest.
A call-to-action button to “SEE AVAILABILITY” allows instant visibility on any apartments available at each community. Community-specific overviews, contact info, and photo galleries are followed by photos of the specific AHA team members responsible for the site, resident reviews, amenity lists, and an interactive Google location map. Lastly, an iframe embeds the AppFolio leasing platform, supporting a seamless user experience in accessing pricing, address, square footage, and other essentials as well as the ability to “Apply Now.” Said Steitz, “The advanced search options and streamlined community pages are lovely and greatly impact the user experience for the better.”
A SIMPLER USER EXPERIENCE – FOR AHA’S TEAM!
Some of the key benefits of AHA’s new website aren’t visible to external users. In detailing her feedback, Steitz shared, “My favorite feature is one that no one will ever see: how organized and easy to use the backend of the website is. My team can edit and update quickly, and the fear of pushing the wrong button and taking down the whole website is gone.”
The AHA team knew they wanted the ability to directly post blogs and update community pages as needed. Accordingly, DBMK team members Thomas and Doug provided Steitz and her team with customized training enabling them to perform these functions. In addition, with up to two hours of client-requested updates supported as part of DBMK’s monthly website hosting and management services, Thomas is able to assist with more significant site updates.
Like what you see? Let the DB Marketing team help you envision the website that will help you bring your property or business to vivid, memorable life. Please call or email DBMK Agency Director Doug Backman at 303.468.3974 or firstname.lastname@example.org.