What makes a great website?

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Spherexx.com was recognized in April as an official honoree in the category for best visual design and function by the Webby Awards, an international group honoring online excellence since 1996.

Judged by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, Spherexx.com was named a Webby honoree for the company’s visual design and functionality of CityClubApartments.com, the corporate and property website for the global property management company City Club Apartments (CCA), spearheaded by CEO Jonathan Holtzman.

Less than 15 percent of entries into what the New York Times has called the “Oscars of the internet” are deemed honorees. Entrants in this year’s competition came from 50 states and 70 countries.

“Honorees like Spherexx.com are setting the standard for innovation and creativity on the internet,” said Claire Graves, executive director of The Webby Awards. “It is an incredible honor to be selected among the best from the more than 13,000 entries we received this year,”

Spherexx.com provides website, internet marketing and software development services to the multifamily industry and other businesses. This is the second time the Tulsa, Okla.-based firm has been a Webby honoree, having received its first such honor in 2014 in the real estate category for Parallel 41 Apartments, a six-story, mid-rise built in 2012.

The influencers

Because apartment property websites serve as round-the-clock virtual leasing offices, navigation and editing functions must be easy to use for guests, residents and staff that may not be computer proficient.

“People are heavily influenced by the site’s sophistication and design and are sold on a property before they walk in the front door,” said Spherexx.com CEO Becca Wilson.

Spherexx designed the website to reflect the five-star-hotel lifestyle offered by the CCA brand. “Simplistic navigation and engaging photography carry the message of ultimate luxury, environmental responsibility and expectation of extraordinary customer service,” said Wilson.

The website’s Create Your Own Space feature allows apartment seekers to drill down to available units based on filterable options like price, location, size and type of unit and interior finishes. Users can also choose separately priced upgrade options like wine cellars or oversized windows.

Search results show match percentages in relation to search queries, graphical floorplans, custom brochures and calls to action like “lease now” or “register interest.”

Pricing and availability changes are updated automatically through integration with CCA’s accounting software.

Residents have easy access to management for maintenance requests, resident rewards, renewals and rent payment.

Leads generated by the City Club website are closing leases across the company’s 10,000-unit portfolio at a 5.3 percent higher rate than those from popular internet listing service websites, said Wilson.

“For every 100 leases, 46 of them are generated directly by the website,” she said.

Hidden functionality

Backend programming functions like Spherexx.com’s content management system (CMS) and search engine marketing tools were invisible to the judges, said Wilson, but no less impressive.

The CMS allows management to make changes to an intranet for intercompany workflow, forms and communication and the website that currently encompasses CCA’s 25 properties.

Search engine optimization provides aggregated insight into guests’ behavior by measuring and reporting how they navigate and respond to the site, while data analysis and a heat-mapping tool visually relate the areas they interact with most.

For example, most visitors enter the community home page, go to floor plans, then amenities, followed by ‘explore the area,’ to photos and back to floor plans. This insight provides direction on how management can best maintain and organize calls to action for optimal response.

The heat map totals guests’ click activity by version updates, tracks their access by device and color codes the website by click intensity. The Create Your Own Space function tracks and records searches to pinpoint a property’s most popular selling points and upgrades.

“‘Plan Tour’ and Lease Now’ are popular calls to action with apartment seekers,” said Wilson.

Spherexx.com’s internal programming and ILoveLeasing.com customer relationship management (CRM) software suggests that prospective renters research many avenues before deciding to lease. For example, the Spherexx.com website behavior tracking system reports the journey an apartment seeker makes while leasing.

“One such prospect viewed eleven website features on April 6 before submitting an application and lease online. ILoveLeasing’s sophisticated CRM knows that the new resident’s journey began three days earlier with a reference from an internet advertisement sourced within the system. Within 14 minutes of the reference, the prospect received a personal email from management and, over the next three days, revisited the site five times, exchanged emails and phone calls on specific dates and times, scheduled a tour, completed a lease and confirmed a post-lease appointment.

“Another prospect visited the website from an internet advertisement on February 18 and received a personal response within ten minutes. The CRM shows email exchanges, phone calls, what the prospect studied in the email brochure, when they scheduled a tour, inquired on Google Places, submitted a rental application and finally signed a lease on April 12,” said Wilson.

“Spherexx.com has built CCA the best apartment website I have ever seen. It shows the prospective resident what it is like to live at one of our communities,” said Holtzman, adding that he is delighted to have found a business counterpart in Spherexx.com with roots in property management.