Most Web site intros are flashy song-and-dance numbers that slow down access and frustrate browsers. That's definitely not the case with John Laing Homes' charming introduction, which features simple line drawings of homelike scenes--a cat and a dog curled up in front of a fire, for example--and a subtle, but catchy, whistled tune. The intro changes with the seasons and even matches up with coloring books distributed at sales centers.

"We wanted to make our Web site fun, interactive, and informative," says Bill Probert, executive vice president of sales and marketing at the Newport Beach, Calif.-based John Laing Homes ( "Our internal vision and culture is reflected [in] our Web site. Our marketing materials all try to talk to the customer in a conversational, friendly kind of way."

That translates into Web pages titled "Buying your home," which breaks down into separate categories for subjects such as "How it all works" and "The money part." The category called "Loving your home" has some of the site's most ingenious interactive choices: a list of "cool" house-related books and eCards that send along birthday greetings or show off a particular John Laing home.

"Loving your home and curling up with a good book are visuals that are very emotional to people," says Probert. "We wanted to take the mystery and stress out of home buying and make things easier for our customers."