If you think your website is working just fine, wait a week and check it again; because if it was perfect then, chances are it’s not perfect anymore.

Along with everything else related to the Internet and modern life in general, change is constant and to keep a website optimized takes vigilance and tweaking. And having an attractive, effective website is probably almost as important as your products, communities, and reputation.

Consider that your website is the first encounter a majority of your customers will have with your company. It’s often your first chance, maybe your only chance, to make a good impression. It can keep you in the competition or remove you from consideration.

With that in mind, here are some things, gleaned from website design and development professionals, you need to do in 2013 to make your website one of the sharpest tools in your box.

  • Keep a close eye on the metrics of who is visiting, where they are going, how long they are staying, and where they linger. Then use those numbers to figure out what they like and want more of. Also try to discern the whys of the numbers.
  • Get the best possible photographs of your homes. Make them pictures that evoke a lifestyle your customers dream about, not just snapshots.
  • Link the photos to floor plans, make those floor plans flexible, and give shoppers the ability to save them in exchange for an e-mail address, so you can get them on your list for marketing materials.
  • Use video. That doesn’t have to be expensive. Rather than investing in highly produced videos, hand sales professionals smart phones and get them to do video tours of the models, the parks, and the clubhouses; upload them to YouTube and then link to the video from the website.
  • Show visitors to your site where the neighborhoods are by offering clickable maps and directions. Offer information on nearby amenities, such as the locations of schools, grocery stores, shopping, and theaters.
  • Consider having an Internet concierge on duty 24/7 to answer questions, help buyers find what they need, and even suggest what they might like. These need to be “helpers” versus sales agents. Buyers often want to avoid sales agents, but they tend to bond with good concierges more because they perceive them to be looking after their interests.
  • Make the website easily readable on mobile devices: smart phones and tablets, as well as computers. That doesn’t mean creating a website application for each device. That’s expensive. Instead, make the website reactive, so that it adjusts to whatever device is accessing it.
  • Get rid of flash programming, those attention-attracting gadgets that blink and move. They don’t work on Apple products, which are used by a big part of the audience.

  

  • Use the website as a way to get contact information for home shoppers in return for information about your homes. Then get their approval to send marketing e-letters and information on new models, price changes, and new neighborhoods.
  • Create a place on the website where buyers can see their homes being built. Make it possible for them to share those photos with friends and family. That might mean creating a Facebook page.
  • Use your website as a place where home buyers can shop for finishes, appliances, elevations, and upgrades before they come to the design center. They can note their preferences and the design center can be ready with the selections on hand when they get there.
  • Consider giving buyers ipads uploaded with all the information about their home-in-process. You can use it to communicate with them during the build, and after closing you can load it with all their sale documents, warranty information, and even suggested maintenance schedules.

Home shoppers aren’t the only ones who will benefit from a dynamic website. A well-developed site is also a tool for sales agents, who can use them to deliver customized information to buyers.

Teresa Burney is a senior editor for Builder magazine.