The rental sector was one of the earliest adopters of the internet, taking advantage of digital technology to help to get the latest listings in front of renters.

Today, there are thousands of sites competing for people’s attention online, so how do you cut through the noise and make sure that you are heard in such a congested market?

That was the challenge that Hollyburn Properties set Major Tom when they asked us to help them to revolutionize the way that people look for a place to live online.

Reinventing rentals

Hollyburn Properties manages rental units across four major cities in Canada, and challenged Major Tom to help them to not only update their digital presence, but to actually shape the platform in response to actual user behaviour.

Reinventing the digital approach to the rental sector was no easy feat. Today’s audiences are more sophisticated than ever before. They are familiar with the standards that digital giants like Amazon and Google are setting, and use them as a barometer by which they measure every other experience on the web, including rental listings.

With thousands of competitors out there, we knew that the key to success wasn’t just creating a beautiful looking website, but creating a beautiful looking site that actually worked, delivering an unrivalled experience for potential tenants.

Strategy first

Strategy was the foundation on which this project was built.

Before even beginning to think about possible solutions, we worked closely with Hollyburn Properties to get to know every inch of their organization.

Our discovery phase was detailed and rigorous as we performed an in-depth analysis of the organization. We also took the time to conduct extensive research with website users to find out exactly what they wanted from a rental website, including what worked, and what didn’t, from Hollyburn’s existing offering.

This process highlighted two key areas that would set Hollyburn apart from the crowd online.

The first was user experience. Looking for a place to live is stressful enough as it is, so we wanted to make sure that the digital part of it was a delight.

Secondly we learned that audiences are sifting through more data than ever before, and most of the time they were doing it on the move. That meant that high performing mapping and search functions, particularly on mobile, were going to be key.

A search application that’s a pleasure to use

To deliver this user experience, we designed a single page application where a user can navigate a variety of filters, scale the zoom of the map, and bounce back and forth between properties without ever reloading the page.

We also worked with Hollyburn Properties to create a card-based design that would ensure that their listings would provide a consistent experience for the user. Hollyburn manages a wide array of properties, and the challenge was to create a system that was flexible enough to accommodate this variety but consistent enough for users to engage with. The result is a modular card system that allows for various text layouts, as well as the potential inclusion of a call-to-action (CTAs) and images, without ever feeling drastically different to the user.

Adapting for a mobile world

Our research told us that the mobile experience of the site was going to be vital, so we stripped down the experience and created an adaptive site that was task-focused on mobile. The site functions like a native application, seamlessly funnelling a user towards search and then optimizing the experience for a smaller screen size.

One of the biggest considerations on a mobile screen, besides the smaller real estate to work with, is the limitations of the human hand – we can only reach so far. As such, the main pieces of functionality have been moved to the bottom of the screen to facilitate as little thumb strain as possible.

An award-winning digital experience

The marketing landscape is constantly evolving. Every day there are new opportunities, tactics and technologies for companies to employ in order to stand out from the competition online.

In a congested sector like rental listings, it can be easy to feel like you have to be everything to everyone. But sometimes you need to step back and see the big picture, so that you can choose the right route to success.

That’s exactly what we did with Hollyburn Properties. We took a 50,000 ft view of the organization, their users and their interactions with one another. This understanding enabled us to create a holistic solution that delivered an unparalleled experience that didn’t just make Hollyburn stand out, it changed the way in which people searched for homes online.

Our collaborative effort has not only garnered great business results, but some hardware for our team. These industry awards recognize the value of the site, and include Best UX from the Vancouver User Experience Awards.

Awards aside, the project also delivered tangible results. Just some of the highlights from the project include:

  • Through the new site we were able to generate a 78% increase in organic traffic.
  • The focus on user experience also worked with a drastic 25% reduction in Hollyburn’s bounce rate.
  • Hollyburn now has a highly effective marketing tool that works holistically alongside their other marketing efforts and has delivered more than 1500 conversions to date.