Since 1997, Hometown America has owned and operated manufactured housing communities, and has grown to have 78 communities coast-to-coast in the United States. With a variety of 55+ and all-age communities, they have a wide array of homes for sale. To better serve their audience and to improve sales revenue, the team at Hometown America knew they needed a site update, and reached out to Solid Digital.
From the start, Solid Digital recognized the down-to-earth spirit of Hometown America’s team, who wanted to offer a solution to and serve a population looking for an affordable way to own a home. Tailoring their site to this audience helped connect prospects to Hometown’s communities. After seeing the success stemming from the redesign of the company’s Hometown Australia website, they knew they wanted to achieve similar results for the site in the States.
To start, Solid Digital identified multiple areas for site improvement and created specific goals to solve them.
Hometown America’s site needed:
- A dependable internal server and application
- A way to make easy website updates for events and specials
- Consistent branding across properties
- Improved navigation to easily find homes, share them, and contact Hometown America
- Better accessibility (including mobile design) and ADA compliance
Hometown America provides affordable homes in beautiful communities. But first, their ideal clientele needed to find the homes without the site crashing or an unavailable home showing up (incorrectly) as available.
In order to provide a dependable internal server and application, Solid Digital interfaced consistently with Hometown America’s backend team to learn how to access the data and support the new website’s functionality and features. Given the size of Hometown America’s site, with data stored in a backend inventory system, any property info or status needed to stay up-to-date, as well.
Solid Digital conducted interviews with Hometown America residents, revealing that they prioritized the community area over specific homes. This informed the website design strategy, leading Solid to create an easy user pathway to communities rather than a broad home search—all to increase home sales, using communities that convert.
Meanwhile, the Learn & Discover portion of the project helped pin down Hometown America’s overall style. Modernizing the site, while retaining a friendly, informative look, feel, and tone of voice was vital to representing a company with such a long history of integrity, service, and communication.
Prior to the partnership, it was difficult for Hometown America’s team to keep the site up to date. Instead of manually updating information twice, Solid Digital leveraged APIs from the back office, so efforts didn’t have to be duplicated. Now, changes can be made in the CMS, giving the marketing team better ability to promote events, specials, and other details on the front end, while the back office is retained for the homes’ listing info, like square footage and availability.
Hometown America’s massive site functioned similarly to a realty site like Redfin or Zillow, with data stored in a backend system that managed inventory. Thinking outside of just digital solutions helped carve the path for usability for Hometown America’s 55+ audience, who weren’t all part of the tech-native generation. Now, each of the 78 properties (with multiple homes continually for sale) are all on one site, including property manager contact info for a more friendly touch, along with easily found “Print community flyer”, “Email us” and “Contact Us” buttons on each community page. Solid Digital’s development and design team also followed the standard patterns of other realty platform sites, which helped users feel like Hometown America’s new site was intuitive.
To help with user experience, and to visually group communities easily, Solid Digital created a new “mini-identity” system for all the communities with icons and colors based on the region, (rather than each individual community). The website’s full facelift with defined community brands created visual consistency and harmony for Hometown’s properties. As an added benefit, when Hometown America expands, a new community can be added to an existing regional identity system. Beyond the communities, the website in general reflects a more modern, updated version of Hometown America, with a crisp white background, relaxed spacing between sections, and a balance of elegant and modern typography.
Another item vital to maintaining positive user experience was accessibility. Solid Digital added UserWays as an extra accessibility plugin, and ensured that the site’s mobile experience was improved.
Hometown America trusted Solid Digital to take the reins, and the project flourished. Hometown America was highly involved in the project, bringing their ideas and concerns, which Solid listened to and took care of. During review processes, Hometown’s feedback focused on tone and imagery. The content writing had to reflect the simplicity of the company and the connectedness of their communities, with Hometown combing through every detail to ensure it met their ideals.
Solid Digital was able to unify every one of Hometown America’s communities into one site, with clear design organization, allowing home sales to grow, thanks to the simplified structure. Prior to the partnership, each community had its own subsite, and home availability wasn’t clear until the user was much farther down the pathway. Previously, every community had a different design; today, they’re part of one cohesive experience. Finding homes is much easier for the user with different filter parameters for community type, bedroom/bathroom number, price, and more. For any communities with no homes currently available, users can join a waitlist—which allows Hometown’s team to gauge interest in particular communities rather than guessing at growth.
Solid Digital ensured the technical side of the website was successful as well. Solid’s team regularly tracked the page speed of every primary page, making note of what improved or decreased the page speed, and focused on improving the speed with every change made. Solid’s team also found a huge cost savings for Hometown America by helping them leverage a different cloud-based hosting system: Cloudways. This find, which required no base-level software installations, allowed HTA to save more than 50% on their server costs while fulfilling every single traffic request that came in.
Hometown America’s team has loved the new website since the first iterations of the design.
The full breadth of the user experience is now smoothed out, and Hometown America’s identity is clearer: simplified and modern, to reflect the ease of life they’re offering their residents.
A long-term partnership has now begun, with Hometown America engaged in Solid Digitals’ Digital Growth Marketing program. Some items Hometown wants to focus on include A/B testing and a build-out of brochures for Hometown America’s users who prefer printable items when on the sales journey.
With a look and feel that reflects their ease and simplicity, and a user-friendly website they can update easily in-house, Solid Digital was able to bring out the best side of Hometown America for its current and future residents.