Website Review – Moving Mountains Design

I've been a home owner, and I technically own a home now via my Wife. I sold my previous house just before the market crash in 2005. But I never knew about home staging until recent years, so I was happy when I received a request to review my friend's website. Michelle has a home staging and interior design business and her website Moving Mountains Design is all about her business. This is a review about her website and not her services.

Introduction to the site

When you first visit the website, you are immediately presented with a great slideshow of the results of Moving Mountains Design's work. It takes just about 30 seconds to get a great idea of the type of work you can expect from Michelle and her team. The pictures draw you in and set the expectations high!

Effective Site Design

The website is nicely built and the colors and design are appealing but simple enough to keep the focus on the value proposition. Selling your home faster and for more money. After all, that is why you would stage a home. So that you can sell it for the most money and as fast as possible.

If you don't think staging a home works, take a trip to a new housing development and take a tour of the model homes. I would find it hard to believe if the interior decorations don't make you want to buy the home. After that, try to take a tour of a finished un-staged home, you'll notice the difference.

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The site is well targeted

Los Angeles and Southern California are very competitive and desirable real estate markets, so making sure your home is staged and ready to attract the highest bid is important. That's something I noticed from the home page at Moving Mountains Design. This is clearly stated above the fold. They take care of preparing and staging your house to sell. Everyone knows Los Angeles, but the site also explains that they focus on specific cities like San Marino, Sherman Oaks, Pasadena and surrounding areas. All of these areas are hot real estate markets so it's nice to know that you can find a trustworthy and reliable home stager for these areas.

But you could just hire any interior decorator right? I guess you could but I believe you'll have better chances of selling your house if you hire professionals that know the area well instead of just being general interior decorators. They'll be able to match the work to the culture and local trends; it's definitely a plus to hire someone that knows the local market!

Functionally the site is pretty great

The website itself is speedy and functional and provides tons of information about the industry and also showcases the lastest work performed in the blog. The services are clearly listed and easy to find. I found that the blog section could use a few changes. At least in my opinion. I prefer when a blogpost has a date and also an author, I think it gives it more credibility. I'm also turned off by large watermarks in what would otherwise be some terrific photography.

A good feature on the site, and one that I would use if I were looking for a company to stage my house is the estimate request. They have a form that allows you to give some very detailed information about your home so that Michelle and her team can get back to you with an accurate estimate. I prefer this approach instead of the usual "call for quote" method because I know that is just going to take forever and I won't get a clear answer.

With the form they have on there I can submit my information and be on my way while they prepare an estimate. The information I can provide is pretty detailed, things like square footage, number of rooms, whether the home will be vacant or not during the selling process, and other pertinent info. This is a plus for me. Unfortunately at the time of testing, the form seems to be broken. The number of bedrooms input field seems to be broken. Hopefully it will be fixed soon, this little glitch prevented me from testing the entire form submission process and makes me wonder if Michelle has lost any business due to this tiny mistake. update: I let Michelle know about the problem and she fixed it!

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The site is social, but needs a little work.

This is one of the first sites in real estate where I see social media connections and I think that is great. I also know Michelle on Facebook and I know she uses Facebook and Twitter effectively to showcase her work and talk about her current projects and satisfied customers. There's a few little quirks that I would change if it were my site, but maybe that's just because I'm picky like that. One would be the social media share bar on the left hand side. I tend to dislike those because they float and follow you around on the page and also tend to block out text if your browser window is smaller than these sidebars are designed for.

The Facebook widget that shows you how many people like your page seems to be broken as it displays "Invalid App ID". This isn't too bad, but it should be fixed soon because social proof is important and the more people that like a page on Facebook, the more chances a visitor will find one of their friends in that list of likes, and this builds a little more trust.

Besides this issue, it is nice to have links to Twitter and Youtube, and also to Michelle's Facebook page; but unfortunately the link to Linkedin is broken. I think Youtube could use a little boost in the amount of videos and a little more promotion would probably go a long way.

I know social media is all the rage now, and these little issues should be fixed but with that said, Michelle and her team are easily accessible via their contact form or directly via phone.

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Digging deeper.

Digging deeper into the site, you'll find other sections that are very useful and informative. The FAQ section addresses questions about home staging as well as about the process that Moving Mountains design uses to deliver their service. These are all questions that most inquisitive buyers would have so it's nice to have them there without having to call and ask.

A section with a great portfolio lets you check out the work and several before and after examples are available for the different types of services that they offer.

One of the prominent calls to action beckons you with a question that many homeowners will have. Why isn't my house selling? And the three main factors in selling your house are explained on that page, Pricing, Marketing and Presentation. There is also a Home Staging Savings Calculator available which allows you to calculate how much money you would save if you stage your home when it is listed or if you wait until after you have listed it before you stage it.

Michelle's strongest suit and main service is staging and decorating homes to sell, but she also offers other lesser known services. I was surprised when I read about these because I would not have guessed them at all. For example, Color Consultation, Marital Transition Staging, and even Corporate or Commercial staging. Yeah... I did a double-take too, when I read the "marital transition staging" but once you read what this is, it will make perfect sense.

All in all, the site is good but it could use some work, but it is also effective and does the job. For example, the website doesn't provide a responsive design for mobile devices, or a mobile site. Granted, most people doing research to find a home stager are probably at home on their laptops or computer, but nowadays you can't neglect mobile. If it were me, I'd find a more creative way of watermarking the images or not watermark them at all. If someone wants to use your images for nefarious reasons, they're going to do it... very little you can do about it. But in the other hand, if I want to share your images on pinterest, or facebook or even twitter, I usually won't do them if there's a big watermark on them as it will tell my audience: this is solely promoting a product.

If it were my site, I would make sure all the forms work well and flawlessly since this is the main way for people to contact me. Second I would make sure my social links are active and take me to the right spot.

My closing thoughts.

I think overall the website is great. I don't know of a lot of other home stagers or interior decorators that have a website, much less a functional one. I think the key here is that the website delivers exactly what you need when you need it. Information about staging your house and a reliable, trustworthy company to do it for you. If I were to use these types of services I would seriously consider Moving Mountains Designs as my first choice!

8 Comments

  1. I wonder if that home stager sells their furniture pieces or can do interior decorating for people who are not selling. My house never looks so neat & clean. Then again, my house is lived in vs. the decorating needed for a house that just needs to be sold.

  2. Hi Oscar: Thank you for the review of my website. It was very valuable for me to see my site through someone else’s (very website savvy) eyes. I wanted to respond to a few of your comments. I agree about the social media share plugin (Slick Social Share). I’ve been meaning to remove it for some time, it hasn’t been a priority. It’s now moved up my to-do list. I thought my theme was responsive, but apparently not. I will look into that. And apparently I have to check all my social links to make sure they are working properly.

    Regarding watermarks on the photos, I will explain why they are there. Those photos are proof of my expertise and skill as a home stager. They are like my personal resume. Since the end result of home staging is primarily visual, my photos prove that I can do what I promise – make a home look like it’s worth every penny it is listed for, and then some. Potential customers who come to my site can be assured the photos on my site are a representation of MY professionalism as well as my skill as a specialized designer. I have had a problem with less experienced, less talented and less honest home stagers stealing my photos to use on their own website. This is not only unfair to me, it is also unfair to potential clients who see photos on a stager’s website and assume it is representative of their abilities. I have spent, literally, thousands of dollars on camera equipment and many hours learning how to take great photos. Why should I make it easy for someone else to steal them? Recently, I have begun paying a professional photographer to photograph my projects, because I no longer have the time to photograph them myself. I like the idea of sharing the wealth and helping another professional make a living. I do not, however, subscribe to the idea of sharing my photos in any way other than to promote MY work and help in the sale of the house.

    I originally resisted watermarking my photos, but when my photos started appearing on competitors’ websites, being claimed as their work, I felt it was time to take a page from professional photographers’ websites and watermark. Yes, it is relatively easy for a skilled person to remove a watermark from a photo. I wish it was more difficult. But it gives me some small comfort that, if my photos are stolen, the thief will not be skilled and by having my watermark, people will be lead back to my website. And enough people seem to be OK with sharing my watermarked photos. I get at 10-20 visitors per day to my site that come from Pinterest.

    Thank you again, Oscar, for taking the time to review and write this critique. Thank you for introducing me to your readers, and thank you very much for your kind words.

  3. Thoughtful, thorough, expert analysis. I’ve bookmarked this as an example of a well executed, professional site review. I’m constantly impressed by your Oscar!

    As an aside, Michele should have been listed in this recent post as a recommended professional stager. Posted an invite on #SMMOC but somehow she and her site were overlooked. Feel free to tack on Michele! http://www.mtgcapital.com/homeblog/2013/04/11/home-staging/

  4. Very cool! Love your accessment, and l love the concept and site! Thanks for sharing Oscar! Looking forward to more of your reviews!!!

  5. Okay I have been in the field as I work in Title Insurance and yes staging is very important. I agree that maybe water marking your photos protects you but if the photos don’t get out there nothing gets sold, Why would other staggers steal your work…stupid on their part.
    The better the photos the better the sell. I have pet peeves …..bathroom shots of the toilets…really the house better have a toilet! I don’t need to see it.

    Repeater of the same thing in photos..5 different photos of the same room…..so the property doesn’t having anything else.

    • Hi Sheri: I agree, it’s stupid to steal someone else’s photos, but it is done everyday. People don’t want to do the hard work to create their own, so they hope to steal good photos to trick people into hiring them. The real estate agent gets a set of un-watermarked photos to use on the MLS and in marketing the home. I only use watermarked photos on my website.

      Hopefully, you didn’t see any of your pet peeves in my photos. I share the same pet peeves and I’ll add 2 more. Agents that are too lazy to post anything but an exterior shot and photos showing a messy room, dirty kitchen with dirty dishes in the sink or an unmade bed and dirty clothes everywhere. That definitely won’t help sell the house! I’m not sure why they post them.

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