November 15, 2021

Case Study: Designing a Website to Support the Highlands Planned Community in Texas

As a one-stop branding, digital media, and marketing agency specializing in planned community branding and master planned community marketing, we know these large-scale communities planned community brandings need websites that immediately communicate the values and benefits of the community, its builders, and the people who live there. Whether the person visiting your site is a first-time homebuyer or an empty nester looking for a place to enjoy retirement, the website should communicate exactly what they can expect from the community and what life will be like when they move in.

That’s why, when The Highlands approached us to build the website for their master-planned community we knew it was important that the finished online presence would inspire families to see themselves working, playing, raising children, and leaving a legacy there for generations to come. That’s a tall order, and we had our work cut out for us.

Master Planned Community Marketing

The Highlands. Luckily, we also had a lot to work with. Located in Porter, Texas, just 20 miles north of Houston, The Highlands is a community of some 4,000 new homes in Montgomery County. Nestled on 2,300 acres of densely treed land, the community offers a national park-like setting that includes miles of trails and large recreational lakes.

Developed by Caldwell Communities, a developer known for the high value it places on creating unique, extraordinary neighborhoods where residents’ lives are enriched by inviting architecture, unrivaled amenities, and beautiful natural surroundings, The Highlands is considered one of the Houston region’s most thoughtfully planned communities. Residents are able to hike, bike, swim, and fish on site, and a new semi-private, 18-hole golf course is slated to open in the spring of 2022.

With so much going on at The Highlands, the challenge wasn’t so much in selling the community to prospective home buyers, but in conveying the character and benefits of the community in every aspect of its web presence as part of the overall master planned community marketing process.

The Challenge. In designing The Highlands, the developer wanted to focus on family, fun, and adventure. As such, the website needed to communicate those same qualities in everything from its fonts to its colors to its content. And like any good website, it should be easy to use, inviting, friendly, and filled with useful information that helps prospective homebuyers picture themselves enjoying everything that the master-planned community has to offer!

The Solution. Creating a website that conveys all the facets of a community means implementing a solution that covers all of the many amenities, builders, move-in-ready homes, and more that are part of the community, not to mention aspects of the surrounding region, such as education, commuting, things to do in Montgomery County, Texas, and so on. Essentially, a residential community is a little like a small town all its own, so the website needs to let people know why they should want to live in that community.

From a technology perspective, we knew that we wanted to utilize WordPress for our content platform. The modular nature of the new WordPress “Gutenberg” editor allows for a more efficient page-building experience, in which code can be broken down into “blocks” that only need to be loaded into pages where they are used. This allows us to build new pages from a collection of blocks, much like you would build a structure with Legos.

The site also uses a powerful animation tool called GSAP (GreenSock Animation Platform). The end result is a quick and efficient system for building landing pages complete with beautiful animations that work across a wide variety of devices and browsers.

The Approach. Even with the right technology and design solutions in hand, creating such an ambitious website is no small task, so we took a phased approach to the website design process. In Phase 1 we approved a site map that included all of the primary navigation pages that would be included in the finished website. We also launched the blog so that we could begin rolling out organic SEO content right away.

Phase 2 involved mapping out dozens of additional sub-navigation pages, including a page for each of the 12 builders who had worked with The Highlands to create the 4,000 homes in the community. Phase 3 is still in the future, currently slated for 2022, when commercial properties and a future on-site elementary school will be added to The Highlands, necessitating the addition of new areas to the website.

From there, it was time to begin creating the actual content that would populate all of those many pages. This meant writing engaging, organic copy that includes SEO keywords and helps to inform and inspire visitors to the site, as well as loading up the pages with visuals, including videos, photos, and animation—many of them produced in-house.

Once the content was created, it was time to be sure that the finished product would be a true representation of The Highlands. Bold, active, and nature-focused, the site incorporated textures and other visual and design elements to help convey the nature of the community, including realistic patches describing many of the community’s unique selling propositions in a way that is fun and easy to understand.

The final step in our approach was to ensure that the website was well-positioned to sit at the heart of a digital media plan, including PPC, Paid Social, LinkedIn, and other channels. Ultimately, no matter where someone is approaching The Highlands from, the website is where they’re going to land, so it needed to be an ideal point for prospective homeowners to learn more, connect with the builders that fit their needs and find the dream home that’s perfect for them.

The Process. Throughout every step, we worked with The Highlands to ensure that everything we were doing matched what they had in mind. Once the website was approved, we began other important work such as SEO optimization, analytics, and setting up digital media.

We wanted to have fun with the brand but also make sure that we were thinking strategically so we could be solving problems before users even encountered them. After all, the user experience should be one they remember—but only ever for good reasons. On The Highlands website, for example, we did a custom split video on the home page, highlighting both the home and lifestyle offerings available in the community.

Moreover, the whole project has a “national park” theme, as well as a lot of information to cover. To help make user navigation smooth without running the risk of site visitors missing anything, we created an automatic general scroll covering the community’s numerous amenities. Because we wanted to incorporate a lot of videos, we needed to make sure that they were optimized for play without slowing down page speed, which sometimes meant hosting through Vimeo or YouTube.

Once all that was done, it was time to actually launch the site!

The Launch. When we had finished sending the website through all of its final approvals, optimized the SEO, set up analytics and goals for the site going forward, and prepared all the digital media, it was time for the site to finally go live.

Of course, as anyone who has ever launched a website knows, the job isn’t over then! Once a website is online, it’s time to double-check everything and see to it that everything still works correctly, that forms are connecting to Google analytics, that the CRM is being used as it should be, and that every aspect of the website is performing as expected, from links going where they should to desktop videos playing smoothly.

In this day and age, mobile functionality is every bit as vital as desktop—if not more so—and so it was also important to test out the live website on a variety of different devices and platforms to ensure that everything worked as expected, whether someone was viewing it on a phone or on a PC.

The Results. Hopefully, they speak for themselves. Today, The Highlands website is live and beautiful, and we’re very pleased with how everything from the patches to the active videos worked out as part of our planned community branding development. What’s more, SEO search visibility and rankings have continued to climb ever since the site was launched, and website performance analytics show strong results across the board, including rankings on the first page for many of the targeted keywords.

It only makes sense that The Highlands would warrant a one-of-a-kind website, as residents at the new master-planned community can enjoy a wealth of amenities in surroundings unlike any other property in the greater Houston area and built by award-winning home builders. Additional information can be found on the new website for The Highlands.

Master Planned Community Marketing