Websites and apps are making modest inroads into the business of finding a pro, particularly among some younger customers, but consumers and pros have different priorities regarding what should be on a site, recently released survey results from The Farnsworth Group reveal.

A poll of 954 consumers and 679 remodelers and specialty tradesmen nationwide confirmed that word of mouth remains the primary way that homeowners and contractors hear about each other; three out of five homeowners and at least nine out of 10 pros found each other that way. But 20% of homeowners reported using a service professional's website or app within the past year to find a pro, and 14% went to related sites like Angie's List and Home Advisor to make the link. The Farnsworth Group's Grant Farnsworth delivered this information March 15 during a presentation in Cambridge, Mass., to the Remodeling Futures Group of the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.

Here's one slide from the report showing what matters most to homeowners when they visit a website:

Slide from Farnsworth Group presentation on homeowner perceptions of a website's performance.

Roughly one-third of the pros said they got 1% to 10% of their jobs as a result of a website- or app-generated lead, while three out of 10 got 11% to 25% of their projects from such leads. In general, younger people were much more aware of related sites, as only 25% failed to name any of those sites vs. 54% of people aged 65+ who had the same trouble.

The survey also turned up differences in what homeowners and pros want from a home improvement website. Both mentioned pictures of previous work done, but pros emphasized ease of use and navigation while homeowners focused on reviews, price, and background information establishing the pros' legitimacy. Here's what they said:

Slide from The Farnsworth Group presentation on the defining features of a website

The next slide provides one reason why The Farnsworth Group believes websites will become more important over time. In general, the younger the age group, the higher the belief there is that the Internet does a better job in locating and signup up a pro than traditional word of mouth techniques do.

Slide from Farnsworth Group presentation on ease and cost of websites vs. traditional methods

To learn more about the survey, contact Grant Farnsworth at