So why are there so few carrying around large numbers of real estate business cards? The card recipient will either value the information on the card or not, and they'll usually know which the moment they accept it. It is accepted as a courtesy, but a huge number hit the next trash can. If your contact information is of value to them, then the vast majority transfer the information to their personal organizer, handheld computer or their office/home computer. THEN they throw it away! So, if in most cases it's going to end up in the trash, what's important about the design?
Naturally, a pleasing design is still important. I really like to receive a card that's more than paper thickness and has something in the design to catch the eye. A logo is usually mandatory, but the photo of the agent is open to debate. Rounded corners and a slick UV coating on the front get comments from recipients regularly.
There are quite a few online resources that allow you to use their templates and design your card online, preview the look and order. Prices vary, but are much better than the old and slow local design firm approach. Search resource links are provided at the end of this Quick Tip.
In this whole process, let's not forget that there is a nice business out there for multiple vendors of business card scanners. These small units are designed specifically to scan business cards, recognize the contact management fields like Name, Office Phone, Cell Phone, Fax Number, email address, web site url, etc. Most have built-in software that passes the information directly into all the most popular contact management systems, including MS Outlook. Why do we care? It's important to remember this when designing our cards. Don't make it more difficult for the scanner to do its job, or your info might not get into their system.
Don't use a background color and text color combination that will make it hard for the scanner to pick out the text elements. The same problem can occur if you have a full-card background image that may be OK for the eye to discern the text, but impossible for a scanner. It's best not to get too artistic with the text font. The scanners are good, but a really artsy font might just defeat their text recognition function. Identify the phone numbers by the normal methods, such as "office", "home", "mobile or cell", etc. This helps to get them into the correct fields in the contact manager.
Use of the business card will be around for the long term, but be sure to design yours to adapt to the new digital world. Also, knowing that it's probably going to end up in the trash anyway, balance the functionality and design with the cost.