Real Estate Website Design – what to look for continued…

If you missed it, follow the link to a previous article which dealt with platforms, hosting and ownership of a real estate website.

So, hopefully you’ve decided that what you want is an Open Source based website hosted and produced in a way that gives you full unrestricted access and control over not just your content, but all the elements that make your site run.

Now what?

Things to make sure your real estate website designer will do for you:

a)      Market research.  Everything should start here.  You provider should look at your area through the eyes of a consumer visiting Google before they ever put pen to paper and start designing anything.  If your provider doesn’t perform this one step, the infrastructure and navigation of your site will need to be tweaked by you later for your site to perform its best, and you don’t want to start off your relationship with your new site by fixing it.

b)      Plugins/widgets/extras.  Far too many real estate website providers load up prepackaged sets of plugins and widgets into every website they build.  We disagree with this practice.  A plugin, in essence, should either be something that enhances the experience of your visitor or makes some portion of content management easier for you, the admin.  There are a few plugins that deal with performance of the site, spam etc. that are indeed needed by every site, but those are very few.  Everything else should be tailor made to the needs of a particular client.  For example, if you have no intention of ever posting videos on your site – there is absolutely no need to eat up valuable load speed by a WordTube plugin.  But if, say, a bulk of your content is visual and you need a great way to display your photos, you’d benefit from a properly configured gallery or lightbox plugin that gives you more functionality that what’s included in your theme by default.  So if in answer to your “What Plugins are included?” question you get a “list of 15-35 must have plugins” as an answer, you are not buying a custom site that’s tailored to your needs.  You are buying a pre-packaged product that has nothing to do with your needs or your market.

c)       Guidance, transparency and training.  No service provider wants to divulge their trade secrets, but there are some things that a provider should be transparent about.  At no point should a client who is purchasing a custom made site built on an open source platform not know what tools were used to build that site and how to access them.  By tools, I mean frameworks, themes, skins, plugins and extras etc.  Not only should the client have access to that data, but they should know where to find those various tools through the back end and how to modify any of them, if need be.  Far too often, provider hide certain elements of the site design, or bury portions of custom code so that it can’t be accessed or modified.  It’s a defensive practice, and while I understand where it’s coming from, for clients it usually means that even though they paid for the site already, they will need to keep paying that provider to make even small modifications to design elements or in order to add some new bit of functionality to the site.  At rates averaging at around $100 an hour for coding or site design time – you’ll spend a pretty penny at times on things you could have done yourself if you had access and a bit of guidance.  Ask your provider what sort of access you will have, and whether or not there will be a guide of some kind that’ll walk you through all the elements of your site.  Some providers will offer paid training on using your new real estate website.  To me, that’s like buying a brand new car and not getting the owner’s manual, but being asked to go to car-ownership school once a week to learn how to properly own it…

So there you have it.  This is the important stuff, although most often overlooked.  The rest of it is a matter of price, skill level, taste and a slew of other less important considerations.  🙂  So choose wisely.

In depth discussion on elements of a great real estate website coming up next, when I get the time to write it.

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5 Responses to Real Estate Website Design – what to look for continued…
  1. Merc
    July 9, 2011 | 9:59 am

    When I have done my first site in WP it made me realize that I am learning a lot of html codes here rather than the other platforms that I used before. Tinkering with the templates made me appreciate WP more and more! 🙂

  2. Riak
    June 2, 2011 | 10:19 am

    Our Clients still ask us to do little changes even though we have taught them how to use WordPress.

    Its all money at the end of the day!

    • Inna Hardison
      June 2, 2011 | 10:32 am

      Riak – true, but at least you know that your clients COULD make those little changes if they felt so inclined:-) A powerless client is a trapped client, and most of us don’t like being trapped:-)

  3. Virginia Hepp
    May 25, 2011 | 12:56 pm

    Hi Inna, Very good point – my daughter set up my website several years ago – I was clueless, still kinda am. When I want anything done on it, I have to get her to do it for me. Things that take me an hour take her about one minute. I am thinking of starting a wordpress blog, kinda want to do it myself so that I can control it myself. Thanks!

    • Inna Hardison
      May 25, 2011 | 1:16 pm

      Virginia – with WordPress whether you do it yourself of have someone design the initial blog or site for you, you should always be in control of all the elements of the site, including design AND content, hosting etc. At least that’s the way we work with our clients – we do the install and design and the clients get a fully functional wordpress site that they can control, manage, update and do anything they’d like to, as well as a guide on how to actually do all of those things. Not a standard practice, but in my opinion, should be.:-)
      thx for dropping by here-

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