Website design for real estate what to look for, an intro

Real estate web design seems all the rage now.  You hit Google and hundreds of pages show up with various real estate web design firms that that weren’t there a year or even six months ago, and new ones coming daily.  With so much stuff out there, what should you be looking for in your real estate website design and service provider?

Here is a very short list that should make it easier for you to narrow the very long list down some:

Real Estate Website Platforms and Hosting:

Ownership:

This should be the very first thing you look at.  There are essentially two categories of providers out there.  One is a full-service turnkey solution where you are basically ‘leasing’ your site from the provider.  Generally speaking, here is how those services work:  you sign up for a service, select a template and a level of customizations that you want, and in a few weeks your site is online, hosted and maintained by that provider.  You have limited access to the back end of your site, and can usually only make content changes.

Pros: it’s rather hands off, based on pre-existing templates and standards, and you don’t have to think about it too much.  It will simply be up and running for as long as you feel like paying for it.

Cons: it’s not yours, no matter how much you’ve paid for any custom work.  You can’t pack up and move your site someplace else.  In some cases, you might be able to move the content you’ve contributed, but everything else, stays with the provider.

The other real estate website design service model is one where  you pay for your site, and own it.  That’s the model we subscribe to.  What this means is the site is built for you with your needs in mind, you pay for and own your domain name and hosting (on a service of your choice), and once you’ve paid for the site design, it’s yours, front-end, back-end, content and everything else that goes into it.  You can move it from one host to another, you can import and export all of your files, and you can make changes to more than just a few bits of content on it.

Pros: you never have to worry about losing any of your site’s data or design and branding elements, and you remain in full control of your internet presence.  There is a certain safety in knowing that once you paid for your site, it is indeed yours, and you can take it with you, should you change your brokerage, location or should you simply decide to revamp your site at a future date.

Cons: you inherit some responsibility for making the right decisions when it comes to hosting, content, IDX selection, real estate website designer selection etc.  You’ll actually have to research things a bit and know enough about it to be able to ask all the right questions and evaluate live examples of sites from various perspectives.

wordpress for real estate dash

Platforms:

Open Source vs Proprietary:

To some extent, this too goes a bit towards the ownership discussion.  Open source platforms are WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and the like.  Essentially, open source simply means that the source code was produced by a community and is available free of charge.  Each of the above mentioned platforms has an active community of users and contributors, which means that any bugs get fixed faster than they would have if one had to rely on a single programmer.  It also means there are thousands of themes, templates, widgets and plugins written for these open source platforms daily.

Proprietary platforms require that you purchase the software and more importantly know enough about CSS and HTML to make even the simplest changes to the content of your site.  You’ll need to either own and know how to use whatever software your site was built on, or pay someone else to update your real estate website on those systems, even if you are utilizing a hosted solution.

A caveat: there are a lot of service providers out there nowadays who take an Open Source platform like WordPress and disable certain options from the end users (i.e. their clients), essentially turning an open source platform into a proprietary one.  This practice is sadly more common than even we realized, be sure to ask if you will have FULL unrestricted access to every element and bit of code of your site.

Next post will discuss other important things to consider before purchasing or building your real estate website.  If you feel so inclined, subscribe to this blog, so you don’t miss the rest of the series.  We are a spam-free shop.

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2 Responses to Website design for real estate what to look for, an intro
  1. Sam Orchard
    May 27, 2011 | 11:55 am

    The reason why a lot of designers and developers hide certain settings is because it’s very easy to break WordPress if you don’t know what you’re doing – which most people don’t.

    • Inna Hardison
      May 27, 2011 | 12:02 pm

      Sam – fair enough, as reasons go, but doesn’t solve the fundamental issue for me – that of the developer remaining in control of someone’s site after the project has been purchased by the client. I’ve seen far too many business owners having to resort to rebuilding their sites because the developers held their code hostage. Not a good situation, imho. If my client wants to move the site to a different host or hire a different provider, they should have full access to everything in their site – they paid for it.:-)