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Websites For Dummies – Is That Really The Goal?

WebsitesForDummiesWhen it comes to options for a web site, agents and brokers have numerous options at literally every price point. I wanted to see how many options I could find using a range of search queries spanning novice to expert. This one is my new favorite:

Build My Own Website For Dummies
Now I don’t think you are dumb at all. I do understand though that most people want to know “How can I build my own web site” without a lot of BS. This article is for you. You can have your own pro web site for less than $45 a year. It can be just as good as any website out there.

  • Step One – Get a host. They provide the space, the applications, and everything you need for your website. Includes free domain name. No need to buy a domain first. The host gives you everything you need including step by step support.
  • Step Two – Create the website using WordPress. WordPress is very easy to use. Pick a theme, then put in some info a little at a time. WordPress will do the rest. Add content as you go along.

That’s it folks. Two easy steps. Less than $45 a year.The host even gives you credits towards Google and Yahoo so you can advertise your site. What are you waiting for? Prices have never been better. You can have your own professional website up and running in little more than an hour.

Now who is the dummy?

Don’t you just love trick questions?

A Low Barrier To Entry

Last week I started a series about creating a new website. The post covered the goal of a new website. Conversion and bounce rate also came up. What wasn’t there was a link to a site, any mention of a theme choice, or even a domain name. Why not? After all, with WordPress and 5 minute installs, there is no reason why it shouldn’t have been done in less time than it took to write the post.

The truth is that most real estate websites not owned by 3rd party companies that don’t actually sell real estate, have a gestation period measured in hours, days or maybe a week or two. The big guys do it differently though. They have to, because they have big bucks at stake. And since those big bucks probably came from someone else, they need to have a plan that gives them a snowball’s chance of recouping the investment, if not actually turn a profit.

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For us though, its different, because we don’t have anywhere near that kind of skin in the game. Like the ad says, in less than 60 minutes and $45, we too can be online. Of course most of us would shell out another $50-$100 for a premium theme, so that doubles the cost and it may add a few minutes to the process while we wait for the zip file to arrive in our email. So the question remains:

Hey Dummy, Why Is This Taking So Long?

Because the difference between an online presence vs an online business is in the plan. So here’s the plan:

  1. Determine why you are building it – To make money
  2. Determine who is your target audience – Prospective buyers and sellers of real estate
  3. Determine what content will be on the site –
  4. Determine how it all fits together –
  5. Determine what it will look like –

Steps #1 and #2 were covered last week. Going forward is where you make or break a site.

Its Called Information Architecture (IA)

Most think IA is all about site navigation. While it encompasses navigation, it’s much more than that. Loosely defined, IA is the science of determining what you want your site to do and with what content, and then creating the blueprint that guides the organization and construction.

Since this is a public facing, marketing-based site, and not a company intranet, we need to recognize that some basic marketing principles run parallel to IA principles in this situation. In marketing, we are taught to sell the sizzle, not the steak. Or put another way, benefits over features. Since the visitor really only cares about “What can this website do for me?” and “What can I accomplish here?” but has little or no concern “About Bob”, we need to adhere to the IA principle that it’s the organization of information according to the VISITOR’s purposes, not ours.

My Way or The Highway

IA is a balancing act of what you want and what the visitor wants. Getting it right determines the perception (and thus the reality) of the visitor. The visitor will stick around if they believe they can accomplish what they wanted to do when they clicked on your PPC ad or organic SE listing. However, if it isn’t obvious that what they want to find or do is findable or doable, they’ll hit the information highway via the back button. To prevent that, you need to do two things:

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  1. Make it obvious what is available on your site
  2. Make it idiot proof for them to find it

In order to do that, you need to understand your visitor.

They Look But They Do Not See

Time for a little role playing. Watch this video and pay attention to how many times the white team passes the ball.

What number did you come up with?

Written By

A real estate vet, 2009 marked the beginning of Bob's 20th year in the real estate biz, with the last 10 years spent online. Bob practices in San Diego, California and is well known for his expertise in online real estate marketing, SEO and lead generation strategies.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Atlanta Real Estate

    October 20, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    So how does all this come into play with the WP Theme site you were describing last week?

    LOL

    How’s that site coming, BTW?

  2. Bob Wilson

    October 20, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Funny you ask, as I just tweeted this: “I love WP, but w/ less coding we get less well thought out sites”

    The answer is that it has everything to do with it. The difference between a site that can do double digit conversions 24/7 and one that doesn’t lies in the IA.

    When we used to hand code sites with FrontPage, Dreamweaver or notepad for the purists, we knew that every page could have a unique purpose and we developed and designed accordingly. When WP came along, we abandoned much of that mentality because it was like trying to put a square peg into a round hole.

    Drupal and Joomla are better platforms when it comes to really intelligent site structure as they are more developer platforms (especially Drupal) than publishing platforms like WP and Blogger. Because they are more developer oriented though, they have steeper learning curves than WP.

    The goal here is to show how to take a “website for dummies” platform like WordPress and get as much functionality out of it as one could get from a more traditionally coded site or one built on a developer platform.

    The trick is in the IA.

    “How’s that site coming, BTW?”

    I’ll show you next post.

  3. Dan Connolly

    October 20, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    14

  4. Paula Henry

    October 21, 2009 at 5:19 pm

    Bob – I’d love to be able to watch and learn as you build your new website – thanks for giving us the opportunity here. BTW – I counted 14, but am assuming there’s more to it than that.

  5. Erion Shehaj

    October 21, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Bob

    As unbelievable as it may seem, most agents skip this whole part of the process that you are describing in your post: the thinking part. Most simply try to emulate the look of a site they like, or simply go with a template (I think I just threw up in my mouth just a little bit). If there was more focus on the consumer you are trying to serve, it would follow that he/she would find it more plausible to hire you. Somehow, this escapes our industry.

    Great Post!

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