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Thoughts on Site Design

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a good thinking place

I’ve been doing some thinking recently, going through some of my favorite techno-geek/online persuasion books in preparation for my talk over at REBarCamp in New York next week.  And I’ve also been in an extended conversation with a friend about a new site design.  So all these things have been sort of swirling around in my head for a while, and a couple things finally came together into salient thoughts.

First:

Instead of approaching design from the content perspective – I want a buyer section, a seller section, and About Tucson section, and a place for market reports – I think, first, we have to decide who the site is for, and what they want and need to see in order to be persuaded and assisted.  We need to approach design by defining our audience first, before coding a single tag or picking a theme.  And when we know who we’re talking to, then we know what kind of content to put on there, and in what place and presentation. 

Second:

We need to know what parts of our site drive our business.  The parts that make people email or call you or otherwise start them down the path to becoming your client.  If we have a site for our business, we’re trying to persuade someone to do something, no?  Otherwise, we’re talking about Chick-fil-a.  Which also has a place.  But it doesn’t necessarily drive my business.  Do we really know what parts or our site are succeeding and failing?  How do we know where to spend our time and energy – in terms of improving our sites – if we don’t know which parts work and which don’t?

And that’s what’s been in my head recently.  Now – how do I figure that out and apply it in the new year? 

Kelley Koehler, aka the Housechick, is usually found focused on her Tucson, Arizona, real estate business. You may also find her on Twitter, where she doubles as a super hero, at Social Media Training Camp, where she trains and coaches people on how to integrate social media into successful business practices, or at KelleyKoehler.com, a collection of all things housechick-ish. Despite her engineering background, Kelley enjoys translating complex technical concepts into understandable and clear ideas that are practical and useful to the striving real estate agent.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Kristal Kraft

    January 1, 2009 at 6:48 pm

    Google analytics is the answer, but you already know that.

  2. Bob

    January 1, 2009 at 6:51 pm

    Kristal’s site is an example of site architecture done right.

  3. Monika

    January 1, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    I love Kristal’s site. I know what you’re going through trying to figure the what and where of a site design. We just re-did mine and I’m still messing with the layout. But it is fun!

  4. Teri L

    January 1, 2009 at 7:20 pm

    Oh Housechick. I’m stuck in the quagmire about this issue.

    Give me a push. How do you track, how do you interpret the data? Start at the beginning, and don’t leave anything out.

    Oh. Well, maybe not all in one comment… 🙂

  5. Missy Caulk

    January 1, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Good question, I use different things to see what is driving traffic, just added a new feature with Altos Market Reports for people to come back on a weekly basis as they update automatically. It has not been tested yet for me but others who use them say their site stat’s say they come.
    So we will see.

  6. Bob

    January 1, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    How do we know where to spend our time and energy – in terms of improving our sites – if we don’t know which parts work and which don’t?

    That starts with knowing the goal. Is it traffic or conversion? If conversion – then buyers or sellers?

  7. Maureen Francis

    January 2, 2009 at 8:33 am

    I have been pondering the same questions the last few days (and years) and was hoping you were about to spoon feed me the answers. Help I need them quickly.

    Yes, I love Kristal’s site too. We can aspire.

  8. Chuck G

    January 2, 2009 at 8:49 am

    Hi Kelley,

    I’m really glad you brought this topic up, and I’ll apologize in advance for the loooong reply.

    I came to real estate via the technology world, having spent 20 years in technology sales prior to hitting the fork in the road that would take me down this path.

    One company I used to work for spent a ton of money surveying users on how to make their corporate website better. The results of this survey were pretty astounding, if for no other reasons than their simplicity:

    1.) Have what the site visitors are looking for.
    2.) Make it easy for them to find.

    (Note that the STYLE or look of the website was never mentioned.) Duh, right? Well, I think many of us are still missing the boat on one or both of these as we structure our blogs.

    Let’s look at both, and how they relate to RE blogs.

    1.) What are our clients looking for in our blogs? How do we know? We need THEIR feedback. The biggest tip I ever received on this topic was from Reggie at MTO, who turned me on to Crazy Egg. This is a neat little click-tracking software layer that tells you what’s getting clicked … and what’s NOT. After I started tracking clicks, I was amazed at how off-base my assumptions were.

    Example: I post sold data every week for my farm, which is not difficult to do but it’s very time consuming. I almost stopped doing it because of this reason, and I thought nobody was reading it. WRONG — the software showed me that these are the most highly read posts on my site. Ooops.

    Another way to get feedback is to look at which topics get the most replies. Also, ask your clients in person what they like best about your site. People LOVE giving their opinion, yet we rarely ask.

    2.) Make it easy for them to find what they’re looking for. This one poses the biggest challenge IMO. The aforementioned survey we did also yielded this gem on advice:

    If users can’t get what they want within 2-3 mouse clicks, the vast majority will LEAVE YOUR SITE and look elsewhere. Ouch. If they found you via Google, it’s only two clicks on the BACK button and they’re looking at your competitors site. How do our blogs stack up in this manner?

    Example: MLS Searches. First, I applaud those who have incorporated MLS into their blogs. PEOPLE ARE THERE TO LOOK FOR HOMES, RIGHT?? But guess what? Many of the MLS modules we’re using are the biggest violators of this rule.

    Try it yourself — see how many clicks it takes to bring up all of the homes for sale in your farm. If it’s more than 2 or 3, you’re in BIG trouble. A good iDX solution can do this in 1 click — how slick is that??

    A final observation (if I haven’t already put you to sleep.) Blogs are like fishing nets. They wider we cast, the more we catch. Translated: The more people that know we buy and sell RE, the better. So neighborhood info is still vital, and the magic of Google will bring you readers you NEVER imagined you’d get. I just picked up a client who read one of my posts on schools. They would have likely never found me otherwise.

    So keep writing about Chick-Fil-A!!

    Best,

    CG

  9. Chelle

    January 2, 2009 at 9:54 am

    There’s two things that could help with that – search phrase traffic (google analytics or gostats are both free and give decent stats) and another thing that might help you is a heat map of your site. (Just google “heat map for website” – lots of options!)

    That way, you’ll know exactly who’s coming, and where/what they’re clicking on before you launch a redesign.

    Good luck!

  10. Kelley Koehler

    January 2, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Hi Chuck – Don’t think I’ve heard from you before. I like you already. 🙂 Love CrazyEgg. And since you brought it up, my husband has been designing my IDX stuff for years, we’re finally reselling it to others. Homes in one click? Oh yes.

    Teri – you gotta go back to step one. What’s the goal? Who are you trying to reach, and what would they like to see and do on your site? People relocating to the area want information differently and in a different order than those already living there and just down/upsizing. Once I know what I’m trying to do, I can figure out how to measure it, see if it’s working or not, with my analytics and with some testing.

    Maureen – hello blog redesign winner! Methinks you’re getting some assistance soon! My advice is to know who you’re targeting and with what kind of information going in. Pretty and colorful is fun, but fun isn’t always effective.

  11. Chuck G

    January 3, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Hey Kelley,

    I’d be very interested to see what kind of iDX solutions your husband is offering to the market (do you have a reciprocal agreement with REIL in the Bay Area?) I use Diverse Solutions, which I think is best of the many that I evaluated….but like any other tool, there’s PLENTY of room for improvement even with their solution.

    All the best in ’09!

    Chuck

  12. Jack Leblond

    January 5, 2009 at 11:50 am

    Here’s article from one of my favorite AG authors (OK, it’s me) about how to track where people go on your web site and some tips on what to do with that information.

    https://agentgenius.com/?p=8427

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Tired of Zoom? NVIDIA announces AI-powered contender

(TECH NEWS) NVIDIA’s AI-based video technology offers helpful features like face alignment, gaze correction, and noise cancellation to optimize video calls.

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Woman on video call with coffee, NVIDIA video conference tech coming soon

For the most part, Zoom has dominated video conferencing, but it might soon face competition thanks to NVIDIA. Recently, NVIDIA announced its new GPU-Accelerated AI Platform, NVIDIA Maxine, that it says will “vastly improve streaming quality” and offer incredible AI-powered features.

NVIDIA Maxine is a cloud-native video-streaming AI platform so data doesn’t need to be processed on local servers. Instead, NVIDIA’s servers process the information so users can use the cool AI features without having to purchase any new specialized hardware.

“NVIDIA Maxine integrates our most advanced video, audio, and conversational AI capabilities to bring breakthrough efficiency and new capabilities to the platforms that are keeping us all connected,” said Ian Buck, vice president and general manager of Accelerated Computing at NVIDIA, in a press release.

Maxine’s “breakthrough efficiency” can be seen in its AI-based video compression technology. The AI tech reduces the bandwidth used on a call to one-tenth of the H.264 video compression standard without compromising video quality. In doing so, less data is transmitted back and forth so slow internet connection and limited bandwidth won’t be a problem anymore. Hopefully, this helps bring an end to the dreaded “you have a poor connection, blah, blah, blah” message.

Some of the features that make NVIDIA Maxine standout are face alignment and gaze correction. These two features allow for a better face-to-face conversation. For instance, people will no longer appear to be staring off into outer space. With face alignment, the software will automatically adjust people so it looks like they are facing each other. And, with gaze correction, it will help simulate eye contact. According to NVIDIA, “These features help people stay engaged in the conversation rather than looking at their camera.”

Also, if developers choose to do so, they can allow users to choose an animated avatar. These avatars offer a realistic feel because they are driven by a person’s “voice and emotional tone in real-time.” Plus, the auto frame feature automatically follows the person in the frame so they are always in view. This is great when you’re doing a presentation or demo.

The feature that stands out to me is the noise cancellation filter that removes background noise. Anyone with a toddler or dog will be a big fan of that one! Continually pressing the mute and unmute button could finally become a thing of the past.

Maxine also has a “conversational AI”. With NVIDIA Jarvis (not to be confused with Iron Man’s Just A Rather Very Intelligent System), developers can integrate virtual assistants to take notes, set action items, and answer questions in human-like voices. Additionally, this AI offers translations and closed captions all in real-time.

By taking a look at what NVIDIA Maxine has to offer, there is no denying Zoom has a lot of work to do if it wants to stay on top. Although it did dabble with real-time captioning back in June, Zoom’s offering was very limited. And, Maxine is on its way up.

Early access to the NVIDIA Maxine platform is available to Computer vision AI developers, software partners, startups, and computer manufacturers creating audio and video apps and services.

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How psychologists are using VR to profile your personality

(TECH NEWS) VR isn’t just for gamers. Psychologists are using it to research how people emotionally respond to threats. But does it come at the cost of privacy?

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Man using VR in personality test.

When you put on a VR headset for the first time, most people have that ‘whoa’ moment. You’ve entered an enchanting otherworldly place that seems real, but you know it isn’t. You slowly tilt your head up to see a nicely lit blue sky. You turn your head around to see mountains and trees that weren’t there before. And, you finally look down to stare at your hands. Replaced by bright-colored gloves, you flex your hands to form a fist, then jazz hands, and back.

Playing VR games is exciting and interesting for a lot of gamers, and you would (or maybe wouldn’t) be surprised to know that psychologists think so, too. According to The Conversation, psychologists have started researching how people emotionally respond to potential threats using VR.

Do you think this is weird or cool? I’ll let the following help you decide.

So, why did psychologists think using VR would help them in their research?

In earlier studies, psychologists tested “human approach-avoidance behavior”. By mixing real and virtual world elements, they “observed participants’ anxiety on a behavioral, physiological, and subjective level.” Through their research, they found that anxiety could be measured, and “VR provokes strong feelings of fear and anxiety”.

In this case, how did they test emotional responses to potential threats?

For the study, 34 participants were recruited to assess how people have a “tendency to respond strongly to negative stimuli.” Using a room-scaled virtual environment, participants were asked to walk across a grid of translucent ice blocks suspended 200 meters above the ground. Participants wore head-mounted VR displays and used handheld controllers.

Also, sensors placed on the participants’ feet would allow them to interact with the ice blocks in 2 ways. By using one foot, they could test the block and decide if they wanted to step on it. This tested risk assessment. By using both feet, the participants would commit to standing on that block. This tested the risk decision.

The study used 3 types of ice blocks. Solid blocks could support the participant’s weight and would not change in appearance. Crack blocks could also support the participant’s weight, but interacting with it would change its color. Lastly, Fall blocks would behave like Crack blocks, but would shatter completely when stepped on with 2 feet. And, it would lead to a “virtual fall”.

So what did they find?

After looking at the data, researchers found out that by increasing how likely an ice block would disintegrate, the “threat” for the participant also increased. And, of course, participants’ behavior was more calculated as more cracks appeared along the way. As a result, participants opted to test more blocks before stepping on the next block completely.

But, what else did they find?

They found that data about a person’s personality trait could also be determined. Before the study, each participant completed a personality questionnaire. Based on the questionnaire and the participants’ behavior displayed in the study researchers were able to profile personality.

During the study, their main focus was neuroticism. And, neuroticism is one of the five major personality traits used to profile people. In other words, someone’s personality could now also be profiled in a virtual world.

So, it all comes down to data and privacy. And yes, this isn’t anything new. Data collection through VR has been a concern for a long while. Starting this month, Facebook is requiring all new Oculus VR owners to link their Facebook account to the hardware. Existing users will be grandfathered in until 2023.

All in all, VR in the medical field isn’t new, and it has come a long way. The question is whether the risk of our personality privacy is worth the cost.

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Tech News

Failure to launch: Quibi’s short-form platform is short-lived

(TECH NEWS) Despite receiving major funding from big players, Quibi is shutting down only 6 months after launch. What led to their downfall?

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A mobile phone open to Quibi in feminine hands with decorated nails.

Only 6 short months after launching its platform, Quibi has decided to pull the plug.

The mobile-only streaming service’s vision was to create short-form videos with higher production value than that of competitors like YouTube or TikTok. Having enlisted big names such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Jennifer Lopez, and Lebron James, Quibi had high hopes for what the service could accomplish. In an open letter posted to Medium, founding company executives Jeffery Katzenberg and Meg Whitman cited timing and the idea of mobile-first premium storytelling not being strong enough as the primary reasons for shuttering.

“As entrepreneurs our instinct is to always pivot, to leave no stone unturned — especially when there is some cash runway left — but we feel that we’ve exhausted all our options.” The letter stated, “As a result we have reluctantly come to the difficult decision to wind down the business, return cash to our shareholders, and say goodbye to our colleagues with grace. We want you to know we did not give up on this idea without a fight.”

The move is somewhat surprising considering that back in March the service managed to raise an additional $750 million in funding, bringing its total fundraising to $1.75 billion. At the time, Quibi CFO Ambereen Toubassy had touted that the second-round of cash had provided the organization with “a strong cash runway,” that would give Quibi “the financial wherewithal to build content and technology that consumers embrace.”

Originally called “New TV”, the initial investors of the service included Hollywood titans Disney, NBCUniversal, and Sony Pictures Entertainment just to name a few. While the amount of money raised was minuscule compared to services like Netflix, it was still an impressive start for an untested idea.

The service did itself no favors, however, in trying to gain new subscribers. Along with being mobile-only, the service started at $4.99 per month for an ad-supported subscription, only slightly cheaper from more robust offerings like Hulu and ESPN+. While you could pay $7.99 per month to get rid of ads, you were also forbidden from taking screenshots, limiting the ability of content on the service to go viral.

Quibi was also financing content, meaning that ownership would revert back to creators after just a few short years. This means building a growing library of content owned by the service was an uphill battle from the start.

“This was flawed from the start, down to the idea of financing content and then giving it back to the creators after a few years.” Said a veteran producer who refused to work with the company, “There is anger in town right now, because it just makes it harder to raise money.”

Quibi is set to be inaccessible starting around the beginning of December, according to a post on the company’s support site. While much of the service’s content will not be missed, one still wonders what might have been had the company managed to gain some traction, or the COVID-19 pandemic had not come to pass. Either way, Quibi’s business partners may want to read up on some of these tips as they discuss where things should go from here.

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