Home > Uncategorized > Yet another misguided website re-do.

Yet another misguided website re-do.

Last week, the company that manages my beach house, launched a new version of their website, at www.villagerealty.com

I looked at the new website and was surprised at the problems. They are easy to avoid. I’ve listed them below.

1. The website doesn’t have a liquid layout. Note the funky blank margins on the right and left of the page. Why would anyone want to waste prime screen space?

2. The domain, villagerealty.com, formerly was a url for an adult website. Therefore the url is filtered out by content filters. Here at work we use McAfee’s content filters and I can’t look at the new website at all. Why would anyone want to use a domain that many people may not be able to reach, or tells them that they are trying to access an adult site?

3. The new site has pretty Flash pictures on the home page. The pretty pictures slow the loading of the page. Why would anyone want to make their potential renters wait? They can always bail and go to another rental agency’s page – the beach house rental market in North Carolina is quite competitive.

4. The “Rentals” section of the site now has a drop down sliding menu where the user has to manipulate through over 400 homes – very carefully. Why would anyone think that this would be better than just listing the numbers on a webpage, as was done on their old website, at www.villagerealtyobx.com?

My beach house, Triple Play, is already rented for most of the summer. Good thing – because I would be really, really worried if I was counting on this new website for rentals.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. May 10, 2007 at 2:06 am

    Thanks for your comments on the new website. Our web guy showed us where to find your constructive criticisms; if there are others that come to mind, you are welcome to e-mail them to me at boboakes@villagerealtyobx.com.

    I will confess my ignorance to a liquid layout, and the sliding screen seems to accomplish the same task as the old list of numbers. i think there can be some differences based on personal preference.

    About the http://www.villagerealty.com url – it was a porn site, until we purchased it for $7000. (It felt like blackmail, but I finally surrendered) It is not the url we advertise – we used it to offer our property owners a preview of the new site. http://www.villagerealty.com points to http://www.villagerealtyobx.com, as does http://www.vrobx.com and several other urls. We’ve owned villagerealtyobx.com for some time now, and I don’t think we’ll have problems with it being blocked.

    I think the old saw about a picture being worth 1000 words is true. the flash pictures loaded on my home computer in .56 seconds.

    Village Realty was the first company on the Outer Banks to stop printing an annual brochure, so I am counting on the website for rentals. So far, so good. Overall. our bookings have outpaced last year every month. I am glad to hear your home is well-booked for most of the summer too.

    Warm regards,

    Bob Oakes
    President
    Village Realty

  2. joyrenee
    May 10, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    Thanks for the response – its great to know that someone at Village Realty cares about what users think of their website.

    I thought that the new site – http://www.villagerealty.com – was going to be the only site, with the others phased out. Sounds like Village Realty has a sound strategy for maximizing its online presence through domain names. Its a shame that domains are managed in such a way that people profit from them in a way that was never intended by ICAHN. $7,000 is too much to pay for a url that has your company’s name. Many organizations have had to do the same.

    The restriction against http://www.villagerealty.com seems to have been mitigated at my workplace – no warnings today from the IT department about going to a site with adult content. Also, the site seems to load more quickly.

    The new photos throughout the website are quite good and no criticism of them was intended – I apologize if it sounded that way. The site’s margins are still blank, but have been changed to a soft blue, which fits the site’s overall look. From a usability standpoint, the sliding dropdown menu to find a house by house number is difficult to use, especially difficult for a user using a touchpad.

    Its interesting that Village Realty is counting on the web for its future – and no longer prints its annual brochure. And that it is actively monitoring its online presence. Village Realty is much more proactive toward Web 2.0 than I realized.

    Have you considered creating a Facebook and a MySpace page, under Groups, for Village Realty? A fellow student of mine at GMU created pages for her employer, the Kennedy Center. Her rationale was that since so many young adults frequented these sites, it made sense to market the Kennedy Center to that audience.

    Anyway, thanks for the thoughful reply. I think your attention to detail – as evidenced by your response regarding Village Realty’s online presence – is a shining example of how companies should be doing business online.

  3. May 11, 2007 at 7:25 am

    Hi there — just a note on the select boxes.

    Those are there for a couple of reasons — one, guests might not look at the drop-down menu that has two items: “Rentals Listed by Name” and “Rentals Listed by Number” — this gives guests a quick way of switching to a specific property.

    The other reason was for homeowners. When you select a home from either select box, a cookie is set. This makes things easier for homeowners to bring up their respective properties — something several homeowners requested. I’m not a big fan of long select boxes myself, but they do serve a purpose in virtually all UI’s (not just the web).

    With regards to the margins — we optimized the site for a 1024×768 resolution, but at the same time, tried to keep things decent for 800×600 displays. With the advent of higher resolution monitors (mine is 2560×1600), going full screen is not really an option — you’ll notice more and more website are moving back away from full screen resolutions. They were popular for a while, but the newer resolutions (square, wide-screen, hi-rez, etc) are just making this too difficult to present a pleasant experience.

    With regards to the brochure, keep in mind that over 97% now come to the web for information regarding properties — even those that receive a brochure! Over the next couple of years, I think you’ll find the huge majority of vacation rental management companies will move in this direction — and within five years, I don’t think you’ll find a rental brochure anywhere.

    I won’t get too deep on the MSpace and Facebook accounts, but I can tell you these generally do not work well for this type of business. It is hard to get friends when you are commercial in nature. Funny thing though — we get a few hundred visitors each day coming from those two sites — so we definitely are “out there.”

    Now that the new site is live, we’re doing a 301 redirect from villagerealty.com to villagerealtyobx.com — this should eliminate any issues that the type-in traffic may experience. Even while the new site was being developed, a user typing in villagerealty.com could not see the new site — they were immediately 301’d to villagerealtyobx.com (that’s why we had the /v2 designation in the demo url).

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