Long-time readers will know that this blog often undergoes changes in design and layout.
Now is such a time.
Three (main) reasons, in no particular order:
1) I like to play around with new stuff. Enter the PlatformPro framework from PageLines (affiliate link). It’s a “Drag & Drop theme framework” for WordPress. Lacking in raw programming/coding skills, the easier a piece of software is to manipulate, the better. And PlatformPro seems to work better (for me) than Headway ”“ another drag & drop framework. It also includes hooks, ala Thesis ”“ the theme this blog previously ran on. You don’t have to use hooks, but it greatly increases the capability of the platform.
2) The old site was”¦.. let’s just be nice and say “cluttered”. Hell, let’s face it, it was a disaster. See reason #1 ”“ I like to try new stuff, and over time the blog tends to collect said stuff because I have an inherent problem letting go. If you doubt this, just ask my wife and children, or look at my desk. It needed a serious dethatching and as I pulled stuff out, I was left with some thoughts and concepts that I didn’t have the skills to do in Thesis.
3) Despite the fact that I wish people would come to Phoenix Real Estate Guy for no other purpose than to read, participate and learn, the simple fact is, I have a mortgage to pay, children to feed and send to college, and a business to run. Some day I’d like to retire to the beach and fish. To that end, I have a living to make. This site’s primary purpose is to generate real estate prospects, and while it does pretty well at that, there is always room for improvement. So we’re going to try to increase the “lead generation” (God I hate that term, but it is what it is) potential of this site ”“ through clearer calls to action. This framework allows me to (relatively easily) do things like make custom sidebars and focus on specific actions I want/hope/desire/need people to take.
Will it work?
Beats the heck out of me. There’s only one way to find out. I have a boat load of statistics and analysis that show how people find this site and what they do when they get here. The plan is to let this thing run for a few weeks and see what happens. If it fails miserably ”“ and that is entirely possible ”“ it’s pretty painless to switch back to the old layout. Time will tell.
Is it finished?
Of course not. Are these things ever finished? I’ll be tinkering under the hood a lot over the next few days. Who knows what we’ll ultimately end up with.
I want your feedback!
Good, bad, or ugly, I’d love to hear your thoughts. And if you see something broken, I’d really like to hear it. I have already received a lot of feedback from many people I showed the preliminary test site to via Facebook, Twitter and real life. I truly appreciate all the feedback I’ve received and have incorporated what I could.
Kudo’s to Darin Persinger who turned me on to a little gem called Clue. This allows you to test designs by giving people a few seconds to view a screen shot and record what they remember. Very handy for seeing if your calls to action are making a quick impression.
Here are the results of the Clue test I ran on the new homepage. You can see all the results here (though I have no idea how long they retain them).
This is good. I want people to see the home search, the blog entry point, the info on short sales. Branding is good. The cactus in the header is more memorable than I thought it would be. Stuff like this interests me, and yes, I understand it may help the same appeal and fingernails on a chalkboard to many of you. It’s a great tool is you want to understand what others first impressions of our site / page might be. And let’s face it, first impressions count.
For the sake of posterity, here is a screen shot of part of the old home page, followed by a screen shot of all of the new home page:
Part of the Old. Total height of home page = 3100 pixels
All of the New. Total height of home page = 970 pixels
Decluttering accomplished. What remains to be seen is how it performs. We’ll be watching closely”¦