Well, first thing’s first – how the hell am I going to write my “teaser” in one or two short lines? Brevity has never been, nor ever will become, an attribute of mine. That space above the fold was always my opportunity to lead, engage, attract, tease, trick, or regale!
Alas, I’ll just have to make do with a smaller introduction which makes the whole site look a lot cleaner!
And that’s really what the new layout was about; making things look a bit cleaner.
Or should I say, a little more 2018, and a little less 2006.
I’ve never been one to accept change.
Whether it was moving houses when I was 12-years-old (even though I was moving to a house twice as large, in a better area), or switching from a Blackberry to an iPhone (why did I wait so long?), or downloading the MLS app on my phone and scrapping the keychain-authenticator (I was the very last TREB agent to do this), or even switching from a paper/padfolio day-planner to an online calendar…………which I have yet to do…
…I have never been good with change.
My beloved Toronto Realty Blog, which many of you might find zero fault with, has looked old, stale, and outdated for quite some time.
I brought a new layout online in the summer of 2016, but as I was told by many, it was basically just the same red and white version iteration as before, with a few subtle changes, a bit of moving column A to column B, and removing the disastrous colours in the “TRB Channels” I had below the fold.
I suppose I’ve come a long way since 2007.
Here’s my very first masthead:
And then my “updated” second version:
Wow, they’re just, like, so different!
But that is what used to represent change to me.
I started the blog in June of 2007, and within months, I already had major formatting issues.
On Internet Explorer (this was before Google Chrome and Firefox got a bigger market share, not to mention Mac users), which back at the time represented about 60% of my users, the masthead would not display properly, and was actually showing at the bottom of the blog……….for about 12 months.
Yes, 12 months. Before I finally thought, “I wonder if anybody other than the guy I found on Craigslist, and paid $500 to, could work on my website.”
The masthead and the menu bar running across the top of the home page were both lost below sea. But it didn’t seem to matter, because my following was somewhat underground back then. People seemed to like the imperfection of the site, as it almost underscored how rare it was to find a licensed real estate agent opining about shady developers, or misleading sales tactics.
But eventually, as I said, I had to get the site fixed.
And that’s where the beautiful second version of TRB, that you see above, came into play. Oh, just so different from the first! But at least everything was in the right place.
And this was well before you’d ever access a website on your phone. My 2008 Blackberry could barely load the blog. All the users were on desktops.
But the second version was cleaner overall, and oh – the new logo! Yes! I finally decided to scrap the puffy, orange, first-font-I-randomly-chose lettering, and get a logo.
I had this idea that I was “putting my stamp” on the city, and I thought this looked really cool:
Just as my Mom told me I was cool in Grade 9, when I sat home instead of going to parties, I told myself this was cool in 2008-09 when I had some random part-timer in my office draw it, likely in Paint.
It wasn’t until the summer of 2013 that I made another change.
Raise your hand if you’ve been around since this version:
In hindsight, it looks awful, right?
But at the time, it was supposed to be a “window into my mind.”
Coffee, a blackberry, keys on the desk, and old-fashioned paper day-planner, all strewn across a hardwood floor, in a city where everybody seemed to be obsessed with hardwood floors.
The “Top Posts Of The Month” was a leading feature, since I was starting to see 20-30 comments with regularity, and I felt that more people were coming back to read what others were saying.
Eventually I grew tired of this, and wanted something cleaner, which was ironic, given the whole idea behind this layout was to “jazz it up.”
When I launched the new version somewhere around 2014, I was surprised by the response! Readers were actually telling me they like the old version, which made me realize that I wasn’t the only one averse to change.
The new version was cleaner, and easier to navigate, with way more features, and it had multiple ways to find the same thing, no matter what you were looking for.
But as I would soon learn, and as I fully expect with today’s new launch, readers just don’t like change!
Here’s the 2014 version:
Of course the top wasn’t cut off, but my archives are only so perfect.
So compare this to the wood-flooring-version, and how can somebody say they don’t like it?
Well, like I said, the consensus always seems to be, “What you had before was fine. Why bother changing?”
Then in 2016, for some odd reason, I decided to launch a “new” layout, that was more of the same:
That’s the site you all knew and (hopefully) loved, until this week.
Boy, it really really was similar to the 2014 version.
In any event, this time around, I really wanted to get with the times.
I wanted something that made me uncomfortable, and I found it during my first meeting with my team – when I said, “Not a chance,” and walked out.
And that’s when I knew it made sense.
I had to change. I had to get more modern.
And I had to risk being “too salesy,” as a close friend of mine called the mock-up when I showed it to him two months ago.
But you know what? It’s out of necessity.
Would you believe it if I told you that many people who email me don’t know I’m a real estate agent?
I get a slew of emails every week, and not just from buyers and sellers who want to be come clients. I get at least 2-3 people who are looking to get into real estate and want advice, I get 2-3 people who had interesting experiences in real estate and want to share, I get 2-3 people who know I’m a real estate agent, and used another agent for their transaction, but are really hoping I’ll spend some time to consider their situation and give them advice, and then, above all else, I always get at least one email from somebody who needs my help, pleads with me to call or email, and then is surprised to find out I’m a real estate agent.
Just last Friday, I spoke to a woman who was asking for advice on two condos in her target area, and eventually said, “My Realtor thinks the maintenance fees aren’t a problem in either building.” I told her, “You should have mentioned you’re working with a Realtor, because I don’t want to interfere.” She said, “Oh, I didn’t know you were a Realtor.”
Yes. Really. This does happen.
So because I knew I was going to write this blog when the new site launched this week, I asked her, “What did you think this site was?’
She said, “Well, I was just Googling ‘maintenance fees’ and I found it, so, I dunno, I guess I thought it was like a public support page?”
What the hell is a public support page? Is that even a thing?
So yes, you could label TRB V6.0 “more salesy,” but not because I am trying to attract more business, but because I think people should know who I am, what I do, what services I provide, etc. Just like any business, selling any good or service.
But that’s just me being self-conscious. Overall, I love the new look and feel. It’s very modern, sleek, dare I speak the over-used buzz-word, “sharp,” and above all – clean.
The blog itself won’t change in format.
New posts will still be published every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with Pick5 on Thursday.
The big changes are in the form of additions to the site, specifically new features.
First and foremost, we have a listings portal. This is, like what you will find online, 100% up-to-date and complete. And like what you will find online – it doesn’t take 24 hours to populate new listings, like the archaic www.realtor.ca that CREA shoves down our throats.
It’s a pretty sad state of affairs when a wee-blogger like myself has new listings posted before our public MLS, but that’s a topic for another day.
The listings will have sales trends for each neighbourhood and/or building in which that listing resides, as well as amenity information, open house info, etc.
I’ve also scrapped a few features, starting with “ASK TRB,” which was my previous brainchild, thinking that readers would take the opportunity to start their own thread. But as you saw from last Friday’s blog about “MLS Musings,” when the readers want to start a thread – they just do it in the current blog!
I also scrapped the “Featured Listings,” ie. the Hot House of The Week, Hot Loft of The Week, etc. I deliberately have not updated this section since January, because I wanted to see how long it would take for a reader to email me, since readers will literally email me when I’ve used a semi-colon incorrectly. But guess what? Nobody emailed me! So it’s like I thought: nobody uses that feature.
Many of the regular readers will be VERY happy to see that I’ve re-ordered the comments section, so that the first comment appears, well, first, and subsequent comments below. This was a major sticking point back in the summer of 2016 when I first launched, although part of me thinks you’ll all be so used to it, that you’ll complain now that I’ve switched it back.
But the big addition to TRB is something that no other real estate agent in Toronto can offer.
I call it the “Data Hub.”
Let’s say that I wanted to know the average price of a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, semi-detached house that sold specifically in the “Danforth Village” community of TREB District “E03,” between January 1st, 2018, and March 31st, 2018.
Right now, I would go to the back-end of MLS (which of course you guys don’t have), and I would search accordingly.
I would then copy and paste all those sales into Microsoft Excel, clean the data and use the AVERAGE function on the “Sold Price” column.
That’s a lot of work.
And it’s work that you guys can’t do.
But what if you could?
Folks, let me introduce you to the TRB Data Hub.
I will admit that the functionality takes some getting used to (ie. holding CTRL to select multiple sections, using the map versus using the auto-complete for areas, etc), but give it a shot, and play around with it.
Over the next two months, I want you guys to use this feature, and give me your feedback.
As it stands now, we have only “Beds,” “Baths,” and “Parking” for the drop-down options, but as I said – we’re working on it.
We plan to add features as we move along, but wanted to get this launched for you folks to play around with.
As cheezy as this might sounds, I view Toronto Realty Blog as a community that I have built over eleven years, and many of the readers and users have been around for a long, long time. I value the input of the readers more than you’ll ever understand. I might write the blogs, but it’s the users that truly make TRB all that it is.
So that’s it, folks.
I welcome your feedback, even if you liked the previous version more, which is what everybody has said after every change.
The post Welcome To Your New Toronto Realty Blog! appeared first on Toronto Realty Blog.