TRB V. 3.0

Surprise!

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you: TRB V 3.0.

NewImproved

I hope everybody had a great long weekend!

I was able to get out to the golf course, but I also spent a lot of time behind the computer, as you might be able to tell based on TRB’s new layout!

I’ve never been good with change.  In fact, I’m terrible with it.  But I hope my blog readers are a bit more accepting of TRB’s new layout, and hopefully more so than they were in 2011 when we went from the original 2007 version to the “new and improved” version that up until last week was the norm.

TRB V 3.0 is cleaner, easier to navigate, and the most important features of the blog are more easily accessible.

The previous version was organized chronologically, with the last fifteen posts listed from top to bottom on the home page.

But I’ve been told by many readers that they’re either interested in today’s article, or yesterday’s if they missed it, but beyond that, there’s no point in scrolling back.

I’ve also been told by some readers that they like to read by genre, or “channels,” such as Condos, Mortgage, Stories, Friday Rant, etc.

And lastly, I’ve been told that the most popular columns, ie. the ones with the most comments, are also in high demand.

So I’ve combined this feedback to give you the new and improved home page!

On the left hand side, you can search by “Latest” to get the last five posts, or by “Popular” to get the five posts with the most comments.

In the middle section, we have “Today’s” blog, and then on the right, you can access “Yesterday’s” blog, as well as the previous week.  If you want to dig back further, there’s a link for “More,” and you can always go to the “Archive” on the left hand side, below the “Videos.”

Below the fold, you’ve got your main twelve “TRB Channels,” with blog posts organized chronologically, but by Channel or Genre.

And then, as you’ve probably noticed from the animated GIF image below the fold on the main page and at the masthead on the blog post pages, we’re cranking out a new feature called “Pick Five.”

This, in my opinion, will be the most controversial thing I’ve ever done in seven years of blogging.

“Pick Five” is a password-protected section of the site where I’ll analyze active listings, and provide my insight and analysis on the properties, and everything in between.  Up until now, I’ve always had to be anonymous in my writings, and either provide an address such as “123 Fake Street,” or refer to a house as “a property in North Toronto.”  Well I’ve created a Virtual Office Website by incorporating a password-protected area of Toronto Realty Blog, meaning we can look at active listings for sale, all their photos and details, and talk about the pricing, the marketing, the strategy, probable sale prices if they’re holding back offers, and basically I can do and say a host of things that I couldn’t previously (and still can’t…) on the main page of TRB.

I’m not going to get into a discussion about the “rules” of organized real estate, their merits, their uses, etc.  Instead, I’ll play by those rules, and launch “Pick Five.”

So what’s all the fuss about “Pick Five?”

Well, imagine I decide to analyze five properties in Bloor West, one of which I tear to shreds.  I talk about how terrible the staging is, how it’s like putting lipstick on a pig, how the property is over-priced AND they’re holding back offers, and how I don’t trust the listing agent.  Well, how would that listing agent feel?  He or she might launch a RECO complaint, charging that I’ve “disparaged a competitor,” and that I’m guilty of “unauthorized advertising” for providing access to their photos and virtual tour.

Well, I would charge that I’m not providing my opinion to the general public, but rather to members of my database, who have their own password, and who have ASKED for my help and commentary.

I would also suggest that I’m not “advertising” their listings, or illegally using their photos and virtual tours, since the same are readily available to any person receiving automated “Prospect Matches” via email from a real estate agent.

The bottom line is this: the real estate industry is changing, like it or not (consumers like it; organized real estate does not).  Barriers to entry are being broken down, and information will (eventually) be more readily available.  A website like www.tosolds.com is blatantly breaching RECO rules, and yet nothing is being done about it, since the broker/owner is currently embroiled in a half-billion-dollar lawsuit with every member of organized real estate.  But I digress…

“Pick Five” is not meant to ruffle any feathers, but rather demonstrate how technological advances can and should be used to benefit an industry.

Remember when Napster hit the scene in the late 1990’s, and the music industry spent billions and billions of dollars fighting against the technology instead of embracing it?

I have a message, an opinion, and a mission, and I want to share it with people who want to hear what I have to say.  I shouldn’t be confined to the telephone to talk to potential clients, or in the board room in my brokerage.  The password-protected back-end of my website is as good a place as any to talk to potential clients, and it follows the policies set for “virtual office websites.”

So with that short rant out of the way, I’d love to hear some feedback from my regular readers on the blog’s new layout – whether you love it or hate it.

For real – let me know about anything and everything, good or bad.  A lot of time went into this, and I’d like to know how my regular readers feel.  Some of you have been reading for seven years, and have seen all three versions of TRB.  I’m hoping you’ll like these changes.

And check out “Pick Five” if you have a chance.  Yes, you have to put in your email address and you’ll be sent a password, but I’m not in the business of spamming people ten times per day. 🙂

It’s a short week, but I’ll be posting new blogs every day.

Enjoy!

David.

18 Comments

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  1. Philip says:

    David!

    I’ve been reading your blog since the first redesign and once I got over the shock of the wooden floors and the new look and feel, it really grew on me! Here are my thought about the new site (to take with a grain of salt):

    1. It works great on my mobile phone and my Ipad and my Google Nexus 7 – way to be ahead of the curve on that, I can’t believe that not all web sites have this feature. I’ve been reading it on and off my commute
    2. Not everyone will appreciate the channels, but for me, it’s great. I’m a huge fan of the photos of the week, stories and your rant pieces, so it’s much easier for me to access these now – different people are going to use the site differently, people just like to complain when something exactly their way
    3. The Pick 5 feature looks interesting, but there’s some audio panning issues (maybe it’s just me, but it’s only coming out of one side of the speaker?
    4. Love the sidebar for checking out what people are arguing about today in the popular section and to go straight through Categories
    5. Archive is cool to look through the old posts, but I use the channels now because I can get all the older posts for that category
    6. For me, the animated gif isn’t great, but it certainly gets the message across

    Overall I think it’s a great update and I’m sure people on their phones and tablets will appreciate it the most.

  2. Kyle says:

    I checked out the Pick 5 and it is awesome x4

    1. Awesome content, i think there’s more real estate insight in that video, than reading a year’s worth of Toronto Life and G&M combined

    2. Awesome because i signed up, which gets around stupid bureacracy, but thank god i did not have to sign a BRA (more stupid bureacracy)

    3. Awesome because the audio on the video was completely out of sync with your mouth movements, which brought back happy childhood memories of watching “Kung Fu Theater” on WUTV

    4. Awesome, because i was able to watch the entre video on my phone, on the subway (where there was not reception or wi-fi). Not sure how this was possible (I am not a techie), but somehow i started playing the video at Davisville Station Southbound (where i had a signal) and it just kept playing even after i transferred to the Westbound train at Bloor. It continued to play and finished at Bathurst.

  3. R says:

    Hmm. Dunno if something is broken or its the links I included but I posted a lengthy helpful reply and its still showing up “in moderation”.

    David?

    R

  4. R says:

    I’m sorry to hear you hired professional web developers and paid for this. To put it into terms, the result in my opinion as a professional designer with 15+ plus years experience is equivalent to the no/cellphone/blurry pic MLS listings with the wrong address and typos….

    My overall advice is to think about content and layout in terms of hierarchy, depth and user interaction consistency.

    Layout should be according to those items that are more important, being more prominent (ie. placement/size/font). For example, which is more important on the front page – TRBTV logo, yesterday’s post image, individual videos, photos of channels, animated GIF ad? All are about the same visual size and imapct with no clear indication of what I should look at, when.

    Content should be shown in an appropriate depth that suits the content. For example the large photo on each channel’s post gives no information about the post, and only the title is a clue what the channel/post offers. No enough depth. A first paragraph of text would be more appropriate and offer sufficient depth at a main page browsing level.

    Interaction consistency gives the user a meaningful understanding of how the site works and expectations to interact with it. The “sub-title” look of the additional posts in each channel don’t match the use of titles elsewhere. Main titles have no rollover effect, but smaller titles do (underline). Some links are all caps, red, bold, helvetica, while others are black, serif, lower case. Top 2 posts are Left to Right in date, channels in no particular order, Left sidebar top to bottom, not chronological (“popular”).

    Lastly, I’m still going to challenge you on the important of “channels” as you have them presented. Your content is not like a newspaper or other content provider that has multiple things new at the same time in different categories. In that situation, presenting by channel/category makes sense as there needs to be a way to sort it. For example at Gridto.com or TorontoStandard.com

    You have 1 new post a day at most. As such, there is nothing as important as “This is the newest”. Sorting by category is a secondary feature, like most popular, etc. This is what tags are for, and can be displayed a number of ways. Within each post, as a tag cloud or list on the side, etc. Typical path for a reader reading linear content (new by date) is to read newest first, then go back in time (BTW, you are also missing “OLDER/NEWER” buttons at the end of each post so you can read content without going back to the main page).

    Hope this helps. Not trying to be too critical, but I believe good content should not have to suffer under poor design.

    I’d suggest taking a look at some other local blogs with a lot more content and traffic as an example – http://torontoist.com and http://www.blogto.com all linear, with “most popular”, categories and all other features secondary. It’s all about the content. Torontoist a better design IMHO.

    R

    PS. Animated GIF ad? yuck.

  5. Potato says:

    I find it weird to have yesterday to the right, then the rest of the archive to the rest. Too many places to look for basically the same thing (have archive default to chronological and you can save that right box).

    “but I’m not in the business of spamming people ten times per day”

    Well, you may not personally do that, but you are in the business!

  6. ScottyP says:

    Some of the arguments below are valid, particularly with respect to the multitude of fonts being used; the “sub-heading” nature of the titles of your previous posts under “Previous” and in your Channels; and the lack of comment counts for the majority of your previous posts.

    (Other arguments, such as the concept that red & white is hard on the eyes and that this site is somehow hard to navigate, are not as valid IMO.)

    However, these issues are small potatoes, and ones that you will no doubt address. From a “big picture” perspective, this layout is a massive improvement. “Pick 5” looks like it could be a winner as well.

    People are usually slow to adapt to change, and until they do there’s going to be some overreaction. While the opinions below should be considered valuable feedback that was kindly offered without personal gain, I for one would highly recommend that you stay the course.

  7. Dave says:

    When it comes to web sites, less is more and honestly, there is way too much going on here. Nothing really jumps out to me, everything gets lost in the clutter. You have only a few seconds to entice your viewers and I think there is so much going that people will lose interest

    1. jeff316 says:

      As someone who has dabbled in websites myself, I’m loathe to criticize redesigns because I know how much time goes into them, and whether or not people will like it is a crapshoot. It’s high risk, low reward stuff.

      But this latest design makes your eyes want to scream from all of the red and white, and there is way too much content. It’s hard to tell if the new posts have many comments or not (usually the mark of an interesting post). The channels aren’t terribly useful, and even if you keep them they take up too much space. There is no need for a graphic for each. The site is just so busy it’s hard to focus. You almost miss the main reason for coming here – the blog post of the day.

  8. R says:

    Site is crazy busy, and too much contrast so very hard on the eyes. I wouldn’t use the huffington post and the sun as your ideal template, as they amount to not much more than links farms and ad content. I’d think you’d want your valuable, original content to stand out, not get lost in a jumble of unrelated pics, animated GIFs (really?), and logos.

    Specifically-

    -new layout has a lot of large pictures, but these are just things you pull off the web as a header image, so they have no real value. That, and they don’t represent the article content much. I think your layout would be much stronger if you got rid of the pics all together
    -would make more sense to have the first few lines of the article and a ‘read more” link. A photo + title doesn’t give me much to go on to know if I would be interested in reading more.
    -“Channels” are not really channels, but tags. Not the best way to sort content, and tags would be better as you can use more than one. Layout showing titles of posts and other titles below that look like subtitles doesn’t read well
    -red and white is very harsh to look at
    -you have like 5 different fonts, not including logos. Too much. Condensed fonts don’t read well online.
    -twitter and animated gif content in the middle is very distracting

    I’m not sure who you polled about what content is most important, but I think standard chronological blog format with tags for posts works best. You can always see the newest, and scroll down for older content. You can also use a tag cloud in the sidebar to find posts only related to one topic (ie. condos).

    Showing comment count also a good thing. I come to read the comments almost as much as your original article.

    You also previously had the most popular posts at the top, which was another option to browse.

    Your old layout was not the most attractive or functional, but this is just painful to look at. I’d suggest you take your own advice on hiring a pro (why people need realtors, instead of DIY listings), and get yourself a good web designer or graphic designer with web experience. There are tons of great and simple layouts your can use with free templates on a platform such as wordpress. Any of these would be a huge improvement-
    http://theme.wordpress.com

    R

    1. @ Richard

      This is very thorough! Thanks so much!

      Your feedback is excellent, and believe me when I say that I’m taking my readers’ opinions into account.

      We’re going to change a few things, no doubt.

      The “Channels” or “Tags” as you put them will stay, as that’s the format we’ve incorporated with the new design. Believe it or not, I do have professional web developers (consulted with three companies) and we did run focus groups on various layouts to see which ones were the most popular.

      But I think issues like fonts, formatting, colors – these are things that could be ironed out, and will be.

      FYI – the “Most Popular” has been expanded, and it’s on the left hand side. Previously, we had the three most popular articles by # of comments, now we have five.

  9. ScottyP says:

    The new layout isn’t too cluttered at all. In fact, it’s very easy to navigate.

    Personally, I only care about today’s post, yesterday’s post, and the most popular topics in recent weeks. All of those are easily accessible above the “fold” on the main page.

    Those who like the videos can easily access them, on the left sidebar below the fold. Those who like compartmentalized “channels” can do likewise, also below the fold.

    I will say that 12 “channels” may be a bit much… and that may be what’s giving the site the somewhat cluttered feel in the opinions of some. But once people get used to the layout, I assume that they’ll simply go to channel(s) in which they have the most interest.

    Really huge upgrade over the previous layout. Plus, “Pick 5” certainly looks intriguing. Keep up the good work.

  10. RPG says:

    It took me two tries to sign up for the Pick Five, but I’m assuming you’re working out the bugs!

    I watched the video and it’s amazing! Great stuff! But how long until everybody in teh city copies you?? 🙂

  11. BillyO says:

    Edit – wow, just noticed pick 5…some innovative stuff! Site is still a little too busy but damn David you’ve really taken it to another level now. Great job

  12. BillyO says:

    Glad you git rid of the ’98 Geocities look, but now the site is way too cluttered

    1. @ BillyO

      Hahahaha Geocities! Man, that brings back memories!

      I knew that most everybody would say “the site looks too buys,” but http://www.huffingtonpost.com and http://www.torontosun.ca are so incredibly busy it makee my eyes burst! Busy is the new clean, I guess. I think it’ll take a lot of getting used to, and I was prepared for that critique, given that TRB V 2.0 in 2011 was “busy” as per most of the feedback.

      Much appreciated, Billy!

  13. Frosty Johansen says:

    Looks good!

  14. moonbeam! says:

    Hi David — what a surprise after the long weekend! the new and improved website is very impressive …. congratz on the redesign! (no photo, you’re too modest, I know it’s in your bio) I’ll be checking out the Pick Five, looks great! good luck!

  15. Hoob says:

    I’m all for the redesign… But gosh, is the landing page ever cluttered and full of logos and animations and headers and banners and whatnot..

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