How to scope out a MLS Consumer Website

by THE WAV GROUP on April 10, 2008

har.com

Part of the effective MLS Consumer Website Effectiveness Series

 

Once you have gotten through the tough stage of selling your membership on the concept of a MLS Consumer Website, it is time to build the site. There are several steps to go through to be sure you will have a cost-effective, timely and optimized website.

Here are the steps WAV Group recommends to go through in building a consumer website.

Review MLS Consumer Websites and other websites you like

The first step to a successful website development effort is to look at other websites. When you find a site you like, make notes about what you like about it. Is it the look and feel?  Is it the usability of the site?  Is it a particular feature or function?  Jot down all of these notes next to the web address/URL of the site.  WAV Group would suggest that you take a look at HAR.com and Metrolist.com as two public websites to start with. If you would like to look at other MLS Consumer Websites you can go to Realtown.com and click on the link http://publiclistings.realtown.com where there is a listing of all of the public websites currently available.

In addition to MLS Consumer Websites, check out other websites that you frequent. See if you can figure out what it is about them that attracts you to them.  Make notes next to each of these URL’s as well.

Third, you can check out other popular consumer real estate sites and consumer websites.

Trulia, Zillow, Oodle, and Edgeio are good places to start.

Pay very close attention to the property search and divide your comments into three categories:  Search, Search Results pages, Listing Detail Pages.  Based upon har.com and other websites evaluated by WAV Group, 90% of all traffic to MLS consumer websites spend 90% of their time looking at listings.

Compile all of your notes into one place so that you can give them to the web designer when you start the project.

Creative Brief

One of the most important steps to building an effective website is to clearly define what you would like to achieve with your website.   WAV Group strongly suggests with their clients that they prepare a “Creative Brief”. A creative brief asks you to answer several questions about what you are trying to achieve with your website. You will answer questions like “who is your target audience?”, “What are you trying to achieve with the website?” and several others. This step is critical to the success of a website. Without it you may receive a bid from a web designer which is significantly lower than the actual cost to build the website you envision.  The more clearly you define your expectations for your website, the more accurate the quotation will be and the more smoothly your website design process will go.

Benchmark features from MLS Consumer Website Effectiveness Study

In the WAV Group MLS Consumer Website Effectiveness Study we outline several of the key features which consumers look for in consumer websites. You can use this list as a starting place to define the key features and functionality of your consumer website. If you need any clarification on the key features to be included in your website, feel free to give us a call and we can work through it with you.

Vendor Identification for MLS Consumer Websites

Before sending out requests for proposals for your MLS Consumer Website, it is prudent to identify several website vendors which might be appropriate for your project. WAV Group would recommend that you look to website developers that already have experience in the real estate industry and have experience working with RETS data feeds and understand the strict rules and regulations surrounding data display rules.  We have seen inexperienced web developers who build beautiful-looking listing display pages that are completely in violation of the MLS rules and regulations. Their ignorance will cost you a lot of unnecessary time and money so it’s better to identify vendors that understand our industry.

Build a list of vendors by looking at other design projects they have done and see if you like their style. Look at vendors who have built other public websites and review their portfolio.  Look at other consumer-facing real estate websites including broker and agent sites. Also look to leading IDX suppliers and MLS System providers. Many of them are now building MLS Consumer Websites as well.

Once you have built the list, you can meet with each of them and have them discuss their capabilities with you.   Use these meetings to learn how their design process works and whether you think their company would mesh well with yours.

Use this process to narrow down the choices for those you would like to submit a Request for Proposal to complete the project.

RFP for MLS Consumer Website Web Designers

Once the creative brief has been developed and approved the creative brief needs to be used to build a request for proposal. The RFP should include detailed descriptions of all of the features and functionality you would like. When WAV Group creates your custom RFP for your consumer website based upon our needs analysis, for example, we include a detailed checklist and review of core expertise required for each designer.  The checklist will be lengthy and comprehensive and needs to be designed to allow your leadership to cut through the sales hype and do a true

 

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