Placester says you can set up a new site in about five minutes using its new site creation user interface. That’s because it’s kicked about a million options off its platform. Is it too simple … or just simple enough?
One of the perquisites of my job is that I often get an early preview of new technologies coming on the market. So it was that I received a call from Seth Price, vice president of sales and marketing at Placester, to let me know that his company was about to announce a major revamp of its platform.
For anyone living under a rock, Placester has become one of the leading providers of agent websites in North America.
Although the company purposely doesn’t reveal the number of users it has, a spot check of Placester’s WordPress plug-reveals more than 100,000 downloads, and the company’s site claims a community of 120,000 professionals (although how, exactly, those members are counted, isn’t clear).
Placester • Agent Websites • $45/month
I’ve written about Placester a number of times. I have a lot of respect for the company and its fanatical commitment to helping agents get on the web quickly and effectively. The company has always offered lovely WordPress templates, and built an impressive open source IDX platform and even struck a deal with Hearst to replace ugly real estate sections on local newspaper sites.
In a word, the company cares, and has the technological chops to make it happen.
That’s why it was not surprising to me that Placester just streamlined its website creation interface for agents. The company has stripped out dozens of options, leaving in place only those that agents use most frequently, and that are proven to convert.
Decisions, not Options
“People want decisions, not options,” Frederick Townes, co-founder and CTO of Placester, told me. “They want a great look and feel. They want robust search after that. But what people really want to know is what they should pay attention to … because they’ve got other things to do.”
Placester’s new platform delivers on these mandates. In a few simple screens, you can set up a website, choose from one of three templates, connect your IDX feed and customize your site with your own content.
It’s about as simple as can be. You can choose from several menu styles, add your own logo, create profiles for your team members, and add pictures for your site’s home page slider. You can also rearrange the site’s pages and navigation, and add or delete pages as you see fit.
You can even select from a couple of lead capture options (passive lead collection or forced registration). There are also options to configure your site’s IDX feed.
Paste in your Google Analytics tracking code and connect your social accounts, and your site is ready to roll.
The resulting site is immediately generated and looks impressive. Not a pixel is out of place, and the look is sophisticated, simple and to the point.
If you’re an existing WordPress user who has labored over plug-ins and conflicting configuration instructions, using Placester’s point and click set up sequence will be like a breath of fresh air.
For the moment, you can choose from just three fully responsive templates on the new platform — but Price says all the others are coming soon. The initial three designs were Placester’s most popular templates.
New? Or Just Streamlined?
Yet is it really a new platform?
The answer, according to Townes, is no. It’s a streamlined user interface that still interacts with a custom Placester/Wordpress platform. That’s why Placester’s existing users will be able to stay on the old platform — the one that offers a user interface that looks a lot like WordPress’ traditional control panel — for the foreseeable future.
In contrast, the new Placester site creation and maintenance user interface hides the vast majority of WordPress’ default options, in favor of a step by step site creation sequence, combined with simple screens to maintain the site after it’s built.
“The new user interface is really a reimagining of the way agents administer websites,” Townes continues. But there’s a nuance to this.
Townes explains that by kicking a number of little-used bells and whistles to the curb, Placester is inherently helping agents focus on the marketing of their businesses — instead of overwhelming agents with too much technology.
What the “New” Placester Sites Look Like: • Barka Real Estate • KW Boise • Griffith, Grant & Lackie Real Estate
What the new UI unlocks for users, Townes says, is the ability to interact with just the pieces of any site that agents want and need.
“People don’t want all kinds of plug-ins,” Townes explains, recalling that in the beginning, Placester allowed users to install and play with all kinds of plugins within their templates.
Ultimately, the company found that users were frustrated and hated third party plugins because they were hard to configure, didn’t do what they expected, or broke or conflicted with other aspects of a Placester theme. Besides, they generated thousands of support tickets for issues that didn’t really have much to do with Placester.
Built for the 99 Percent
Matt Barba, Townes’ co-founder and Placester’s CEO, says that the company wants to build websites for the 99 percent of agents who want to sell real estate first and foremost — instead of fiddling around with building websites.
“It may not be very sexy to build technology for the 99 percent of agents out there,” Barba explains. “But I’m excited about them. They don’t have ton of knowledge about the web. They’re not shopping around for the vendor that will give them a million options. They just want to get online and be successful.”
By continually striving to make things easy for agents, Barba says that the company is growing at 20 percent month over month, and that some 85 percent of its new users are individual agents.
“Our vision is pretty simple, actually,” Barba concludes. “We want 20-30 percent of all agents to be on Placester in the next year. And when the consumer is out searching for property, we want them to end up on a Placester-powered site. We want to engage agents and consumers with search, simplicity, clarity and transparency.”
New Users, New UI
All new subscribers to Placester will be able to use the new user interface to create their website. The pricing, at $45 a month, remains unchanged. Existing users can stay on the old platform indefinitely, since their sites are already up and running.