It may be late in the night as I start to write this post, but I’m so excited because I just flipped the switch on some pretty big changes to Rain City Guide. They include both a complete redesign as well as one of the coolest features I’ve ever added to RCG: A very, slick home search tool!
You know when you meet up with someone and you almost instantly bond with them… Well, a few months ago, I had one of those bonding experiences when I met with a broker out of Portland named Garron Selliken who gave me a demo of the custom home search tool he had built. Our conversations reminded me of the good ‘ol days when real estate search wasn’t nearly as stale and was actually pushing boundaries. Not surprisingly, we immediately started hatching a plan for launching his home search tool on RCG!
Hatching a plan to launch something interesting on RCG happens all the time, so I wasn’t too surprised. However, I became a bit concerned a few days later when I realized that Garron was serious and this idea had legs. And just a few weeks later, the new site has been launched!
It just so happens that Garron and I are meeting up this week in San Francisco (for only the 2nd time in person) and I’m positive I’m going to take some time aside with him to talk about why we’re so excited about the changes to RCG! As a broker and software developer, Garron really does rock. He has an awesome team and we have some interesting ideas for improving the site over the next few weeks and months.
But for now, it’s way too late for me to continue writing, so I’ll end the post by asking you to play with the revised site, kick the tires on the home search tool and let us know what you think. If you see anything that looks broken or just not working like you want it to, don’t hesitate to let us know!
I’ve wanted to update the Rain City Guide theme for a while now, and took some time this week to play around with some different ideas. I *think*I’ve come up with something that will work well for me, but wanted to run it by the RCG community for feedback first… If you head over to 4realz.net, you can see the theme (in action) that I’m thinking of launching here.
Here’s what I like about this theme:
- Magazine-style so more articles are featured “above-the-fold” . This “teaser” style of posts is a bit controversial, and I won’t really know if it’s better until after I have some data with RCG-level traffic. My hope is that the bounce-rate for people that land on the homepage will go down.
- The pages and categories are featured just below the header which, for a site like RCG, will help show off the breadth of content.
- I noticed that the existing RCG theme played funny with a couple of new features of WordPress (in ways I didn’t like), and this one plays much better. Just one example is that when I linked out to RCG with a Facebook status update the existing theme is doing something funny so that the title and photos are not being pulled… That problem is solved with this new theme.
- Threaded comments… @ARDELLd and I have been having an interesting conversation about this on twitter, but my opinion is that the threaded conversations will actually help improve the flow of the conversation. It will be interesting to see and would love your feedback on this feature.
- By pushing the “pages” to the header, I’ll free up some space for bringing recent comments in a more prominent place (I’ll probably put them where the “connect” widget currently exists).
- And finally, my wife, Anna, says the theme is easier on the eyes (and I trust her “design” sense over mine any day!). When/if I launch this theme on RCG, I’m going to use “RCG” colors instead of “4realz” colors (i.e. maroon instead of blue) and “Seattle” photos instead of “Dustin” photos, but the idea is that the new theme will be very similar
Here’s a screenshot with the colors/graphics I’m thinking I’ll use when (if?) I launch it on RCG:
One of the main things I’ll be looking at with the new theme is if our bounce rate for people who arrive on the homepage for the first time drops… I don’t know if a magazine-style theme is the solution to our high bounce rate, but the easiest way to find out if to actually launch it on the site.
By the way, the theme I’m using is a slightly modified version of the theme by c.bavota called Magazine Basic. The only changes I made were to:
- Add some color and graphics (like the 4realz/Raindrop logo in the header)
- Add an “author” box below each post (much more important for RCG than 4realz!)
- Add some code so that the “comment preview” shows up with a box around it…
As you can see, really minor stuff… and that’s only because the theme rocks the boat right out of the box!
As always, I’d love your feedback!
So, it finally happened. After a few years of the same theme, I gave RCG a new look last night.
There are more than a few changes to the site, but the one that will probably stick out the most are:
- New theme. I based it on the Andreas theme by Andreas Viklund. It’s the same theme I’m using on 4realz.net, although I modified it a bit before launching it on 4realz and even more modifications before launching it on RCG.
- New header graphic. I switched out the photos. As part of the process, some of the contributors gave me some photos to use. Deborah Burns was extremely helpful and sent me dozens of photos of which I used both the farmers market and the space needle.
- Updated the color scheme! (If you’re curious, I based the color pattern on color combo 220)
- Author mini-bio at the bottom of ever post. I replaced the one photo that was at the top of every post with a “About the author” section at the bottom of each post. Not only will this make it easier than ever to learn more about the RCG contributors, but it will also mean we won’t have the funny formatting issues that sometimes came with having a photo at the top-right of ever post.
- Page navigation. By moving the page navigation from tabs at the top to the left side, we’ll be able to do a bunch more with page navigation in the near future on the site.
I’m sure there’s even more, but I just wanted to pop off a quick note to get everyone up to speed.
Interestingly, in the process of looking at photos for the new theme, I came across this screenshot of the original RCG site (back when we had only 2 posts!). My how times have changed! 😉
Rain City Guide's original theme
Just realized I should have added that if you have feedback of any kind, especially if something is not working as you’d expect it to work, I’d definitely appreciate hearing about it!
I also wanted to mention that we added “avatars” for all people leaving comments. If you want your own avatar, it’s as simple as signing up for a free one at gravatar.com (and explained in a bit more detail on 4realz).