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The Day(s) After

Nov 5, 2007 Michael Wurzer

My last post was Thursday regarding our launch that evening and it’s taken me until now to recover from the deluge of calls we took on Friday.  We had several bugs we had to work out through-out the day but we cleared them all by 6 p.m.  Some of the key areas where we had challenges were:

  • Printing — IE6 was causing us all sorts of trouble with a bug printing over twenty reports.  We tested IE6 thoroughly but this one escaped us for whatever reason.  Honestly, I was caught off guard by how much our clients print stuff. The new print module is much more convenient than the previous one, because you can now print many different reports from the same module, in one report, instead of having to do it one by one.  However, by including the extra stuff, people also found it harder to print the basics, especially when it came to the hot sheet.  To address this, we’re considering putting a one-click link to print the hot sheet on the search results page itself to make printing the hot sheet easier given how many people focused on this issue.
  • Speed — We released the new system using compression (gzip and deflate) to try to reduce page delivery time, but it’s very possible that this actually is slowing things down.  We’re likely going to turn off compression for Monday to see if that makes a difference.  We’re definitely not happy with the speed of the application and it’s behaving slower than it was in beta.
  • Mapping — Related to speed, several users commented that they would rather not have the mapping application load right away with the search, primarily because they thought it slowed them down.  To address this, we’re working on making the map optional with the search module.

Overall, the customers who called were courteous and understanding.  Many were simply wanting the old system back, which is a natural reaction to change.  As I pondered the callers who just wanted to stick with what they had before, I began to wonder whether we could or should try to develop a way to make all upgrades optional.  Actually, many, if not most, of our upgrades are optional through MLS or user preferences.  However, some upgrades, like this one to search results, are central to the application and so having everyone on the same version is important to us from a code maintenance and support perspective.

But is it better for our users?  Many on Friday would say no and that they should be given the choice, and that’s where I’m torn.  I most definitely believe in choice but, at the same time, moving customers to a better system and a consistent one is important, too.  In the long term, I believe everyone will find value in the new features.  The initial confusion over the different navigation and figuring out where things are will evolve into newly established patterns that once again become efficient.  Perhaps most importantly, our belief is that the agent’s customers will find benefit in viewing the big photos, maps, and details about the listings.   This last point is important.

Several customers said in conversations with me and our support staff that the new features are too much, that the agents and appraisers just want to get through the information and don’t need all those pictures and maps.  I hope this isn’t true.  This new upgrade is all about bridging the gap between agent and customer, helping the agent provide what customers want.  We hope our customers see the possibilities for their customers with the upgrade in the coming weeks.   Of course, we also understand that means making the system work and making it work fast, because that’s what everyone wants and our focus is there.