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.

26 Responses to “The Day(s) After”

  1. Candy Lynn says:

    “Many were simply wanting the old system back, which is a natural reaction to change…..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….”
    Oh PLEASE! I bet these are the ones that did not watch the video & may have even said they knew nothing about the upgrade despite weeks & months of emails & meetings telling them about it!

    You said it perfectly: “This new upgrade is all about bridging the gap between agent and customer, helping the agent provide what customers want.”

    Michael, do not second guess your continued efforts to make FBS- FLEX MLS the very best service out there! We have to grow & embrace technology to stay competitive in today’s market. Keep up the excellent work!

    BTW I am finding it very user friendly & my clients LOVE the new interactive reports – THEY want the Maps, the Media etc & THEY are who count in my world!

  2. Jay Thompson says:

    “… don’t need all those pictures and maps…”

    ??!?!?

    Try not having them.

    I’m not a Flex MLS user (yet!), but I can assure you that my clients and I will want, need, and use the pictures/mapping.

    I think it’s great that you want to try to please everyone, but trying to support multiple versions? People will get used to it. Give them some time.

  3. David Harris says:

    Hang in there Mike! I have suffered through dozens of publishes to 40,000+ agents and experienced the same result. 9 times out of 10, what was “a completely unproductive enhancement” becomes “I can’t live without it” in about 2 months…

  4. Steve Belt says:

    Michael-

    I’m with Jay here in on all counts.

    One thing that I learned in my days as a software developer, is that the silent majority generally likes what you are doing, but doesn’t tell you. You hear from the squeaky wheels, so be gaurded against changing for the sake of the minority. And with regard to testing…if there was a bug free release, it’s usually very small, and not useful to many.

    I would be concerned with attempting to maintain 2 code streams successfully with high quality. That’s an almost sure-fire recipe for disaster. It was rare when I allowed it, and was nearly always of the mission critical nature that had me even considering it.

    However, making features that can be turned off/on via user preference is certainly a good thing. There are many times when I’d like to be able to do a super simple, no pictures/fluff query, because I’m using my laptop with my wireless aircard at basically dial-up speed.

  5. I’m the tech for an office in NEWAR, and I’m pleased with the upgrade. The agents, which tend to dislike change, are fairly positive about the upgrade too. The system does seem slower to us. We’re also disappointed by the number of steps it takes to print a listing, especially the fact that we have to click preview before print. Our office would probably send you a thank-you card for one-click printing! We wouldn’t mind a more flexible hotsheet, either. Anyway, it’s a good upgrade overall with some major interface improvements.

  6. Greg Kilwein says:

    Wesley, what do you mean by a “more flexible hotsheet”?

  7. Greg, thanks for asking! To be honest, our agents would probably prefer something like the older Flex hotsheet, but with movable categories. For instance, New and Price Change at the top and categories like Text Change completely omitted. Our top agents often said the old one was disorganized and impossible to use, and they don’t like the new one much better.

    There are pros and cons to the new system, but the main complaint is that it takes too long to go through the hotsheet, having to switch between so many categories. I’d like to be able to merge similar status changes into groups on the menu. For instance, New and Back on Market or Expired and Withdrawn. Each listing could have a symbol for the specific type of change if the agent is curious. I’d also like an easier way to add fields, if it’s even possible now. I think these changes would solve the hotsheet issues our agents are having.

  8. Overall, I like the new system. there are some things that I could do with the old system that I haven’t figured out how to do with this one yet (I did watch the tutorials before but it’s hard for me to learn from them until I’ve actually worked with the system).

    Re: mapping. If the mapping is dependent on the agent accurately picking the spot on the map like with the old geocode system in the previous release, please do us all a favor and make it an optional load rather than default. I swear that the majority of the agents in my MLS have no freaking clue how to map a property. So unless the mapping is automatic, forget it…I don’t want it. I’ll use Google map to find the darn place! LOL

    Re: things I miss – being able to select several properties from a search and then displaying ONLY the ones I’ve selected. If there’s a way to do that now I’ve not found it yet.

    Re: printing public and private MLS reports at one time…now I have to go through the process twice to print a sheet for me and for my client, when before I could choose “Both public and private”.

    Re: reports – I have not seen where I can create a report on the listing info so that I can edit it by adding my own notes when sending property to my clients.

    WHAT I REALLY REALLY WANT: A county ONLY selection to search from. Currently I have to choose a township/municipality…and if I want just properties from Pike County I need to scroll thru, with my finger on the CTRL button to choose only townships in pike county. That’s a real PITA. I would love to be able to check off Monroe County Only, Pike County Only, Wayne County Only, or choose a combination of the three without having to mess around with townships unless I wanted to. Did that make sense?

    Overall I love most of the changes – particularly the DISCUSS button that shoudl be titled EMAIL LISTING AGENT. LOL

    Sorry for writing a blog on your blog. I should have put this on my own blog and linked it here…hee hee

  9. Wesley, you can add fields to the hot sheet views by going to Daily Functions/Hot Sheet and then selecting Change Hot Sheet Views at the bottom. You can specify a view for each hot sheet category and the order of the columns on the view determine the sort order within each category. Two of the advantages of having the hot sheet display in sections are (1) the column headers for the view can stay fixed at the top of the page and not scroll off; and (2) the sort order can be individual to the specific hot sheet category. We’ll give some thought to your idea of combining hot sheet categories, which would work for similar but not dis-similar groups (e.g., most people want to see sold columns on their sold section but those columns don’t make sense for new listings).

    Karen, if you talk to your MLS, there is a setting to force the person entering the listing to choose a location on the map for all listings. We encourage all of our MLSs to adopt this business rule. The same is true of the County selection — this is easily defined but it is an MLS decision as to how to define the County field. We could add another field that just has County and then transform the data in your current County/Municipality field. We could even relate the new County field to the Municipality so that selection of the County automatically narrows the Municipality field to those in that County.

    Regarding the mapping, tonight or tomorrow we’ll be adding a preference to make the map searching optional.

    Regarding printing both public and private at the same time, there is a plus (+) sign next to the report drop down on the print function and clicking the plus shows the option to print both public and private. In retrospect, we probably shouldn’t have put that option under the “options”.

    On the Print function, there is an Edit button just to the right of the Preview button. You do have to click Preview before the Edit function becomes active and you can only edit the Listing Reports, not maps or other content.

  10. Thanks for the reply!! On the mapping, sorry, that still bugs the heck out of me. The thing is, a lot of agents just plain DON’T GET IT and will click “OKAY” no matter WHERE the map is situated. Of course, I haven’t put in a new listing yet so the new mapping system may be more intuitive than the old one, but the old one really was a PITA, especially if you were just a secretary updating the MLs for an agent and had no idea where the general area was for the address.

    I did mention the county option to my board, but thought it was worth a shot to enter it here too. ha ha.

    So I can edit the report from the PRINT screen? That’s kind of odd, but …okay. I’ll trust ya. And yeah, the “choose both private and public” would be better, IMHO, in the drop down menu with public, and private.

    This seems almost like a treasure hunt. ha ha. Some of the agents in my office are griping that they hate the changes but I’ve promised them they’ll like it once they get used to it. People really do hate change.

    Karen

  11. Gary Patton says:

    Printing, I read the response regarding not realizing how much people print stuff. We not only rely on printing stuff but rely on being able to print quickly on the fly. We sell in the high end and when these properties print they almost always print on two pages. IE 7.0 allowed the user to print preview anything that they wanted to print. I am pretty sure these pages opened in a new window which then allowed us to resize the pages so we didn’t waste a ton of paper and ink. We realize that you cannot please everyone but not being able to print preview in a new window has caused us a lot of headaches. Is there any way that you could make this an option in Preferences? If you are not sure what I am talking about please feel free to contact me directly @ 717-471-4001 Regards, Gary Patton, Realtor ABR – PS – please don’t take these comments as negativity but constructive criticism

  12. Gary, that’s a good suggestion, I’ll add a project to allow printing to a new window.

  13. Hey! I noticed the check mark for printing both public and private at the same time! Thanks! kudos~!

    I also figured out that I can view “Cart” to see only my “selected” listings…I figured it was just a change in terminology. I never thought of a “Temporary cart” before.

    I still think it’s awkward to have to choose “Print” before I can edit a report but now that I know how to do it, it’s okay with me. LOL

    Thanks for all of your hard work. I like the changes, overall, and am trying to help others in my office get through the growing pains.

    Karen

  14. Chris says:

    “I didn’t realize how much our clients printed” Hey, can I be president of this company, I think I could do a fine job. (or, no worse than current leadership)

    These “improvements” are a waste of time, FBS has made our MLS more difficult to use, and created problems for members with older systems.

    Other than appearance (high-tech window dressing), the upgrade is essentially useless, making our basic, easy to use MLS, into a source of complaints to me, which I really don’t need at this time. I get around a computer just fine, and have allowed time to get used to the changes, and there isn’t anything groundbreaking to the upgrade. How about the option to revert back to the old program? You could call it “classic” and the upgrade option “beta” or some other techno-nonsense.
    Thanks.

  15. Hey, Chris, why didn’t you leave your e-mail address, I could have contacted you to help.

  16. Chris says:

    Michael,

    Just post a way to revert back to old Flex, so I can pass it along to others in my Association, and I will never be heard from again.

  17. Chris, going back to the old system is not possible. In a few weeks, I think you’ll find many benefits from the upgrade. I’ll also give you a call on the phone so we can chat about it further.

  18. Personally, I really like the new format on MLS. It just takes a little bit of your time to adjust to the different approaches to achieve the results you had before, except the reward is so much better. The viewings for clients while in your office is much better in the media mode and when you e-mail the listings. Keep up the good work. Phyllis Poteet

  19. TIME MARCHES ON. You can not stay in the past. If you have old systems, you may need to think about upgrading.

    The times they are a changin’. You need to not only keep up, but you need to try and be a step ahead.

    Or be left behind.

    …as an off topic question: I am wondering why I never get email notifications of replies to this blog – I check the box every time and I still get no email notificacitons….

  20. Karen, I checked the WordPress plugin for the e-mail notifications and it seems to be running properly. I’m not sure why you’re not getting the updates. With this comment, I’m trying it for myself to see if I get one.

  21. Chris says:

    “The times they are a changin'” I guess so, because apparently the customer is no longer always right.

    A really lame use of someone else’s lyrics in this context. While the changes might be o.k. if you’re managing 3 or 4 listings, our office manager (a dedicated worker) has over 25 agents, over 150 listings, not counting what we have on other MLS’s and in another state. Telling her to “just” get used to it, while she prepares open house flyers, etc., etc., doesn’t go down very well. Let’s offer the fancy stuff for client emails, and a basic, user-friendly option for those of us that use it frequently.

    After hearing it from my office manager, I called around to other member offices, and have yet to find someone who likes these changes.

    Michael, no need to call, we will have plenty of chances to talk in 2008, as I think that I’m the MLS Comm. Chair next year.
    Thanks,
    Chris
    P.S. I changed my password today, and now when I navigate away from what I’m currently working on, I have to re-enter it. Constantly.

  22. Chris, I called last week and left a message for you. I hope we have a chance to talk at some point. In the meantime, I’ll have someone look into the password issue.

  23. Michael – still no emails.

    Chris – I guess it will boil down to which customer is “always right”. I’m a customer too.

    Yes, unfortunately, when you’re dealing with software and computer issues you DO have to buck up and get used to it. I remember my cousin, a legal secretary, having fits when her computer was “upgraded” to Windows. She hated it. She wanted, I guess, to stay with what she knew and understood and was comfortable with.

  24. Karen, I’m not sure what’s the deal with your not receiving the comments. After you mentioned it, I signed myself up for comments from a different address and I’m getting them, so I know it works. I looked in the administrative module for WordPress and don’t readily see a way to check the e-mail address to which your comments are going. Could they be getting caught in your spam filter?

  25. Michael…it’s so bizarre. I get emailed comments from other blogs. I did check the spam box and it was not there.

    Oh well…I have the blog rss feed on my iGoogle page – but it’s just odd that I never get comment replie by email. Oh well!

  26. Gary, you’ve probably seen this already, but I wanted to post here, too, that a week or so ago we added the ability to print to a new window to allow for use of the browser’s print preview function. Thanks for the suggestion.