Linking Real Estate Content With User Context: Putting Better Faces On Contextual ContentApril 16, 2007
In this fourth article, we’ll focus on some user interface aspects to highlight the contextual content found through the methods outlined in the third article. We’ll need to introduce some new conceptual constructs in this article for our content, spaces, and format.
Contextual Limitations of Current Real Estate Blogs
Lets first think about traditional real estate blogs. Blog content is generally organized chronologically by the descending date (newest first) with only a limited number of “spaces” on the first page. For instance, this blog has 10 spaces for articles on the first page with a prized but transitory first 2-3 postings that require limited or no scrolling. This format works great for site visitors looking for what is new but doesn;t work so well for visitors looking for specific content.
So, if the real estate focused visitor comes looking for something specific, say a condo in Boca Raton, Florida, they’ll have few options based on the format of this blog and what information we know about the visitor when they arrive. If they use a external engine, they likely land on a post’s permalink. On this blog, they’ll only see that article plus whatever fixed information exists in the sidebar menus. Some real estate bloggers have recently started adding a long laundry list of articles that may be relevant to the current article. If the visitor arrives on the front page and whether or not we know what they might be searching for, the blog postings are in the same reverse chronological order. Site visitors looking for specific content would have to use the search functionality, scroll and/or “next page”, or use the fixed sidebar links to find their desired content and would find content in three formats – postings as part of a collective page of other articles, a standalone posting, and a a condensed format in the form of a hyperlink.
So is there a way to make an entire blog or site manage it’s content in such a way to appear to be national, regional, or local depending on how the visitor interacts with the site?
How To Think About Content In A Different Way
Everyone that text and graphics can be generated dynamically. Articles or postings are often grouping of dynamically generated or static content that when associated together form the article.
So, if the content that makes up an article or post can remain associated and can carry additional metadata in the form of context, then we can move, filter, and sort these articles as independent units even if the articles are composed of dynamically generated information. It is this conceptual ability to move, filter, and match content into different types of interfaces that is the focus of this article.
Making Contextual Relevant Content More Accessible With The Same Format Limitations
How can you make your site both general and hyperlocal using this approach to content? You have a blog that deals with national real estate issues and some personal postings but is largely focused on posting lots of local content throughout the state of Florida. Let’s say that you know that a new site visitor has been searching online for condos in Boca Raton, Florida. They arrive by way of a major search engine and have used the search term “boca raton condos” or something similar. In our magically hypothetical content store, there are 3 postings specifically about condos in boca raton, one post about condos in nearby Deerfield Beach, three other articles about boca ration real estate (not condo specific), and 23 other articles about condos in other parts of Florida. The Deerfield Beach article would be found using the geolocation metadata surrounding it without a dependency on the text term “boca raton”.
Let think about the concept of spaces first. Instead of placing related content at the end of the blog posting, lets present our vistor with an interface with seven spaces consisting of at least two full articles and five links.
You can see in the figure above how the information would be organized in a traditional blog format and one possible alternative for presenting the seven spaces when we know the context of information that a visitor is searching for. So, when we dont have a contextual match for an incoming visitor to the home page, we can simply present the normal article interface.
Although each article can be presented as a full article, we’ve chosen to only present the first two most likely relevant articles as full articles. We’ve chosen this approach to minimize the need for scrolling. The rest of the articles are presented within the interface as simple hyperlinks – a different format. The same articles compressed into a hyperlink for the example may be presented in the format of a full article in a different contextual situation more relevant to its content.
There are many advantages to presenting a different interface to users. First, users can actually get multiple relavent articles within a search query as opposed to just a single permalink article. They also dont need to scroll or search to find those articles…the interface itself reduces the work required of the user. Formats for presentation of given content can be diverse and varied depending on the needs of the site and user. We’ve also added some relevant listings of condos in Boca Raton as another value-add of this approach.
The Future Is Today
Our team is busy implementing a number of sites that treat content as discrete units. The true value in this approach is that the heavy lifting for the site is in simply attaching context to the content in the database after the work of interface is implemention is completed. For instance, 7 articles are filtered in the manner discussed in Part 3 of this article. The first two are deemed most relavent and presented in the full article format and the other 5 become hyperlinks without any HTML or CSS work required of the poster.
This is where our team is heading in terms of managing our diverse content. The approach provides structure for what otherwise might be a jumble of disassociated local content. It also works equally well for articles as for real estate video, listings, audio podcasts, and other content. We’d like to hear your thoughts……
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