Houzz, the popular service for all things home remodelling and design, is launching a new service today that allows home professionals like interior designers, architects, contractors and others to set up free websites for their businesses. These sites are connected to their Houzz profiles, which allow them to easily pull in their images, reviews and other information from their existing profiles.
Houzz co-founder Alon Cohen told me that ever since the service launched, professionals have been complaining about how hard it is for them to keep their own websites updated. While they keep their Houzz profiles up to date, their websites often feature outdated information and a design that doesn’t quite match the high-quality images they often use on Houzz.
Currently, there are more than 300,000 home professionals on Houzz. “We always wanted to give the best experience to homeowners, but also to professionals,” Cohen told me. To give pros a better web presence – and surely also to get even more professionals to use the service – a small team at Houzz started looking into using off-the-shelf tools like WordPress. But according to Jian Shen, one of the engineers who worked on this project, connecting Houzz to WordPress or another existing tool and then building themes and the plug-ins to make everything work smoothly just seemed too challenging and inflexible.
Instead, the team used some off-the-shelf tools like Bootstrap, but it created its own rich web app that allows pros to build their sites in a visual editor, based on a limited number of responsive themes. The developers also used a limited number of Google Web Fonts in its themes to keep the complexity at a minimum (and surely also to avoid somebody building a site with Comic Sans as the main font). The service, which will go under the name of Site Designer, shares quite a bit of infrastructure with the rest of Houzz’s services.
The team first started with a very complex tool, but then pared everything down to the bare minimum. Because users in early tests didn’t believe that they were editing their sites in a WYSIWYG editor, the team added a preview button to the application.
The sites can be set to auto-update whenever pros change something on their Houzz profiles, but they can also pull in reviews from Houzz, too. The usual testimonials on regular sites, after all, tend to carry very little weight with consumers, given how glowingly positive and hard to verify they always are.
Pros will be able to host these sites on their own domains or on a Houzz.com subdomain. There is virtually no Houzz branding on them. The design tool and the themes, Cohen stressed, are meant to get out of the way of pros.
Site Designer is now available as a beta product and pros can sign up here.