At Inspect.com, we chose Listable from Pixelgrade as the perfect theme to launch an online marketplace directory. We took the existing theme and customized features to offer listings and search users an easy and elegant way to work with the marketplace.
For a marketplace directory theme to work effectively, you need to align the theme design and functionality with your business goals. Planning is key to identifying a theme that suits your business.
Know What You Want from Your Theme
Before you choose a theme, know what you want. We knew Listable was the choice for Inspect.com as soon as we saw the features.
We had two goals for the website. We wanted to support the professional home inspection community. And we were committed to raising awareness for the inspection community by helping buyers and sellers find qualified inspectors to serve them with unbiased, objective inspections to facilitate real estate transactions.
Before we started looking for a theme, we outlined the criteria of expectations we had for an useable theme. Because we would serve two audiences, inspectors and home buyers & sellers, functionality for both audiences was a priority. The priority criteria requirements were:
- Visually appealing
- Easy to navigate on both desktop and mobile devices
- Straightforward steps for listings to add information
- Data collection and management
- Client and user education
- Professional feel for end-users
- Search features for end-users that were easy to understand
- Users get immediate results
Plan for the Future
Planning for the future is actualizing your business vision. To make your business vision a reality, you must know how you will function. For a website, especially a marketplace website, you need to know your audience, what they need, and how your business is the answer to those needs.
Choosing a theme to match your business vision requires an idea of how your business will operate and who you will serve. Have a sense of how information will flow, what aspects of the theme you will use, and how you will customize the theme to reflect your business.
When Inspect.com started with Listable, there was nothing but a vision. Working with the features of the theme, we discovered how we could meet our vision goal and serve our clients, both the businesses with listings and the users with finding qualified inspectors.
Behind the Scenes with Technology
Once you choose your theme, you’ll need a place to host your domain and hosting service. Because you are serving a wide audience, both those who create a listing and your end users, you need to choose hosting that meets your data needs.
Create a sound foundation for your theme by securing the best technical support to make your website run smoothly.
You need fast, reliable hosting in order to immediately test your site for performance. People need immediate access to your website. The reality is, if your load speed is slow, people leave. They will never experience your dynamic service. Good hosting is key to successful delivery to your audience.
A dedicated server provides essential benefits for marketplace websites like power and control. Unlike shared hosting, dedicated means your business does not share with any other business. The hosting provider gives you exclusive use of the resource with the CPU, RAM, and disk space you need. The hosting provider builds and maintains the server, eliminating the upfront business cost of purchasing your own.
You want security for your business, your listing partners, and your customers. A dedicated server assures they keep your data private.
As you build your website, immediately benchmark test the website for speed. Use that as a baseline to compare against as you build out your platform, to immediately, and continuously isolate & resolve performance issues.
As you test, target for less than 1-second load speed on the listing page, and ½ second for blog/FAQ/other pages. It’s important to deliver results almost immediately to customers on marketplace websites.
Customize Your Theme
Once you have your theme and website, it’s time to tailor the theme to your business for your audience. Listable already creates visual appeal, but behind the scenes, you want to customize the theme to represent your business branding, meet the service needs of your listings, and help users find exactly what they need.
With Listable, you can change colors and fonts while retaining the logic and consistency of the theme. No matter where a user lands on the website, Listable looks consistent so your user will experience the “feel” of your business brand.
Categories, Types, and Tags
When you create categories for your directory, your goal is to match the search intent of the user with relevant listing features. You are creating a directory and you want site visitors to use the directory to connect with the listings.
Each listing will attach to a category or categories that relate to the site visitor’s needs. You need to create “master” categories that match the reason a visitor will use your site. For Inspect.com our Categories are :
While you want categories to be comprehensive, make sure they are the prime search requirements for your users. Use Types to help site users drill down.
For Inspect.com, we wanted our users to discover the most relevant services close to where they live. So we created detailed Types of services for each Category, divided the inspectors into Regions, and utilized the Google Maps API integration in the Listable theme.
We determined alternate common words and phrases for each category, and created Types lists to deliver results when users search for them. For example, some Types for the Category Home Inspection are Home Inspector, Property Inspector, Property Inspection, Building Inspector, etc.
Regions provide the opportunity to segment your listings by location. Our approach was to break down the country into individual states. This provides the opportunity to further break down each region into individual counties on an as needed basis. As the number of listings grows, it becomes important to manage Regions to keep lists from becoming too long.
Integrating a verified Google account using the Google Maps API with the Listable theme allows your website to automatically deliver geo-location services to people using your services.
Tags are dynamic and can be added to listings, posts, and other website components, to help assemble different articles into an intelligent collection of related material.
Pixelgrade provides a variety of icons, for our specialized directory we hired a graphic designer to create icons for our categories and geolocated regions.
WordPress Management Tools
A directory site requires you to manage data. You want to create clients, keep track of their information, and communicate with them. Adding WordPress plugins allows you to manage and track data for your business. We added two sets of plugins. First, we added plugins critical to how we use the theme and, second, plugins that assisted in website management.
Our theme uses plugins related to connecting with inspectors with listings. The region plugin allows for creating regions to geo-locate inspectors, the import plugin allows automatically creating new listings from form submissions, the job manager field plugin allows for adding email and other additional listing info, and Yoast duplicate post is used to clone new listing/post(s) from existing ones.
- Regions for WP Job Manager
Use Regions in listings
- WP All Import
Create listings from form data
- WP All Import – Listable Add-On
Supports import into Listable
- WP Job Manager Field Editor
Add/Remove/Modify listing fields
- Yoast Duplicate Post
Easily clone listings and posts
We considered the above plugins essential to tailor the theme for our business. The second set of plugins perform three functions: enhance security for our business and our users, facilitate communication among listings to create community, and ensure reliable email communication directly from the website.
- Really Simple SSL
Add SSL easily to your site
- Wordfence Security
Add security to your website
- WP Mail SMTP
Reliable website mail service
- WP Foro
Add a forum to your website
Since its inception, Inspect.com has neither removed any of these plugins nor added new ones. Careful, strategic planning is the reason. We planned from the outset for a lean, clean-running website that is easy to navigate. Overuse of plugins can slow site load speed, and you want the site to load quickly. And, plugins can cause compatibility issues with other plugins.
Unleashing User’s Potential
Listable contains the ability to allow listings to be modified by their owners, including a login feature using the standard WordPress user feature. We currently create listings internally to ensure a common look & feel across all listings, but plan on allowing users to make changes to their listings as a future feature upgrade.
Marketplace Directory Vision
In less than two years, Inspect.com’s directory has gone from vision planning to an active, functional website. We believe strategic planning is the core value of our success so far.
We are still building our listings, and we do that organically. What we have, is a place that makes our listings appealing. The visual quality and details simplify searching for users. Equally important is prospective inspectors considering a listing, see how their business will display professionally.
Matching Inspect.com long-term vision with a theme to actualize our goal made Listable the choice. With the variety of features and customization to meet our vision, Listable stood out. Now that we have implemented, we know we made the right choice to grow our marketplace. You can check out the results, or find your perfect inspector at Inspect.com