There are lots of reasons why you might want to do this…
Hygiene factors: Clearly the initial agent, for whom the bespoke design was originally built, also needs to be happy for their design to be reused (they paid for it after all). However, this is very rarely a problem in practice. Everyone is a winner, the client gets the benefit of bespoke design built around their needs, and we can offer them a discount to their bespoke pricing in return for their express permission to reuse the work outside of a pre-agreed geographical exclusion zone (typically a wide interpretation of their postcode areas). We look after all of the legal side of these IP agreements in our base contract with the agents, which we always do directly with the client.
So, with that covered, the next question designers ask is what work is involved in a re-theme and how do we do it?
One way to ensure that a site is easily re-themeable is to do the original design with half and eye on re-themeability from the outset.
Obviously there are pros and cons to this. We need to focus first and foremost on the client in question. Unless there has been pre-agreement for a deep discount in return for explicit re-themeabilty off the back of their custom fit design, then we need to focus on delivering an uncompromised, beautiful site for the client in question, to fit their needs. If it works out that can be re-themed (most good designs can), then great, but it shouldn’t be the main aim. And indeed, sometimes, if you are playing with their brand elements woven deeply into the page templates, to get a unique feeling, then this will preclude it from being re-themeable from the outset. Also, some of our clients don’t want to be re-themeable at all, they want national exclusivity, and sole focus on them. Totally fair enough.
However, to the extent possible, you can minimise the work involved in making a design re-themeable by halving half an eye on the problem from the outset.
Make sure that things that are possible to wire up to the CMS (but are also possible just to hard wire into the page templates as a short cut) are wired up properly. See the list below. This is just good practice anyway, as it benefits the initial client with more flexibility in their site. Say they want to change their price bandings, or they launch a lettings division, or open another branch. Or they want to edit their navigation. A good re-themeable site, has all of this controlled via the CMS, so reduces their cost of ownership, and their flexibility once live. And if you are savvy, you can keep your eyes on your design, as it appears on another agency brand as you go.
But you can also design icon sets as SVGs, or in greyscales. And you can design the site so that further branches are easy to add, and all content chunks on principle pages are wired up to “content chunks” rather than hard coded into the templates. You get the idea.
Once you have an initial site live… by far and away the easiest way to drive a project on through to a clean re-themeable design, is to build a second client on the design. This removes all the academic testing, and colour changing, etc. And it reduces the risk of missing bits. If a second client can go live on the design, then you have probably nailed 95% of all the re-themeable requirements. A third client flushes out another 2%, etc.
So, with that in mind, we can either:
A big advantage of working with Homeflow to pick a speculative agent, which we “pre-sell” the concept to in some fashion, is that we can then get involved alongside you to help with the retheme testing, or content uploading, etc.
If you have built the site well – then there should be almost nothing to do. You should be wiring up the colours to the CMS, not hard coding them (for flexibility), likewise menus, content chunks, etc. And you should be designing with re-themeability in mind (see above). Experienced Homeflow design partners will find that the sites are rethemeable almost out of the box, if their programmers have built them well using the flexibility and configuration settings of the engine properly.
However, there will inevitably be bits that are missed off…
To check how well the theme works out of the box you can use our new URL / theme switching capability to look at any estate agent in the UK, running on any theme design in our portfolio. Nifty! (It’s also handy for us setting up and finding “speculative trial horse” agents as described above). Just follow the pattern:
Some examples – (most will be a mess, as the content is configured for another theme, but you’ll get a sense how the URLs work.:
Keep in mind that different themes, use different content set ups to make them really sing. So if you pick an agent that is already live on another Homeflow theme, you will have the benefit of logos, colours, property data, content, navigation all configured, and probably even carousel images etc. BUT, (and it’s a big but), the content, images, number of nav items etc. will be optimised for a their different design theme.
So if you are a regular Homeflow designer, having a look at clients you built last month, in a theme you are building this month is interesting. But it has limitations as the content whilst fully populated, is likely the wrong shape.
Really you are better of selecting a virgin estate agent to practice with. (So to speak). We can get you logins, and you can set them up with the right shape of content to test the theme properly.
We may well turn the following list into a default Trello board, so you can check the tasks off and comment on them. Ask us, as if we’ve done that, we will set you up with that as an easier way to work through the list.
More structural / good practice bits
Once you’re done, go through every page of the site, as configured on your second test agency, or trial client. Check each and every page on the site, to ensure the colours are all set up, the content is all manageable, things that hide hide, and things that should render, pop up and appear.
Remember, a site may not have all pages in it, but a good theme might have to add missing structural pages in. Eg one agent may not want staff profiles, but others will. Best make everything exist, but “auto-hide” based on config settings, or when no content is rendered out. That’s just good practice.
Here’s a quick list of the structural pages, to help your page by page pass:
We hope that helps. It may sound like a lot, but to a good developer, most of it will fall out of the box. We often build sites for two clients at a time (we sell one, and then co-sell a second with their full understanding that they are slipstreaming, and hence don’t have the same flexibility benefits). So it’s perfectly possible. And with a bit of practice, you’ll find that the actual job of retheming an existing site, is no more than a day or two for a decent developer.
Good luck. Give us a shout if you need a hand.