• W+R Studios, creator of Cloud CMA and Cloud Streams, is launching a new product at the NAR annual meeting, which seeks to help agents share and interact with clients drawing on MLS listings.
  • Design is not just about creating a pretty app; it's about going through every part of the user's experience, down to the support emails.

If you are looking to launch a new product and increase sales, what would you do? Hire a salesperson?

Too obvious. In the case of W&R Studios, the real estate software company, the executives decided to create the new position of chief design officer.

It’s a flashy title for a small firm, but they wanted to make a statement that the design of everything from email signatures to a full-blown mobile app is something that sets them apart.

“There’s always a brute force way of hiring 1,000 sales people, but you don’t have to force products on people if you can do a great job of making them,” said W&R Studios co-founder Greg Robertson. “As the saying goes, the secret to great marketing is to have a great product.”

The great products

W&R Studios’ products include Cloud CMA, a Web-based report generating software application, and Cloud Streams, a listing alert and collaboration tool that helps agents keep more buyers.

“Design matters,” said Robertson, whose company prides itself on a “less is more” approach to design.

W&R Studios had used Damien Huze as a consultant since 2009, and they decided to bring him into the company at the beginning of October. Huze’s boutique agency, Wake Interactive, has done Web and interface design for clients including Target, Trulia and Jennifer Lopez over the past decade.

“Design is a very broad term — from the way the logo or a button is designed to the way a customer gets a support email,” said Huze.

New frontier for W&R Studios

W&R Studios is launching a new software app called Cloud MLX at the National Association of Realtors’ convention in November which may be its biggest product yet, said Huze.

“Agents are accustomed to the way they function, but there’s a much better way to search MLS listings — that’s the next frontier for us,” he explained. “We can make a much better way for agents to search, organize and share the listings that are on the MLS with their clients. That’s what this is looking to tackle. It’s a much broader product, potentially.

“Sometimes agents don’t realize what they need or what they want til they see it. Our job is to show them a better way to get data from MLS and to present this to clients and allow them to be interactive and use social networking with clients.”

Damien Huze, new chief design officer, W&R Studios

Damien Huze, new chief design officer, W&R Studios

The real estate market is not well-served with quality technology, said Huze, who said the company is working with MLSs all over the country to add to their features.

“The consumer has great tools currently, but the tools for real estate agents are horrible and horribly designed,” he said.

Robertson added: “If you look at Zillow compared with an MLS system, it’s crazy. It’s not necessarily the MLS system’s fault; that business is tough. It’s worse than being designed by committee, it’s designed by committees.”

Catering to a new generation

Huze doesn’t think a millennial generation of agents is going to put up with the current options — and that the time for something new is now.

“Up to this point, our customer base has been a particular generation of agents that do things a certain way. We are gradually turning that page,” said Huze.

“We can create a product that does not inhibit them but gets out of their way and helps them to get things done,” he said.

“Greg’s (Robertson) mission is to make agents look awesome in front of their clients,” added Huze.

Robertson is hiring another recruit after this — a graphic designer to help with marketing.

“Our company is a product as well — we want our whole company to have a whole finish and shine,” Robertson said.

Email Gill South.

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