The New McMillinHomes.com

June 30, 2009

There's a lot of information to consider when choosing a new home and a home builder. With the new McMillinHomes.com, we wanted that information to be easily accessible and organized for the user and easily updatable, for accuracy, for the client. Then we wrapped it all in a look and feel that speaks both to the trustworthiness and modernity of the organization.

McMillin Homes builds custom homes in several cities in central and southern California and in San Antonio, Texas. Digett created a website for the San Antonio division back in 2005, but this time around, McMillin wanted to unify their web presence and include all their cities and corporate information in a single website.

The increased complexity of a site that encompasses 10 or more cities, combined with the amount of information to include, posed a few challenges that had to be addressed:

  • How can we provide each city with the flexibility it needs to attract their own markets while still maintaining site-wide consistency?
  • How can we protect one city's data from accidental edits or deletion by another city?
  • How should McMillin update their frequently changing home listings and prices?

City Customization

It would be impossible to have boilerplate text that could accurately describe all the homes in every city in which McMillin builds. Frankly, forcing some kind of standardized description for every city could do a disservice to the user, since each city and its homes are so unique. This fact helped us to realize that every city needed a powerful level of customization of their own data.

There are some things that city administrators can't control—the lists of neighborhoods and plans, for example, have all been styled to ensure a consistent look and feel across all cities. In terms of data, though, each city has the control to customize their sub-site in the way that them deem will best attract their market. Each city has setup their own custom menu and pages. Cities can also create new image galleries and promotion graphics and choose to display them anywhere throughout their city's content for an additional customization of appearance.

Site-Wide Access Control

On a site so complex, with so many administrators, it might be easy to accientally move a neighborhood from San Diego into Bakersfield unless precautions are taken. Using Drupal's Organic Groups module, every administrator is assigned to the city or cities they work in. They'll still have complete control to edit neighborhoods, plans, elevations, etc., but only within their own city.

Limiting the cities that one has access to also makes content management simpler and less cluttered. Let's say one was choosing a neighborhood in a dropdown of a list of neighborhoods. Though there are 50 neighborhoods that exist on the site, a site administrator will only have to sort through the neighborhoods they already have permission to edit.

Mass Updating of Homes and Pricing

For launch, once all the cities had been populated, there were more than 500 price combinations to display between the different neighborhoods, plans, and elevations in all the McMillin cities. As it always is with Drupal, all of that data can easily be content managed with the click of an edit button. But who wants to click an edit button more than 500 times?

Additionally, McMillin already records all their pricing data and lists of available Move-In-Ready Homes in an internal database. Rather than individually update hundreds of records one at a a time, we've provided McMillin with a mechanism to update their listings and prices through a single-file import from their internal database. This makes it extremely easy to keep a large amount of detailed and time sensitive information accurate and easy to quickly change.

What It Means for the Visitor

It's easy for users to target a city and learn about it, to map where McMillin has neighborhoods throughout town, and then evaluate those neighborhoods' plans based on their desired pricing, square footage, floorplan, number of bedrooms, baths, stories, etc..

All the back-end capabilities ensure that McMillin, realtors, and homebuyers can trust the website as an up-to-date reservoir of information about everything McMillin Homes.