REALITY CHECK: Bells and whistles are fun but not always functional

In the Web, bigger and bolder are better. Bring on the technothrills! That's what Rick Edler, who sells real estate outside Los Angeles, figured. Three years ago he ventured onto the Web with a low-tech site -- basically, a glorified business card for the Edler Group.

Edler soon saw that some unlikely businesses were building really cool sites packed with snappy multimedia features. Just what he needed. "I love gadgets," he admits.

So he hired a Web developer who promised to deliver the latest, snazziest technical gimmicks. "We were going to dazzle everyone with all the technology, all the flash," Edler says.

The site they built pulsed with color and motion. Graphics spun all over the screen as testimonials from happy clients scrolled up and down. Edler even threw in movie listings. His first site had cost $285. This one cost $7,000.

But it took too long to download. Traffic was disappointing. Those who did visit didn't stay. "So much was happening," Edler says. "You just stared at it like you were watching a commercial. We were scaring people away."

Then the outside Web master disappeared. Edler was appalled to learn that he wasn't authorized to make changes on his own site. He couldn't even update property listings. "I was just completely up the wall," he says. "We'd really lost control of our thing. It was embarrassing. People were calling us about listings that sold two months before."

He finally wrested back control of his site and scrapped it. For $2,000, he built a new, simpler version. It has links to and, where buyers can check listings or take a video house tour. No more razzle-dazzle. "We try to put as much information out there as possible through third parties," Edler says. The feedback has been great so far.

He now believes in keeping it simple. "We started out expecting to generate leads. It is actually working in the reverse," he says. "Our Internet site is the last thing our clients go to, not the first. It helps us close our sales, but it doesn't try to do our cold calls for us."


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