Wordpress Plugin Update: New Version available to improve compatibility with other plugins

We have a new version (3.1) of the Showcase IDX Wordpress plugin available today as a Beta version.

The major theme of this update is better plugin compatibility. We have isolated a core cause of conflicts between our code and other plugins and found a way to fix it.

What this means in practice is that you should experience far fewer issues with part of the Showcase IDX experience not working properly. This is one of those fixes that is a bit anti-climactic, in that you'll simply have fewer technical issues, but won't really even notice when it's doing its thing :)

If you have had compatibility issues with our plugin in the past, we encourage you to try this version today. You are also encouraged to try using plugins you might have disabled in the past due to advice from our support team.

Main Plugin Incompatibilities Addressed

The main types of plugins that cause issues with Showcase IDX are ones that edit the page content or try to optimize loading of scripts and css:

  • Optimizer plugins
  • Caching plugins
  • Image Lazy-Loading plugins

Installing the beta version

  1. On the Showcase IDX plugin page within your WordPress Admin (left sidebar WP dashboard navigation), deactivate the plugin.

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  1. Deactivate Showcase IDX on the plugins page.

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  1. Delete the old version of Showcase IDX.

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  1. Click ADD NEW at the top of the plugins page and on the next page, there will be an Upload Plugin option in the same area.

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  1. Download the plugin here and then upload the plugin to Wordpress via the Upload Plugin option. Once uploaded, click Install Now.

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  1. Click Activate Plugin. You will be prompted to log in to your Showcase IDX account (if you aren't already) and then choose the website available for activation.

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  1. Configure the default search URL (match it to what you had it set to previously)

  2. Clear all your existing caches from caching plugins, optimization plugins, server caches, browser caches… all the caches.

  3. Test away! ​​

Technical Details

Previous versions of the plugin would include the HTML and Javascript needed to run Showcase IDX directly in the web page where the shortcode was placed. This presented compatibility problems since other plugins would see this content as "page content" and run their normal plugin magic on it. This is where the problem happened, as these plugins were editing our Javascript code!

We now process HTML and Javascript for shortcodes via separate paths in Wordpress. Other plugins no longer see our Javascript in the page content, and thus they are no longer editing and breaking our code.

Sort by "Map Center" improved

We have updated the sort by "Map Center" feature so that it always favors listings closest to the center of the map. Previously, one of the "sort directions" could favor listings far from the map center, and we have determined that choice isn't useful in practice.

The outcome is that you should no longer inexplicable see no markers on the map for the listings that are displayed in the results area.

Updated our new sitemaps for better compatibility

We have improved the way we generate the new sitemaps for better compatibility (one <loc> per <sitemap> and one <url> per <urlset>).

We have also added <lastmod> to <sitemap>.

Major Data Improvements

We have been hard at work the last couple of months improving our MLS data syncing, and wanted to share with you the results.

  • We have improved how we internally map data from MLS's into our system, making it easier for us to normalize data into our streamlined search structure. This improves cross-mls searches and allows us to fix bugs faster. We have handled 73 mapper updates in the last 3 weeks, a new record!
    • Bathrooms mapper is updated so that now full + half = total in all cases (some MLS's did weird things)
    • HOA fees and taxes are normalized to the same period (monthly/yearly) so that they make more sense.
    • Property Type mapping has gotten a major overhaul and should be more consistent.
    • Single-story normalization is vastly improved.
    • Foreclosure / Short Sale / New Construction normalization is vastly improved.
  • We have improved our data syncing with MLSGRID and Trestle, and done a major upgrade to one of our databases. Together, these significantly reduce our data loading time and our system is able to stay more up-to-date with the MLS.
  • We have cleaned up our image importing and it is much more stable and loads faster on the property search as well now that we are using our CDN for all MLS's.
    • Fixed a bug in using WebP which could cause some images to not work on Safari if they were first viewed on Chrome (and thus a WebP image cached which Safari doesn't support).
    • MLSGRID images (MRED, Realtracs, Canopy) are updated more reliably, though there are still more improvements we want to make there.
    • Misc other small fixes
  • Search restrictions now work on Rental searches as well
  • Various small UI fixes about how listing data displays and is formatted

All together, this represents a huge leap forward in the performance, stability, and reliability of our mls data stores and sets us up for much better success going forward.

Major Sitemaps Update

We are happy to share the news that we have just shipped an updated Sitemap engine!

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Here are some key features of the new sitemap:

  • Sitemaps now perfectly reflect the default search settings & restrictions, meaning the exact listings that show up on your property search should be the ones in your sitemap
  • A base sitemap is created every 24 hours
  • Incrementals include all listings since the last base and refresh every 15 minutes
  • Sitemaps now load faster which should help with crawlers
  • Sitemaps now pick up mls name changes if your MLS changes its acronym
  • Sitemaps now include comments so that you can more easily verify their contents
  • Miscellaneous bug fixes that improve reliability and robustness

Image Lazy-Loading Compatibility

Many Wordpress Caches & Optimizers (such as Jetpack, Autoptimize, etc.) have a "Lazy-load Images" feature which "takes over" image loading for Showcase IDX images, and causes our app to appear broken in some cases (images wouldn't load properly). One example is the gallery view image carousel on the search results page.

Lazy loading is a great feature for site performance, but it's also a tricky technical feat, and unfortunately most third-party lazy loaders break our app when they try to add lazy loading to the images from the IDX. And lazy-loading an app that's broken is far worse than a working app without lazy-loading.

Fortunately, there is now a semi-standardized way to tell these lazy-loaders to stay away from our images!

Today, we've done just that with the addition of the skip-lazy class and data-skip-lazy attribute.

This will allow you to use a lazy-loader on your site without fear that it will break the Showcase IDX app. Now you can have your cache and images, too, and your website will have far better performance.

So, the next question you're probably asking yourself is "what about lazy loading of the images on Showcase IDX?"

Presently, Showcase IDX does load a small thumbnail of each property without lazy loading. You can control how many listings are displayed to limit the number of images loaded by default. We also lazy-load the rest of the images (2nd through however many there are per listing). We may in the future add additional lazy-loading capability to our search results images as well. Please let us know if that's important to you.

Wordpress Caching Issues with Showcase IDX Plugin are fixed

Historically, each time we released an update to the Showcase IDX Search (which is used by the Showcase IDX Wordpress Plugin), the search functionality would break on Wordpress sites with caching enabled until you manually cleared your cache. This was frustrating and annoying for our customers.

We are extremely pleased to announce that we've developed a solution to this issue! We launched the fix for the caching issue a few hours after the updates that we shipped last week, and can report that we had no reports of any issues, meaning that the fixes are working great!

There should no longer be a need for you to clear your Wordpress caches when we make updates. One less thing to worry about!

Improvements to Listing Detail Page

Improvements to Listing Detail Page's Image Carousel

  • We are using a new engine to display carousel images. This new engine replaces the two previous browser-specific approaches. The behavior across browsers should be uniform now.
  • The new layout engine has resolved several bugs:
    • Squished images
    • Zoomed/cropped images
    • Weird whitespace above/below/to the side of the carousel.
  • Images are now full-resolution and look significantly better on Retina displays, and are also larger in full-screen mode.
  • Keyboard shortcuts are now supported: use the Left & Right arrow keys to navigate through the images on the Listing Detail Page and the Full-Screen mode. You can also now you ESC to exit Full-Screen mode.
  • On touch devices, you can now swipe left & right on the Listing Detail Page carousel to navigate through the images.
  • Exiting Full-Screen mode no longer scrolls to the top (the prior scroll position is maintained).
  • Image Pre-loader has been improved so that users will now almost never see a loading indicator or need to wait for an image to load under normal usage.
    • The image pre-loader has been improved so that images are more likely to have been pre-loaded by the time you navigate to them.
    • A loading indicator now displays only if it takes more than 500ms for the image to load.

Miscellaneous Fixes

  • Made the CSS around polygon drawing more robust. Previously some themes that styled svg’s could make it so that the polygon drawing was invisible.
  • The “Advanced Search > Price Changes > Any” now shows all listings that are not the original list price. Previously this option would simply remove the Price Change filter (and thus show all listings).

Compliance and Clarification

As of today, we have pushed a small but impactful update to our listing page plugin-wide.

Not all of the data we get about a listing comes from the MLS. We include some information from WalkScore and Attom Data Solutions (formerly known as Onboard Informatics), and some MLS boards has specific compliance rules that data sources be clearly defined by their source if it is not provided by them. Today's update includes updated Copyright information and includes a small but legible Source text under each section.

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For all Showcase IDX users, we display Neighborhood and Commute that comes from WalkScore.

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For Premium users only, we display Market Snapshot and Insights provided by Attom Data Solutions.

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Upgrade to Listing Detail Page

newandoldlistingpage-1024x540.png This new version has an updated design and user experience, and is the first iteration of an ongoing project to refine and improve our listing page experience, for consumers and our customers. There are some key improvements in this release:

Overall Look & Feel

We simplified the design and now have more that consumers want and expect to see. We’ve reduced the number of items, especially unfamiliar at first sight items above the fold of the page.

SEO

We’ve added a number of SEO upgrades to the listing page. In addition to performance improvements, we’ve added the additional photos which all have ALT tags, we’ve added schema.org structured data tags around key pieces of information. This markup code helps Google determine which information is the most relevant and important on your page and can potentially be used in rich snippets in search results, if the website as a whole has enough authority (and a lot of other factors).

Photos

We’ve made the main photo much larger and simplified the navigation through the gallery. The gallery also loads much faster. In addition to the main photo we now preview the listing photos in our QuickView column on the left side. The user can click through these photos very quick and see multiples at a time. This is a concept we’re going to keep on developing, there’s a few other ways we can see photo previews being valuable to the consumer to quickly decide if a listing is relevant to their preferences/needs.

Call To Actions

A central part of this new release was to rethink our Call-To-Actions which are all the buttons and links a consumer can push to either ask for help, and/or create a lead. We wanted to add more of them but do it in a way that made sense and not be overwhelming to the user. We are now providing more and clearer opportunities for users to reach out and create leads than we ever have and not just at the top of the page. The Calls-To-Actions are repeated a few times throughout the page as you with one right at the bottom of the listing information. We’re confident that this simple new design and usability will increase lead conversion.

Friends and Family

We’ve also simplified our “Social Search” section and renamed it Friends and Family. The name Social Search didn’t really give people a good idea of what it does. We’ve also taken out the share to social networks button from that section too and put it with our main call-to-actions, as having it there added confusion. So it’s now simplified and indicative of the value it can provide. We’re looking to add more to the Friends and Family functionality in upcoming releases to make it even more valuable.

Bathrooms

One of the things we’ve heard a lot about is the consistency of bathroom data. Different MLSs have the bathroom data in different formats, and have different classifications for the same type of bathroom. So we have now carried over the Total Bathrooms number for each listing into the listing summary area at the top of the page, and then in the Listing Snapshot we break that down into the number of full baths and partial baths. We now have the ability to break that down even further into ½ Baths and ¾ Baths, and will be able to update the data mappings for each MLS where this could improve clarity. That data work is outside of the scope of this project. Additional CSS Classes: We have added another layer of CSS specificity to the new page which should allow more advanced users to customize more specific classes and page elements.