Littlejohns Property

Littlejohns are one of Edinburgh's longest established and best residential property management companies. They had become tired with their previous website which consisted of a basic and extremely limited content management system which was used to run a rigid fixed width website. They wanted to make the move to a new website architecture that would allow them to easily update existing content, create and publish new content as well as display a searchable listing of the properties which were currently available for let.

This was a really interesting project because it involved not only a redesign of the previous Littlejohns website, running on top of a new Content Management System, but there was also the requirement for the system to be capable of displaying a searchable listing of the currently available letting properties. Littlejohns, like a lot of companies in the Residential Letting sector, use a system called CARL to manage the properties that they have on their books. This system is hosted internally on the the corporate intranet and while it was great for internal management of each properties' details and status (i.e Let, Not Let, Available to Let) the problem was that there was no easy way to synchronise this data with the website, which meant that with the old website it was just not feasible to display, and keep up to date, all the "Available for Let" properties on the website.

We began with work on the website; defining the data that was to be displayed, walking through some wireframes to start to get a feel for the design that the customer was looking for and we also worked with a logo designer on the typography, colours, etc that were to be incorporated into the new company logo. Once these steps were complete we began to code up the templates and create the content inside the Expression Engine CMS that we had chosen as the backend for the main Littlejohns' website.

At the same time we started to analyse the export functionality available in the CARL system (A .zip file containing an XML "manifest" file which provided a number of detailed fields for each property including a list of it's associated images and all the image files themselves) and this lead on to the design of a compact web based tool that would be able to manage the import of this file and update Expression Engine with the desired information. A Rails 3 application was chosen as the implementation for this property upload and synchronisation process.

An additional requirement that added a bit of complexity to the requirements for this tool was the fact that not all Littlejohns' properties are stored in the CARL system so we had to allow properties to be added manually through the Expression Engine administration console and then allow those properties to be merged with those that were being uploaded from CARL.

Another part of the solution that's worth mentioning is the on site property search functionality which, since there were likely to be less than 50 properties in the "Available to Let" state on the site at any one time, we chose to implement on the client site in Javascript. This was interesting as we had to make sure that the javascript code was optimised for all of the browsers that visitors to the site might be using.

Working closely with Littlejohns' on this project, over Skype, worked really well, and the end result has been in production for over a year now and we continue to support the team in Edinburgh with the occasional feature request or technical query.