Wednesday Journal recently launched a completely rehabbed version of its real estate Web site, The new site brings together – with no need for registration – local real estate information in an uncluttered and freshly informative way.

Its centerpiece is a daily feed from the Multiple Listing Service, which provides almost all the properties currently available in Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest. When looking for a home, you can find a refined search tool with more options to choose from. You can view the results either as a gallery of photos or on a map with markers displaying the location of each property.

It’s in the view of details for an individual property that you start to see the features that set this site apart. With one click, you can e-mail details about the property to a friend, share them on Facebook or e-mail a real estate agent about it. The map at the bottom of the page doesn’t just display the property’s location. It also displays other nearby real estate listings, recent property transfers and the weekend’s open houses.

The site was built completely in-house by Wednesday Journal staffers Graham Johnston, 24, of Oak Park, and Mike Risher, 25, of Forest Park.

“This is the first time we’ve built a Web site from the ground up,” said Johnston, manager of Internet and technology at the Journal. “It’s really incredible to start with a blank page and just two months later we have a fully functioning site.”

Johnston worked on the original, a site launched in January 2007 that was designed with the paper’s Web host. With two years’ worth of thoughts about how to improve the site, Johnston posed the idea of building it from scratch to Risher, who was working as a Web developer for Wednesday Journal.

Starting with nothing more than a spreadsheet of real estate listings, Risher began building the framework that would power the site. The goal was to put more than a fresh look on the original site. Johnston and Risher wanted to build a site that would be just as useful to real estate agents as it would be for people looking to buy a home.

“With the old site, we had a problem with some information being outdated or inaccurate,” Johnston said. “So we created a way for real estate agents to edit all their contact information, their agent roster, their open houses.”

Reactions to the new site are positive as Johnston and Marc Stopeck, Wednesday Journal’s display advertising manager, begin showing real estate agents the reworked features.

“It’s definitely an improvement from the last Web site,” said Evelyn Castellano, office manager for Gagliardo Realty in River Forest. “It’s very user-friendly. The layout is good and the maps are specific to our location. It’s a great supplement to the paper.”

Iris McCormick, an administrative assistant at Prudential Premier Realty in Oak Park, said she was also pleased with the new design of the Web site.

“Inputting properties into the system is much easier on our side of things, but the user-friendly aspects also transfer over to clients,” she said. “I love it.”

In the coming weeks, Johnston and Risher said, they plan to continue fine-tuning the site and work on launching similar overhaul to, the counterpart for Wednesday Journal’s city papers. After that, the pair said, they’re interested in adapting a portion of the Web site for access from an iPhone.

Staff Reports