One of Ireland’s great online success stories, Myhome.ie, took the founding principles of the web as a place to do business and made it work. Most dotcom ventures that set up in 2001 quickly came unstuck as they discovered a fancy business plan might raise funding but didn’t equate to a sustainable business model. What made Myhome different was its roots in the brick and mortar world, in every sense of the phrase.
“There are three reasons for our success,” says CEO Jim Miley (pictured). “Our whole business is based on having trusted partnerships with leading clients in the residential property arena.” Founding shareholders were big-name estate agents Sherry Fitzgerald, Gunne and Douglas Newman Good with AIB also coming onboard.
“Secondly, the technology is crucial but our total focus on the technology is, from the end user point of view, to make it as user-friendly and as efficient as possible,” he says. “The third critical element would be marketing. It’s all very well having trusted partners and good technology but unless you optimise the number of people who know about it you don’t succeed.”
The ongoing pursuit of added-value services to an already thriving site helped the 16-strong company make the finals at this year’s Small Firms Association Small Business Awards in the Innovator category. The site is the fifth most used in Ireland, registering some 178,000 regular visitors according to Joint National Internet Research, a hit rate that will only increase as house buyers use a new innovation, online mortgage applications.
“At the moment we have some mortgage advertising that we will be enhancing in the coming months,” says Miley. “We’ll open it up to more providers and for the first time you will be able to fill out your mortgage application online.”
For this to happen house buyers have to be confident that MyHome can deliver a trustworthy and efficient service. “We will be using a secure application mechanism developed by UTV Internet and our security advisors are Ritz,” says Miley.
UTV Internet took over the running of the site in March 2004 and set about making upgrades and improvements. “The biggest difference second time around was not so much the innate powers of the technologies themselves but more about the extent to which we could roll out new services because of broadband,” explains Miley.
“We were cautious at the initial phase, trying to minimise the amount of pictures, images and functions we’d put on a particular page. The increasing prevalence of broadband means we’re able to deliver more content. They are things we could always have done but it would have been inhibited by download speeds.”
In the future he hopes to add more 360-degree views, rotating images that give users a virtual walk through experience. “A small percentage of the properties have them at the moment but it’s growing all the time. Buyers are really keen because it gives a better sense of the house,” adds Miley, once again reminding us that this is one web site where the user experience always comes first.
By Ian Campbell