April 14, 2010

Maximizing a map-based page type for real estate searches

Real estate vertical

BEFORE AFTER 

Initially, I was tasked with additive improvements to the existing Real estate experience—filtering options and how much secondary metadata to display. With regards to the filters, there was a specific request to add a slider control in lieu of link-style controls. People were hesitant to use default link style filters for fear of going to another page (and having to start all over).

Filter controls

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Existing link-style filter controls

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Proposed slider controls

Secondary data

Determining how much metadata on each listing was a tough balancing act. Not only is there a lot of data points with each listing, but many of the top real estate websites were highlighting their unique data points too—things like Trulia’s rating, Zillow’s Zestimate®, and Walk Score®.

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Secondary metadata on hover

Sad trombone

Neither one of these initial directions ended up shipping—that’s actually a good thing because these weren’t that great. I’m a little fuzzy on what actually happened with this project. I do know that this, and other, verticals were cut around this time. 

Fascinating rhythm

However, the thing that I remember being so interested in was the behavior and the unique demands put onto the interface. Typically, the content will naturally dictate whether it be a page of lists, cards, large images, or maps. Local experiences tend to demand almost all of these interface elements all the time. From a user focus and logistical perspective, it’s virtually impossible to display all elements all the time, so the problem is that of balance and making the switch from a map view to a list view, or whatever, as quick and painless as possible.

I think this is why we’ve seen a variety of dramatic changes in real estate site interfaces over the years. In any case, I built a crude prototype back then to illustrate the importance of complex filtering (stolen borrowed from Mac OS Finder search) and allowing user-control over map size with a list-view.

Real estate prototype

The Maps team has been cooking up some interesting scenarios in the past few years, including real estate searches. It’s great to see them utilize the map as a base layer in these situations—a great proof of allowing the data and people’s behavior to dictate the UI presentation layer.

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Current real estate search

Credit Maps team, led by Justin Ting, 2020

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