The nationwide database contains almost 1 million properties available for sale at any given time. The final tool must not be overwhelming to a user, but must still be useful.
Only minimal changes could be made to the system itself. For example, the Laravel framework could not be changed or removed. Also, exclusive listings and MLS listings must be shown side by side using a map for search results.
I was the product manager and lead UX researcher on this project. On my team was a UX designer and an amazing front end developer.
Process, Research Design
- Interview and observe internal stakeholders and external users as they navigate our current search tool. What are the key pain points and misconceptions?
- Review with the development team – why were previous decisions made? What issues did those decisions solve? Were those issues still relevant?
- User test initial ideas (roll-up and clustered results)
- Competitive Analysis and Heuristic Evaluation – what were our competitors doing to help users search for real estate? What were the current best practices in web mapping and search result display? What did users expect to see and do on a map?
- Brainstorm through the potential user journey. Sketch possible solutions.
- Discovery sessions with the development team – what is possible given our technology and resources?
- Build a working prototype. Given the ubiquitousness of map searches, it was important to see users play with the solution instead of give their opinion on a static example.
- User test the new solution.
- Build a roadmap for integrating the new solution into the current stack.
- Build the solution.
Users did not understand our initial solution at all! At that time, we had not been working alongside the developers yet, so we were adding unnecessary constraints to the designs.
There was significant tech debt that would need to be addressed to improve our search experience. But, doing so meant that we could present data in ways we didn’t think possible!
Our prototype was a dramatic enough change that the entrance to search from the home page and the exit from search to the product details pages needed to be redesigned as well. An overhaul of the landing page was already underway on the marketinging team. So, I gathered our internal Subject Matter Experts (SME) and stakeholders and did a discovery session about our customer’s needs, desires, expectations and strategies. The agenda (including a quick persona) can be found here.