Over the course of almost 1,500 UX hours, I and two other designers redesigned the search funnel on ForSaleByOwner.com and added numerous other features to the site. Our goals were to create a world-class responsive real estate search experience and leverage our client's unique differentiators to stand out from competitive sites.
ForSaleByOwner.com had just completed a year’s worth of market research to develop feature ideas that would differentiate it in the fast-growing and hyper-competitive online real estate market. But in addition to new features, everything had to be responsive—a step up from the competition, who all (at the time) simply presented mobile users with a link to download an app.
I led a team that designed several of these features related to the primary listing search process, and collaborated closely with a great team of back-end and front-end developers to achieve this vision.
As the user experience lead on the project, I was initially presented with a wishlist of features that would take Forsalebyowner.com far beyond simply aggregating real estate listings, and into territory that would leverage the strength of its parent company, Tribune Publishing. Primarily, this strength was content. Research had yielded the insight that neighborhood-level data was highly important to property buyers in big cities, and the Tribune aimed to use its reporting and content generation muscle to provide a unique experience for home shoppers.
However, this wishlist of features was significantly longer than all that, and it was immediately clear that some additional feature definition and prioritization was necessary. At the beginning of the project, I facilitated a two-day workshop with the leaders of the Tribune project team to unpack these feature ideas, tie them to user and business goals, and overall understand the risks and success metrics of the project.
After defining the feature set, the design effort could begin in earnest—but some uncertainty still remained. Using Bing Maps was a requirement for the project. None of us had ever designed for it before, and we had some big ideas about map features and interactions.
This presented a great opportunity to do some prototyping and usability testing. Myself and two other UX designers collaborated with two development resources to put together a working prototype of a basic flow in the application, and we conducted user tests with participants who were currently in the market to buy a new house (or had been in the previous six months). This effort resulted in a more refined search experience, and it also increased everyone’s comfort level around working with the Bing Maps API.
The project team successfully implemented major updates to ForSaleByOwner.com, including a fully redesigned search funnel, Neighborhood Detail Pages, and a Lifestyle Profile to aid in finding neighborhood content. The final product totaled over 10,000 hours of effort, about 15% of which was completed by UX. The client and the Nerdery remain engaged in maintenance and enhancements of the site.