Sunday, April 4, 2010

Hey - Please Fix Your User Experience

So I'm looking to buy a house finally. It's tricky. There are A LOT of places for sale but most of them are pretty dumpy. Now I understand why new construction is so appealing despite its boring style. Anyway, I'm using to help me find a home to buy because it's like the ebay of realestate websites. Sorting through hundreds of potential homes (yes hundreds) is really difficult. We all know that sellers like to exaggerate the appeal of their houses as much as possible. We all know that the whole house buying process seems rigged in favor of sellers and agents. The marketplace of real estate is really vague and I feel like this is intentional. I wish was more like Google Finance - but it's not and I'm stuck with it for now.

So... there are a few things Zip should be doing from a User Experience perspective which would help me, and every other buyer, but they are not.... 


#1 What is the deal with Review This Home? It just doesn't work. This could be the most useful feature on the whole site, it could help SO many users filter through the crap. It could save people so much time and effort and it just does not work. Anybody, neighbors, not necessarily home buyers ought to be able to leave a comment about a home listed on zip.  I can comment on almost anything on the internet except for the most important purchase of my life. WTF!!!? Hello! Product manager at Zip Realty - go talk to the folks at Disqus.

#2 I should be able to converse with agents, all agents, without leaving the site. Or without leaving the house detail page. It seems stupid to go back and forth over email so excessively. Why can't Zip BE a turbo charged email client for the purpose of selling homes?

#3 Filtering and organizing needs a lot of interaction design improvement. So many small interactions should automatically save. For example, if I'm trying to rank my interest level on a house this UI should automatically save my rank without me having to hit the little "save" button every single time I adjust this menu. You just don't need all those save buttons. It's called AJAX and here Zip needs to take some cues from Google.

#4 The sidebar is useless. No I do not need to see the photo, name and phone number of my agent on every sidebar in every single page view - I ALREADY HAVE THAT INFORMATION thanks. Instead I'd like to see ACTIONABLE interfaces, useful features, meaningful context, bubbled up above the fold of the page.  Users should be able to customize the sidebar on a home detail view. All social and communication tools are buried down on the page and it's too difficult to share a listing with my friends & family. Right now If I want to post a home to facebook, or email a listing to my dad, I have to scratch my head for 2 minutes figure out how to do that - every time.  It's not easy to find.

Overall Zip is pretty good, I consider it to be better than no real estate website. But the site could be greatly improved by a thorough user centered REDESIGN. My biggest complaint is that they haven't done this already, it's long overdue.


  1. Hi Stephanie,

    I'm a REALTOR with ZipRealty in Austin, TX. I'm going to forward your ideas over to our Tech Department.

    I do have a problem with your comment that "We all know that the whole house buying process seems rigged in favor of sellers and agents."

    I want to know why you feel that way. What makes you think it is rigged in their favor?

    Ralph Bell
    Licensed in Texas
    ZipRealty, Inc.

  2. Ralph,

    Thank you very much and please let me know if I can offer some UX help to you or Zip (that's what I do). ssawchenko (at) gmail (dot) com

    Please don't take offense to my comment... It really is my frustrated emotional perspective of the buyer's side of this process. It seems like there are way too many exaggerated listings that don't honestly describe the condition of most homes. Maybe that's a Baltimore thing.