Trulia for IOS:

A Guerilla Usability Study

Trulia is an online service for home buyers, home sellers, renters, and real estate professionals. The site and mobile apps include real estate and rental listings, financial tools, and geographic information, such as crime data and nearby school listings.

Objective

The objective of this study was to uncover opportunities for improvement on three common tasks related to searching for real estate:

1. Search for a home in a specified area and within a specified price range

2. Email a listing to another person

3. Save a search

Finding Target Users

My target user was a person in their 30's or 40's who has looked for homes in the last 6 months. In order to find the right users, I asked the following screening questions to people I met at coffee shops in San Francisco:

1. Have you ever looked for homes online?

2. What have you used to do that?

3. When was the last time?

Testing

I asked each user to take a look at the Trulia iphone App and tell me what they noticed first. Then, in order to not lead them in any particular direction, I phrased the tasks in a natural way using conversational language and avoiding the use of actual terms associated with the site such as “search,” “listing,” “save,” etc.

1. “Could you show me how you would look for homes in an area you want to live in and within your price range?”

2. “What would you do if you wanted to show this listing to your wife/friend/real estate agent?”

3. “If you were in the habit of periodically looking for new listings within this same area and price range, is there a way to make that quick and simple come back to in the future?”

I took videos of each test, then debriefed after each one to list key observations. I then synthesized each user’s pain points into common categories:

Analysis

These were the top 3 usability pain points that I observed:

Problem 1: People didn’t know how to save their search, or they had to click around quite a bit until they figured it out. The option to “save search” was located below the map/list, but wasn’t obvious to them. They were looking within the map or the list, not at the bar below. They easily noticed how to save an individual listing within search results, however, as the heart icon was located within the listing itself.

Recommendation: My recommendation is to move the bar from the bottom of the page to below the heading and add the heart icon from the individual listing pages next to “save search.”

Problem 2: The foreclosures were either confusing to those who were unfamiliar with them or a nuisance for those users who knew what they were but wanted to ignore them.

“I know the ones without pictures are generally foreclosures. I don’t like to see listings without pictures.”
-User 1

Recommendation: Some users found properties they liked by panning through the map rather than using the search filters. Since foreclosures are high-lighted in red on the listings page, I would also highlight them on the map so they can be easily ignored by those not interested in them and especially those users not using the filters to filter them out. Also, for those that did go to the filters to begin a search, I’d move the “Listing type” up as this was a much more important filter for the users I observed.

Problem 3: Sending a listing to a friend was not obvious. Most people were looking within the boundaries of the listing itself for a place to send.

User 3 who eventually found the “send” icon after a lot of frustration said:

“I didn’t realize that was for sending. I like it when it says what it is.”

Additional Findings:

User 2 and 4 both mentioned the importance of neighborhood data in their criteria for finding a home. User 4 noted that the crime and school data for the area was too vague and he would need to see school ratings and specific crime incident information in order to know if the neighborhood was appropriate for his family.

“…I’d probably just go somewhere else to find this information.” -User 4

Redesigning the delivery of the neighborhood data and providing more extensive information was out of scope for this initial study, but would be interesting to explore in future studies.

Next Steps

The goal of this study was to uncover how to improve usability of the Trulia iphone app for real estate seekers. Usability testing is the first part of my design process. My next steps would be to build a prototype implementing these recommendations, test to validate, iterate, and repeat.

The metrics I would use to measure the results of these recommended changes are:

1. % of users who save a search per week and % of users who return and view saved searches per month.

2. % of users sending a listing to another person per week

3. % of users who change the filters on “Listing Type” per week.

I’m not affiliated with Trulia. This review is put forth unsolicited, in an effort to create value for real estate users. Thanks to @jessiewould for your copy editing help!

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