Preview: Smaller Icons!

Thanks, again, for all your feedback on our last big release. Overall, it sounds like you appreciated most of the changes, but it turns out we got some things wrong. We wanted to let you know we heard you and have been working ferverishly on fixes. To make sure the changes we’re making are the right ones, we would like to run them by you for feedback.

Here’s what we’re considering changing:
1. Parcels: we received a lot of feedback asking to put back the parcels, however, we did not remove them. Many of you thought we removed the parcels and replaced them with icons. What we did was show the parcels only at the two most zoomed-in levels. We did this because we thought the parcels were too small to see any further out. Based on your feedback, we will show parcels for the three closest zoom levels (except on Internet Explorer 6 because of performance problems).

2. Icon size: Yes, we agree, they are way too big! Now we have to admit that we did not give a lot of consideration to the icon size when designing them; we were focused on solving what we thought were other more important problems. It turns out you are very passionate about not having the map obscured or cluttered by large icons!

To evaluate your feedback, we started with an icon study:



As you can see, our icons are not only above average in size, but they are about the largest out there. What we are proposing is a much smaller icon roughly 60 percent the size of the last one. This is what it would look like at a high zoom level:


This is what it would look like at a lower zoom level:


And, finally, this is what it would look like when you are zoomed in all the way. You may notice the icon is a little larger here. Typically, this is the zoom level where you would see a parcel, but we have parcels for only 50 percent of the properties (we get this data from each state and it is not always complete), we wanted to show a larger icon to differentiate when there is no parcel available:


Instead of assuming what you are asking for, making changes and waiting for your feedback, we would like to hear from you first! Do you think this is the right icon size? Should we go smaller? Or should we go larger? Should the icons be transparent when you are zoomed in really close? Should we scrap the idea of icons altogether and just use circles? Please let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment or you can reach me by e-mail at matt.goyer *at* redfin dot com. We likely will make a decision on this by Thursday evening so please let me know before then, but, as always, feedback is welcome anytime.


  • Craig

    Agreed, smaller icons are better. The larger icons at the fully zoomed out level did not allow immediate access to the property information popup. Personally, I like Zillow sized icons which your new icons seem to come close to matching. The icon tails/connectors are helpful especially when zoomed out – helps the user select the exact property and not wonder which one they are getting when icons overlap. So, auto-spacing and not allowing overlap by using tails/connectors is invaluable.

    For future development: As someone who likes to push the limits of the status quo, when will you be linking directly to city and county parcel, utility and other records for a property? Would be pretty sweet to be able to click a button on the property details page and view the already publicly web-accessible city and county held documents (usually database tables or PDFs). Keep up the good work.

    p.s. Tell users upfront that the site is best viewed with Firefox or other browsers if there is a performance issue with IE.

  • yaron

    Everyone is doing the Icons … The old version of seeing the parcel was what made you unique and great to view for 2 reasons: No Overlap – if you add the past sales, with the current icons it gets very very messy. It used to be clean & neat.
    And the second reason, if one is looking for a large lot, one could view that from a very large area.
    I still vote to get rid of the icons and reinstate the parcel view from a much larger overview.

    Thanks ! and keep up the great work!

  • A. Robbins

    I agree with the previous reviewer that the old version of seeing the parcel shape, rather than an icon, was far more effective and useful. If your issue is that the parcel shapes are difficult to see when zoomed all the way out, perhaps it would work to show icons only when zoomed all the way out, and show the parcels at all other levels. Choosing bright colors for the parcels would also make them more visible, even when small, rather than the dull greens you currently use.

    There is another problem in your new system in that a selected icon is not highlighted. That means when you select an icon and then change the zoom level, the selected icon can’t be seen since it looks the same as all the others. I still feel your old system worked the best.

    By the way, your responsiveness to your users has been terrific!

  • susan

    Lot size and shape really matter, I miss having that information at the ready. Now I have to click through to the post (since it isn’t even included in the pop-up blurb) and leave your site for zillow. It’s a lot of work.

    Given the choice on icons, I like the John L Scott size and shape (no pointer at the bottom).

  • Matt Goyer

    Thanks everyone for the feedback either here in the comments or via e-mail. I look forward to posting more ideas up here for your feedback.

    Craig, the icon’s center will be on the center of the property. This should minimize the amount of overlap with other icons. I think if we had tails/pointers there is more potential for overlap. As for your future development suggestions, we’ll consider it!

    A. Robbins, the big problem with the old approach where we always showed the parcel was that many users couldn’t see the parcels at high elevations. Also users sometimes lacked the dexterity to click on them since they were really really small. At some point I’ll post all our color iterations, there were a lot. As for highlight, we will be fixing that, just not right away.

    Susan, we will look at some other way of pulling up the parcel without having to zoom all the way down. Might take a bit of time for us to get to it though.

  • Joel

    I’d love to be able to use this and give feedback on icon size, but, I run Safari — too bad for me. I did an informal poll of the dozen or so people who use Macs at work and discovered one person who did and the remainder either not understanding the question (‘why not run Safari? It works great!’) or openly dismissive (‘if I wanted bloatware that crashed I’d run Windows’). Its a bummer that Redfin chose a mapping engine that leaves most Mac users out.

  • Matt Goyer

    Joel, I know. It sucks. We are actively working with Microsoft on a solution for Safari.

  • REBlogGirl

    Wow, I have to say, it is nice to see a company take user response and incorporate it into their development and improvement plan. It’s also nice to see that you recognize the problems with Safari. That kind of communication means the world to me as I often deal with software firms that try to mask one problem as another. Kudos on your commitment to the customer and your honesty.

  • melvin tedisky

    just do it!!!reduce the icons. I can’t get at some icons like “run”