We finally made it! Redin now covers twice the ground we used to in the Seattle and Bay Areas, we’re on Virtual Earth and you can IM us using Meebo.
Here are a few of us in the Seattle office last night launching the new Redfin site.
Twice the ground
It wasn’t until I started writing this blog post that I realized just what Greater Seattle and Greater San Francisco Bay Area actually means; we are adding seven more counties, 140 more cities and double the number of listings! Here are some of the larger cities we now cover:
In Washington: Arlington, Bainbridge Island, Bonney Lake, Bothell, Bremerton, Edmonds, Everett, Gig Harbor, Graham, Lake Stevens, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Marysville, Mill Creek, Monroe, Mukilteo, Orting, Port Orchard, Poulsbo, Puyallup, Snohomish, Spanaway, Stanwood, Tacoma, University Place and more.
In California: Aptos, Benicia, Fairfeld, Napa, Petaluma, Rohnert Park Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Suisun City, Watsonville, Windsor, Vacaville, Vallejo and more.
Where to expand to next?
Today we also are excited to announce that we have retired our proprietary Flash-based map solution and traded up to Microsoft’s Virtual Earth. While we are proud to have launched the Flash-based map in 2004, well ahead of the Google Maps and Virtual Earth APIs, the time has come to make the switch to a platform that can support our expected growth and enable us to innovate.
Fortunately we also get some immediate improvements to our customer experience…
Road view: Some of you love our aerial imagery, others hate it and want a road view. We now support both. Which will you choose?
Icons: On the old site when I was zoomed out I found it really hard to click on listings; the parcels made for a very small target for my mouse cursor. Now we display icons when you are zoomed far out to make the listings easy to see and click. However, when you zoom in we still have our signature parcels (and for listings that we do not have property outlines or parcel data we display an icon):
|Old Map||New Map||Zoomed In|
URLs: You can now copy and paste your search URL and share it with friends. Or bookmark it. Or blog it. Or e-mail it. Here’s an example: Capitol Hill Condos.
Back button: The number one usability complaint we heard about the old site is that the back button did not behave as expected. Even some employee’s spouses did not use our site because of our blatant disregard for some web conventions. Now while our implementation is not yet perfect because of those wacky tabs, it’s a huge leap forward for us.
Color change: We went through at least five color palette iterations for the icons and parcels. After contentious internal debates we settled on dark green for listings, light green for previously viewed listings and blue for sold properties. While I did promise the team that we would never have to change the colors again, if you tell me we got them wrong, we will (sorry, Jane.)
Faster Map: Say goodbye to our ‘we’re busy loading map tiles’ indicator, lovingly nicknamed ‘Knight Rider.’ Anecdotal studies of the new map show that while it’s not yet blazingly fast, it certainly is a lot faster than our old map.
Double click to zoom: All the navigation functions that you love from other map sites now work at Redfin. Double click to zoom in or use your mouse scroll wheel to zoom in or out. Try out the keyboard navigation too.
IM with an agent
A lot of us are not just real estate junkies but e-commerce junkies too; the sites we frequent all have ‘Chat Now’ widgets. We don’t know if this is the right interface, but we wanted to give it a shot. Fortunately Meebo makes it really easy to add a Chat Now widget so we added them to our Offer Wizard, Listing Wizard and Ask a Question pages. We staff this from 9 a.m. ’til 6 p.m. during the week and noon to 6 p.m. on weekends. Just today we got a question asking if we had a Microsoft Prime discount, and we do!
We tried hard but this release is not perfect. As it turns out each browser has a mind of its own and I am sure we struggled with every browser oddity trying to get the site to look the same on all of them (we didn’t.) We are also sad that we can no longer support Safari because it is not supported by Virtual Earth. We do recommend upgrading to Firefox 2.0 or Internet Explorer 7 depending on your operating system.
Now if you find a bug or have a suggestion please leave us a comment below, we’ll fix it as soon as our developers get some sleep.
With this release we are making what some people will consider to be minor changes to our customer experience, and they’re right about that. Since the real change is that we now have a map platform so we can innovate faster. And it was that which was an epic effort requiring months of planning and work with many obstacles along the way. Fortunately the teams rallied, we worked weekends, we stayed up all night and we proved we could both overcome the obstacles and deliver on time. 2007 is a big year for us and we’re all very excited because it’s still just the middle January.
Okay, enough celebrating: we have to start on the next release :).