Some things are universal, such as when you click on a link you want an instant reaction. Redfin’s response time hasn’t been as fast as we’d like, so we’ve released a new version that improves performance significantly. It’s on the site today. You’ll see much faster search, especially for past sales search. John Battelle’s blog on what web users value was influential in our decision to prioritize performance.
We ran many different tests against our old user interface and the new one. The chart below shows the performance gains across three browsers. In the case of Internet Explorer 6, we display listings on our map almost four times faster with the new version of our site. The performance gains are smaller but still significant for IE7 (download it) and Firefox (download it), both of which have better overall performance than IE6.
And we’ve added a cool visual effect: during the (now shorter) search, you’ll see a progress bar and houses will progressively pop up on the map. For the techies among you, we’ll be talking in more depth about the specific things we did to improve performance, including a good bit of data and commentary on our database switch, in an upcoming post on the Redfin Developers’ Blog.
Talking about speed of information, we’ve also sped up the MLS integration (MLS systems are used by brokers to track all the open listings in an area). In many cases we load new listings faster than the real estate sites used by the brokers, so our customers are the first to see newly listed properties. In Southern California, we’ve had issues with MLS data getting onto our site too slowly and we think we’ve fixed those latency issues in San Diego, Orange County, and most parts of Los Angeles. Our goal is to have all new listings in Southern California on Redfin within minutes, which is the type of performance we have in other markets.
In this release, we’ve also added lot outlines (see below) in Boston, Baltimore, and DC and updated the outlines in Seattle and California. Finally, we’ve added new map icons and links to driving directions on the property detail pages.
Other things aren’t as universal. When I moved away from San Francisco, I wondered why it was so difficult to get a burrito the way I wanted it. In San Francisco, you tell them what to put in your burrito; everywhere else, you start with a standard burrito and add and remove ingredients. Invariably something goes wrong.
Food is local, and so is real estate. While we’re only in a few markets now, we try to go deep in those markets. We write about local real estate in Redfin’s Sweet Digs blogs, provide an online customer forum in each market, and of course hire experienced, local agents. As part of that effort, we’re rolling out local sites for San Francisco Bay Area real estate, Washington DC and Baltimore real estate, Seattle real estate, Boston real estate, San Diego real estate, Los Angeles real estate, and Orange County real estate.
People come to Redfin for direct access to MLS listings, so we’ve left the search bar front and center on these pages. But we’ve added information that’s useful for someone searching for a new home, such as schools, census data, and local news and blogs. For example, interested in new construction in the Westchester area of LA? You can find out about it in Sweet Digs on the Redfin LA page.
We like these pages, but we also realize they’re just a start. If you’ve got any suggestions on good local links to include or other feedback on the pages, please send them. And let us know whether you like the lot outlines and new map icons, and if there’s anything else you’d like to see on the map.