Redfin has search options!?

While one wing of the Redfin office wrestles about changes to the home tours program the other wing of the office is up in arms over how we surface search options on the map page.

When we re-designed our website in April one of the changes we made was hiding the search options. The reasoning behind this controversial design was that since users spend most of their time navigating the map and only occasionally change the number of beds or square footage that they’re looking for, we should make the map as large as possible and move the search options to an overlay. The overlay then only appears when you give focus to the search input box or click a widget.


Initially to display the search overlay pictured above users would need to click the link ‘Filter Search’:


However, we heard occasional stories of users not knowing they could search on number of beds or price. So our next design was to include a drop down widget besides the search button. This is reminiscent of what many Windows applications do or what Facebook does.


But still we heard stories of users not knowing they could change their search options. With our next release we’re looking at combining both the link and drop down widget approachs by moving the drop down widget and changing the name on the link to hint at what it enables you to change:


Unfortunately a number of co-workers stormed into my office yesterday, criticized the design and called me names. If I were to pass you the Redfin Search Product Manager baton how would you solve this discoverability problem? Feedback welcome but Photoshop submissions preferred :). To sweeten the pot we’re offering $250 if we use your submission. However, if you have a winning submission the real question is, why haven’t you applied for our interaction designer position yet?

And with that I’m off to Whistler. Happy Thanksgiving!


  • Malcolm Lewis

    I consider myself a pretty experienced Web user and yet it still took me a while to figure out that I had to click in the search box to show the search options.

    My suggestion is the obvious one. Include a nice big, clearly labeled button that toggles between [Show Search Options] and [Hide Search Options].

    If you want to minimize clutter, you can auto-hide the search options once the user clicks somewhere on the map or hits [Search].

    PS I think Redfin has by far the best UI for home searches and I’ve tried them all. Congrats on a great UI.

  • Daryn

    I would add a “refine search” link in the little white box that shows the number of matches, and keep the dropdown widget, but not add the ugly white link..

  • Alex Mather

    Here’s my take:

    Redfin Search Mock

    Gives the user a quick summary of what they’re searching for and is clearly the place to filter your search. Also, IMHO, making the variables stand out is important.


    • New home building guru

      Agreed. Search has much improved since the post.

  • Jerry

    I like Alex’s mock-up. It visually gets across that you can change the search variables. It also lets you know at a glance what variables you just searched on. I don’t like the newest drop-down design with the “price, beds” link because it doesn’t convey as much info as Alex’s approach.

  • Glenn Kelman

    There is, as Daryn notes, the aesthetic problems created by adding a new link or box. The other problem with Alex’s extra box may be in how that box resizes in small browser windows. But what I like about Alex’s idea is that some filter options, such as the number of beds and baths, are more important than others, and the rest can be available via a “more” link. Not to make more work for Mr. Goyer, but it would be interesting to see if we could determine from our log files which search options are most popular — how often do people filter on square footage or new listings? — so we could know which ones to highlight.

  • Eric Heller

    I’d like to see a more interactive option between the site and the user. While I like the idea of a “Refine Search” link, I don’t think it should be a link. I’d rather see it as a button and have an active expansion of the search refinements when you mouse over it. I also think that it would be useful to use a “shimmer” effect on the link for the first few seconds after a new search has been run. We use that technique to unobtrusively draw attention to banner ads in our business. People don’t mind it because it is just perceptible enough make sure that you notice it without being intrusive to the frequent/experienced user.

    Final piece of input: I definitely *don’t* like the search option refinements plus ellipses. It doesn’t feel intuitive to the casual user.

  • M Bell

    I had the same problem when the UI changed… Have a small “GO” button to launch the search next to the text box, most people probably hit enter on the keyboard anyway. To filter, change the current “Search Listings” button to “Filter Listings”, which would fix the problem for me. When I saw the “Search listings” it didn’t make sense because I thought I already did that when I entered text in the box.

  • Glenn Kelman

    A user who wishes to remain semi-anonymous suggested a few other ideas:
    Craigslist-style, with two rows of action:

    Or with simply a “more options” link:

    Someone who already commented just called us to ask for his $250.

  • JohnK

    I’d say just put a link that says “More Search Options” as well (I forgot who said it first). When I first looked at the sight, I didn’t know how to get to the advanced search options. This is because that little drop down arrow is a MSFT motif that I’d say >50% of the people have never even noticed before much less understand. You also use the arrow in different ways. For example, when you click on the column headers in the bottom area e.g. Price, you get an arrow which looks exactly like the arrow you click to get to the advanced search options but it means sort direction, not expanded options. Also, on the upper right e.g. My Redfin, clicking on that arrow does the same thing as clicking on the link. This is how most MSFT products work now. For the search box, clicking on the arrow does something different than clicking on the search button. I think IE still does this for the Go Back, Go Forward arrows and the upper right corner default search box. But most people don’t know that.

    Another thing you may wish to consider a some more things:

    First, make the most commonly searched for criteria easier to get to than less frequently used criteria. Most people are interested in price, the number of bedrooms & baths, then sq ft, then days on the market, then everything else. When I first looked at that more options overlay, it was a little intimidating e.g. status?

    Second, use full sentences in the search options box. While techies may think that’s condescending, it is more comforting to most people. Once again, I didn’t know what status meant until I viewed the drop down options and figured it out myself. Then again, people who use your site are probably techies so that isn’t that important.

    Third, Past Sales is listed in the search options overlay just like the rest of the criteria but I can’t do anything about it. Either remove it b/c it’s not a usable search criteria or make it look different. Also, the descriptive text says “Zoom in…” That should actually say “View full details of a listing…” When I use a mapping program, I assume that means that zooming means the map zooms in, not show the details of a specific item on that map.

    Fourth, they’ve done studies to show that people expect to see an X in the upper right corner to close windows b/c that’s such a commonly used motif. This is even true for Mac users, though not as much. You can keep close window but I first looked for a X to close that search options window.

    Fifth, don’t be afraid to copy others. Do a search on Google, Yahoo, Ask, MSN, or any other search engine you can think of. Notice anything similar about them?

    Probably more than you wanted, but what the hell. I wasn’t doing anything.

  • Ben Peskoe

    My first thought is that the proposed solution is not bad. It may not be the most visually elegant, but anyone using the search site would grasp in two seconds the purpose of that link — and that’s the main point, right?

    Another option would be to simply make the function of the down-pointing arrow more explicit, something like this:

    Redfin Search Mock

    Whether you say, “Refine Your Search,” “Narrow Your Search” or “More Search Options” is up for debate. But this concept syncs with the current design, and by making the whole link look like a button, it lets the user know to click on it for action.

  • Mark Privett

    I vote the link next to Search Listings button reads “search options.” Seems very straight forward.

    I imagine the average user doesn’t have a clear idea of what the word “filter” means on a web site. Only very advanced users will grok the meaning in its fullness.