Weichert Lead Network came out of beta the other day with a bunch of new functionality that their customers have been begging for. I have always loved the performance of Weichert.com (and they too are very proud of this) but always thought it could use a few more bells and whistles. They definitely added a few here.
Imagery - and lots of it
One of the tough challenges here was a way to incorporate a coverflow utility that would not bog down the site. Dave Severino over at Weichert told me that they looked high and low and wound up figuring out a way to do this with minimal code to ensure that the speed and user experience was not compromised. I think it is basic and it just works. It's no iTunes but then again you can't buy a home from Apple.
For those that don't want to be limited to one picture at a time you can access a photo gallery that has images sized to proportions that people who are not snipers can actually enjoy and whenever possible you get more than one. This is really a nice feature. It is not groundbreaking by any means but I am always shocked when I go to a site and there is a picture of the mailbox and the shed - the end.
When you get your search results, there is an option to view a list, map view (see below) and photo view. The last one is basically a tiled view of the listings with a nice big picture of the home, as a general rule. No longer will you have to squint to see if this is a home that catches your eye. It's right there and in your face - the way it should be.
Like I mentioned above, there is a map search component in this new site that does the job well. Although I am not in love with the idea of MLSs not allowing the display of listing addresses, this has nothing to do with Weichert or their site. I am optimistic that one day, one magical day, this will all fix itself - I digress.
There are two ways to use this feature. You can run your search and simply show the listings in the results that appear on the current page on the map. Alternatively you can forego the search and just have the app display any mapable (see my comment about the MLSs in the prior paragraph) listings that fall within the four corners of the viewable map.
Again, none of this is new to the market however it's what the market wants, no demands, and Weichert is listening. I have a few suggestions that I hope the team over there will consider:
Design to 100% of the screen. One thing that always bothered me when I was a designer was when folks would lock you into a set of design proportions. You don't know if someone has a large or small monitor, regular or widescreen. That was a huge challenge years ago but now it's gotten easier. You can design your pages to generate to 100% of the screen regardless of the size and dimensions. I see all that real estate (pardon the pun) over on the right hand side and it gives me heartburn. It's nearly 1/3 of my screen. Use that space. Use it all. It's yours, find something you can put here be it ads, a larger page, a picture of me, whatever - don't just not use it.
I would really like the ability to not have the results paged out. If I am searching for a home I like to prune this stuff down myself and by allowing me to have a huge list to hack away at - much like Kayak - I will get down to a short list. My definition of 'short' may be different from yours though so you have to allow for that.
I would also like to see a way to change the boundaries of what is displayed when I forgo the list. If I could use some sort of a 'draw your own boundary' tool that would be really nice. It will allow the end user to see just what they want no matter how strange the shape of the area they choose. This comes in particularly handy when you want to avoid a certain part of town for one reason for another.
Look for more enhancements in the coming months. I know they have some really cool stuff planned that will do some things that are more on the side of groundbreaking. You are going to want to see them.