Rightmove’s Draw-a-Search feature, based on Google Maps technology, allows property seekers to draw their own boundaries when searching for a property, which they can then save and edit at a later date. One million searches a week on Rightmove are now done using Draw-a-Search, with 200,000 new areas being drawn every week. Only a few weeks after Draw-a-Search was introduced, Rightmove saw its site registrations increase by 15%, and its popularity has continued ever since.
Rightmove’s business model depends on driving the UK’s home-moving public to its website and offering the best user experience possible in order to ensure that they explore the site more deeply and return to it again and again. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, the company was keen to incorporate better mapping functionality on its website to maintain its position as market leader. The company was also looking for innovative ways in which it could use mapping technology to further improve the user experience beyond basic mapping functionality.
“To provide our users with the best experience, we are not only committed to providing the largest, most up-to-date range of properties on the market, but also to making the site as interactive and user-friendly as possible,” explains Donal McBreen, application architect at Rightmove.
In early 2010, having investigated a number of different offerings, Rightmove decided to implement Google Maps API Premier mapping technology.
“We compared Google Maps against similar offerings and Google won hands down. Not only did we feel that the actual maps were far more current, but because use of Google Maps is already so widespread across the web, we felt that our users would be far more familiar with using it,” Donal McBreen notes. “We offer properties in a number of countries worldwide and another aspect of Google Maps that really stood out was that it is far more localised than other offerings. Road colours are illustrated differently in France than they are in the UK for example, and Google Maps takes in to account those kinds of localising factors, which makes a real difference to the user experience.”
Having found the Google Maps API very easy to work with during implementation, Rightmove’s development team soon started investigating what else it could do with the technology to improve the site. Soon, the team came up with the prototype design for an innovative “market first” feature, Draw-a-Search. Draw-a-Search enables property seekers to draw their own boundaries when searching for a property, rather than using area definitions dictated by an estate agent or property website. For example, instead of being asked to either define a search area by postcode, area name or radius, Draw-a-Search works within a Google Map on the Rightmove site to let users draw their own specific areas and search for properties within those areas.
Users can then save the areas they draw and edit these saved searches at a later date as desired.
One million searches a week on Rightmove are now done using Draw-a-Search, with 200,000 new areas being drawn every week. Only a few weeks after Draw-a-Search was introduced, Rightmove saw its site registrations increase by 15 percent, and its popularity has continued ever since. In addition to this excellent pick up amongst its users, Rightmove also received excellent feedback from its estate agent customers.
“We believe Draw-a-Search is a truly innovative feature which puts us well ahead of our competition,” says McBreen. “The take up we have seen already shows how hugely popular it has been amongst our users, and it will soon be a major part of our next marketing and advertising push, which underlines how important it has become to the business. We operate in a very competitive industry and Google Maps API has given us the ability to really stand out from the crowd. Ultimately our main aim at Rightmove is to make the home-hunting experience as easy as possible, so these kinds of innovations can make a real difference to our users, and therefore our business.”
With so many search areas having been drawn, Rightmove also now has access to a wealth of data that can be used in the future to help both develop its own services and also help its estate agent customers develop theirs. The ability to identify the most popular search areas, and how far beyond pre-defined boundaries house-hunters are willing to search, can help estate agents better understand what potential customers are seeking and improve their own marketing effectiveness as a result.
“We’re really pleased we chose Google Maps. Not only do we have the great mapping technology and functionality we originally wanted but it has given us the ability to make a major improvement to our site in the form of Draw-a-Search. Because it is all hosted in Google’s cloud, we don’t have to spend any time or money worrying about maintaining the system, which means we are free to concentrate on developing the next innovations that will make a real difference to our business,” says McBreen.
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