LBS and web mapping, posted: 30-Aug-2013 17:53
Barfoot & Thompson have a new (well relatively new) iPad application
out to help people find their next house in New Zealand. It is crisp
and clean and has some very nice features. It’s been selected as a
finalist in the Designers Institute Best Design Awards 2013 and I’m sure it will do well. Here’s my review.
It opens up showing your current location on a map with properties in
your proximity, if you have allowed it to know your location using the
GPS on your iPad. This is interesting even if you’re not looking to buy
in your neighbourhood because you can get an idea of what’s for sale and
perhaps how your property value may be faring.
Tap on one of the map pins and you will see a photo of the house and
tap on the picture and you go into the property screen, where you can
scroll through photos and information. I’ll come back to that.
I was surprised that they haven’t done an iPhone app, nor an Android app, but they do have a website optimised for mobile.
More people have mobiles than tablets and a lot of people have Androids
today. Personally I would have gone for a responsive website rather
than a mobile specific one, but that’s just my opinion.
There is a potential fatal flaw here. Most iPads do not have SIM
cards. This means that unless they have another means of connecting to
the Internet, such as tethering to a mobile, or WiFi, then a lot of the
location based features fail. This is another reason why I would have an
iPhone version. It would need to be rewritten for the form factor,
whereas if they had started with an iPhone app, you can always use that
on an iPad as well.
The User Interface is nice, but the experience will vary based on
your knowledge of apps. There are lots of hidden gems that you might
have to stumble over in order to find them. I would like to see an FAQ
or even a tutorial to make sure that people don’t miss out on valuable
information that could influence their next step.
When you search for a Suburb, Listing ID, or Keyword (and I’m not
going to get pedantic about upper and lower case:) the result is very
smart, similar to using Google Maps, but you wouldn’t know it from the
You can search by number e.g. 119 and it will show you listings
starting with that number. If you enter a suburb, you will first see
properties in that suburb, but if you don’t scroll down, you might not
realise you can also view suburbs, schools and find the nearest Barfoot
& Thompson Branch. If you select School, it will show you the
location of the school you select. As I said, hidden gems.
The Property Filter feature is elegant, I really like it. It is smooth and intuitive. Save or Apply and go explore.
I didn’t find the book marking functionality as user friendly. It’s
obvious when you select it, that it is a book mark, but if you forget
you have used it and are looking at a map, you may wonder where all the
listings went. That’s because it’s only showing properties on the map
that you have bookmarked and if you haven’t bookmarked any yet, then you
won’t see any properties at all. Logical, but logic and user
friendliness aren’t always the same thing.
The listings themselves are full of nuggets and you need to try all
the buttons at the top to find out what they do. It’s also obvious that
some agents put a lot more effort into providing information than
Titirangi buyers for example may find a lot more information than in some othe
suburbs, for example, one property I looked at had a LIM Report, Title
and more. There were photos, floor plans and even Google Street View.
When there are Open Homes, there is an Open Home Reminder, which lets
you choose from available Open Homes and put your selection straight
into your calendar, so you won’t forget.
The arrow on the right hand side at the top lets you email the
property details to yourself or someone else, complete with a “Try the
App” option. If you have AirPrint, you can print straight from your device at home, even if you’re not
there, I like that! You can also select the Agent and get their details
as well as other listings they are personally managing. Finally you can
“enquire” which will open up your email and allow you to send an email
request to the agent.
So what’s missing? As I said up top, a tutorial would be good, it
could be FAQ’s or a video walk through. As IT people, we often assume
that users are more experienced than they really are. Many people I know
will get frustrated and abandon the app, or wish it had features that
it does in fact have. The good thing is that Barfoot will be getting at
least weekly reports on downloads, upgrades and usage and even where it
is being used most.
Points of Interest would be an easy addition. I know schools are important (if you have kids) but as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs,
things like Shopping, Food, Health Services and Public Transport are
also important and easy to get from the Google API’s.
Google now offers real time traffic information on their maps. Imagine if you could
see that in real time to see what traffic is like in the neighbourhood
right now, or when you are planning to go and look at the property.
I don’t expect demographics, at least before the 2013 Census is out.
But wouldn’t it be cool if you could get some information about the
people in the area and find out if they are like you?
Getting around Open Homes can be a chore and I often seem to find an
agent (not talking about Barfoot here) that doesn’t have a great sense
of direction. A route planner would be very cool and that would be an award winning feature imho.
I was also surprised to not see any social media links in the app. I
would have thought that the ability to share a property for sale with
family and friends via Facebook and Twitter at least would have been a
big plus. Word of Mouth is an important and social media is a free
All in all, I really do like the app and congratulate Barfoot on
creating it. They have set a standard that realtors will have to equal
or better. It is not only useful for people in New Zealand, but also for
expats and people thinking of coming from overseas. It isn’t the only
app on the block, but his review is just about them.
Location based or general notifications would be great for the
serious home buyer. You could set your criteria of price and features,
maybe a timeframe when you are open to be notified. You might be looking
in Browns Bay, but there could be an amazing property in a totally
different part of Auckland, where you happen to be driving on a Saturday
afternoon that you would never have considered. You could have an alert
for Open Homes near your real time current location, again based on
the saved criteria of price, bedrooms etc that you are looking for.
What other features would I like to see? Watch out for more blogs
and also for the eBook on using Location Based Services to buy real
estate, which is a few weeks away. The following eBook will be for
In the meantime, if you have an iPad, try the app out and leave a comment on this blog to tell me what you think of it.
Other related posts:
8 Ways to Grow Your Business with GPS
Consumption 2.0 and Mobility
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