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Findaproperty.com released an iPhone app this week, bringing the property search engine to mobile users.

Rival Rightmove released an impressive app last year, so I've been comparing to the new Findaproperty app.

I've also been asking Findaproperty.com Product Manager Chris Boorman about the development of the new iPhone app...

Homepage/search

the main screen is simple enough, providing the option of searching for properties to buy or rent, or to find an estate agent. Users can either type in a postcode or place name, or else use GPS to search from their current location.

You can also quickly skip to saved or recent searches using the menu options at the bottom of the app.

Filtering and refining searches

If you search straight from the homepage, especially if you are looking in London, you will probably get more search results than you can handle:

There is an option to refine your search results, though this is something that was made clearer on the Rightmove app, and should be here, sine it is an essential feature.

In fact, it may be an idea to provide filters at the beginning of the property search and save a few 'clicks' for users, since most searches will need to be narrowed down,

Also, the 'Refine' button should be given more space. At the moment, it is too close to other links, and users could easily press either the save or map links instead.

The filtering options are good enough to narrow down your search and be more precise. The slider tool is good, but when selecting the minimum and maximum price, especially for rents, it is difficult to get it to the nearest £200, so it is easier to type the amount into the box.

Property pages

These pages look good, and depending on the quality and quantity of photos provided by the estate agent, can be useful to get an idea of how the house looks inside and out.

You can scroll through multiple photos:

The information provided on the property pages, and this is also true of the Rightmove app, is only as good as that submitted by the landlord or estate agent.

This means that potentially useful information about things like the number of rooms or dimensions of rooms is often missing.

Other features on the property pages include a map function to show the property location and get directions via Google Maps, and links to either call or email the agent.

Conclusion

The Rightmove app does seem to have a few more properties on offer, at least in the areas I searched for, but Findaproperty seems to work more quickly, and the fact that it saves recent searches is a useful feature.

The two apps are very similar in functionality, both deliver a decent user experience, and both have their faults.

Product Manager Chris Boorman on the new app

Why did you decide to go for an iPhone app rather than a mobile site?

We are always surveying our users and following brand trends. The iPhone is very popular amongst our core user base and it therefore made sense to create an app for the iPhone first. We also wanted to make full use of the accelerometer for images and search results which an app allowed us to do.

Do you have plans to create apps for other phones? Do you see mobile an an increasingly important channel in future?

Yes, we are currently looking at our demographic and those of other mobile platforms to define our next steps. Our users will expect to be able to get more and more information from their phones and we need to be able to meet those expectations (and hopefully exceed them)

What are the challenges in developing an iPhone app?

Getting all of the features that users expect from the website in a simple package. Understanding that users don’t have a mouse and a keyboard and are using their finger to navigate. Making sure that the app feels intuitive and effective, much like the iPhone itself.

How have you approached the issue of usability? Have you tested it on users?

We have an in-house usability consultant who was involved in the process. We also partnered with a well established agency who have a clear understanding of iPhone requirements and journeys. The app was user tested as part of the development process. We currently have over 100 ratings on the App store and an average overall rating of over 3.5 stars:

What was the App Store process like? Did it take long to get approval?

It was pretty simple – the app was approved in a week. We are currently sitting at 14th overall for free apps so the take up has been amazing. A big thank you to all the people that have downloaded it so far.

What other plans to do you have around mobile?

We have a lot of ideas and a lot of elements to consider – watch this space!

Graham Charlton

Published 12 February, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

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