Design Critique: Zillow Rentals (iPhone app)



Introduction to Zillow Rentals

Zillow Rentals is a mobile application (with website support) for searching homes and apartments for rent by location. One could view rental listings and also apply filter for listings that fits the budget, rooms, area and needs such as in-unit laundry, on-site parking and schools. You can connect with the landlords and property managers through phone or email. It also provides option of saving the homes by adding it to the favourites.


Design Problems

Problem 1: Schools option in the filter settings shows a drop down arrow but works only by clicking the button next to it, causing confusion.

As you can see in the images (1&2) below, the drop down arrow and button are given side by side. User would always go for the arrow, (which is the obvious affordance here) to see the content in it. But soon he finds out it has no function and the school menu only comes down when you click on the button next to it. Having these 2 things side by side only creates more confusion. Clearly, the affordance and mapping has gone wrong which has led it to become a bad conceptual model (as per Don Norman’s principles).


Image 1


Image 2


The best way to avoid confusion is by just keeping the drop down arrow (usually these controls match the real world practices) and removing the button next to it. By changing this, the arrow will work in a way its intended to work, resolving the mapping issue and building a system image which would be consistent with the user model. 


Problem 2: Saved Homes 

Saved Homes shows the list of houses you added to your favourites. The main issue here is that when user views a house in the saved homes option and wants to go back to see the list, he is directly taken to the top of the list (image 3&4). There are options for viewing previous and next house, but what if I have list of 35 houses and I am currently viewing the 10th house and I need to view the 20th house ? Now, I only have two options, either to swipe through 10 houses or go back to the list and search for the 20th house. This is a example of bad design.


Image 3


Image 4


One of the fix could be, after going back to the list, the recently viewed house should be highlighted and the user should land on same page. This way, user will be aware of the house he viewed recently and could easily navigate through other houses as well. Also, the size pictures shown in the list could be reduced and the way how it is presented could be improved.


Problem 3: Zooming on the map, doesn’t work.

Zooming in on the satellite version of the map displays a grey screen (even after loading) as shown in image 5&6. This app is about locating houses on the map and if the map is only not available, what’s the use ? This again shows bad design and insufficient testing, it needs to be rectified by the developers soon.


Image 5


Image 6

Final thoughts for the App: 

It is difficult to read the text present in the main page of the app and also hard distinguish things (image 7). The colours of the text are muted and lack contrast. Some important features like logging in using social accounts, automatic GPS location detection are missing from the main page.


Increasing contrast and darkening colours for easy readability and navigation, thus providing justice to the visibility principle. Providing options to sign up and login using other apps like Google, Facebook account to share houses. Adding automatic GPS location detection functionality. IMG_2020

Image 7

Thank you!