Client-facing reports in many MLS systems, including in the client collaboration module and framed IDX solutions, were not designed with a great consumer experience in mind. Some local designs are pretty good, but many are not. Issues typically include: cryptic abbreviations, information truncated to an arbitrary length, overuse of ALL CAPS, small photos, and both layout and typography that seem to have been carried over from the age of dot matrix printers. Those who have been in the industry for a while know why: many MLS system reports have not had a major redesign since that time. MLS software is capable of better, so solving this problem is up to individual MLSs to work out with their vendors. We should be shooting for “Wow!” with our designs.
Some Examples from Non-Optimal Reports:
The listing advertising portals, with all the money they have sunk into usability studies, have figured something out: when clients are trying to go through many listings and make the “first cut”, they don’t want to see a report with hundreds of fields. On the portals, “above the fold” – on the part of the screen that you can see without scrolling – you’ll find a large picture (and opportunity to view more), along with several basic pieces of information about the property, such as list price, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, and perhaps a map. So, one report that could be added to the MLS, including client collaboration and framed IDX implementations is this “short-form” display of basic information. In some cases, a few additional fields may come in handy in this report. For example, in the case of condos, association fees may be critical. But deciding which fields are most important for any given property type will take additional consumer research to determine, and there’s probably local variation requiring local research.
For consumers who need depth, or who have narrowed down their choices using the simpler reports and are ready for more depth, a “long-form” report can be created that incorporates many of the details they are used to having.
Real effort has to go into designing it so that it is not painful to look at and so that information can be found quickly; it cannot be a programmer’s afterthought. It should include:
- Large headings and logical groupings
- Clearer and better fonts
- Spelled-out abbreviations and jargon
- Photo(s) as large as possible
If your MLS has already gone through this effort, kudos to you! If not, I suggest your staff and MLS Committee pay more attention to usability and information design, especially in client-facing reports. While the current reports may be fine for professionals, consumers are getting used to something better when they use the advertising portals. Please consider what can be done in your local MLS system to improve the consumer experience and look up to date!
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