Shea Homes: Building on the Shea difference
An enhanced home search experience
A leader in luxury homebuilding, Shea Homes promises to deliver innovation at every turn — including on their website. After all, the home-buying journey now starts online. As an extension of the Shea family, Red Door redesigned their site in 2018 to better meet the needs of customers. This included developing an intuitive “Find Your Home” search feature. While it helped generate 4 million plan views, Shea challenged us to improve the home search experience even further.
Shea wanted to make the “Find Your Home” experience as enjoyable and smooth as living in one of their award-winning homes. That meant enhancing the design and accessibility of the search feature, in hopes of turning house-hunters into homebuyers.
To ensure a seamless user experience, we completed user testing and analysis to identify what “Find Your Home” issues we’d need to solve.
What We Found
During our review of how we could improve the search experience, we identified that:
- Listings updated when you moved the map, but it was hard to tell which pin was associated with what community.
- Too many keyboard interactions were needed to return results.
- Default search filters were overwhelming and cumbersome for most users.
- Map pins and the legend were difficult to interpret and navigate.
We’d also need “Find Your Home” to be as accessible as possible, inclusive to the needs of all of Shea’s users including those with and without disabilities. So, we asked ourselves these important questions:
- Can someone use their phone with a dimmed screen and successfully search Shea Homes?
- Can someone who is using voice technology successfully search?
- Can someone who is blind successfully search?
- What about someone with a broken arm?
- What about those who are neurodiverse?
- Can someone in a bright or noisy environment successfully search?
- Can someone change their device orientation and successfully search?
By working closely together, our design and development teams implemented a ton of enhancements to Shea’s “Find Your Home” feature. The biggest improvement was decreasing the number of keyboard interactions needed to get search results — from 30 — down to just 11 interactions. This resulted in a more direct and clear path for users, allowing them to get to the results more efficiently with less barriers. Other notable adjustments included:
- Increasing the map area.
- Introducing a more advanced set of filter options.
- Implementing a new slide-out menu for advanced filters that keeps the map and listing in full view.
- Updating pin colors for better contrast and legibility.
- Updating map pins to highlight if the user rolls over a community in the listing.
- Adding a new “Recenter Map” button.
That’s not all. Our development team worked their front-end magic to ensure that those using assistive technology such as screen readers would be able to successfully use the search feature. They created custom controls that clearly announce selections as the user is making them. For example, filtering by number of bedrooms is fully operable for keyboard and non keyboard users. Additionally, as a user interacts with the bedroom control, all states and selections are announced. There is also an explicit relationship between the controls and the filter label. This provides critical information for users using assistive technology such as screen readers. To hear it in action, play the demo below.
Through our tireless design and development efforts, we were able to help users feel right at home searching for their dream Shea home. The proof is in the numbers. In the 30 days following our “Find Your Home” revamp, we saw 17,000 more home searches period over period. That means users are now 49% more likely to complete a home search — and ultimately, join the Shea family.