Richard Emberton UX Design

User Experience and Product Designer

A favorites list for Zillow

Designing a new Favorites tool

Favorites would let each user collect their own unique list of properties to watch. The design would needed to integrate into Zillow's existing design language.

High-fidelity prototypse were prepared showing various arrangements for the details in list items.

Role and scope

One designer focused on creating a design from scratch, within a team of 5+ designers/researchers at that time. The task was to balance a serious design effort with management's aggressive time constraint to make it available ASAP, so design fast.

The Problem

Determine what users want/need/expect, and "sell it" so management won't go forward with too bare-bones of a feature. But also understand the stakeholder's urgency to be competitive in the market. So, make the smart trade-offs for both the business's success and for the user.


Research included reviewing what currently existed, for user expectations:

Wireframe sketch to capture the possible details in a list item.

Ads would also display above, beside, and even in the middle of the content. And even among items in the user's favorites list. UX could sometimes negotiate ad placement, but the ads are the money maker... so they would be factored into the design

Sketch showing ad placement above, beside and within the list.

Design phase

Basics for the design of the Favorites focused on user key tasks:

Status indicators on items were needed to show a property's value change, sale pending, etc.

Multiple wireframes and higher fidelity mock-up were generated for quick informal tests and refinement throughout the design phase.

Wireframes were used to get a more realist sense of how the content would display in the given area.

Additional design details that needed to be considered:

...the pressure to just get something out fast, because the competition is already there.

Design decisions

Reviews were conducted with subject matter experts within Zillow, for what information users may want to see even if they don't know to ask for it. Technical constraints were verified to avoid designing what dev simply couldn't do.

A High-fidelity screen as the UI became more finalized.

The design converged toward a basic list, with emphasis on the order of details within list items.

Prototype and test

Lo-fidelity paper prototypes were used for quick tests of interaction with list variations. Slideshows of hi-fi screens were used to help get management buy-in and go-ahead. And to show how the feature would integrate into the rest of Zillow's site.

Dev began before the design interaction or UI details were finalized. Careful negotiation was sometimes required to get the final UX in place.

Hi-fi prototypes for the list item links used Zillow's existing visual language.

Final results, what was learned

The feature would go on to be successful but the initial release was very bare-bones. Some key take-aways:

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