The New MyProperty POI search, the technical challenges we faced
The new MyProperty has a unique Point of Interest search facility as demonstrated in the video below (or just try the property search yourself with this link). We wanted to reinvent property search and make it easier to find your next home by simply typing in anything close to the area you are interested in:
This was quite a tough technical challenge to solve. A visitor can search any suburb, road or place (as indicated by the search heading) and we had to find both geocoded and non-geocoded properties in that area. At the same time the embedded Google map will show the location after it is selected and in many cases even highlight the area, e.g. Hermanus below:
The challenge, how do you ensure fast searches?
Property portals (and other websites where any type of search is done and visitor traffic is significant high) would normally cache search results and serve up the same content from the web servers’ memory for everyone for time periods, rather than querying the database every time. For example, 100 people will look for property in a popular area like Cape Town – so it is easy to just serve up the same cached results for those people.
Problem with the new MyProperty search, is that there are now an almost unlimited number of searches people can perform including all street names in South Africa and even specific addresses e.g. 2 Minelala Road, Sandton. Not too mention the search radius and other features they can select. Sure you can cache all of this, but it will require a significant amount of memory and other resources.
We essentially had to treat every property search as a new search.
This also brings us to the next point: we wanted our property listings served to visitors to be more up to date than any other property portal. As soon as an agent lists it on our OMS or we import it from a feed, it should become available almost immediately. Time to market is critical these days for estate agents and some of our clients will tell you stories where a home put on the internet generated leads within 10 minutes that eventually resulted in a sale.
We’ve reengineered the new MyProperty website from the ground up on the Amazon AWS cloud and used a combination of cloud features to solve this difficult problem. This includes keeping over 100,000 active property records in memory and making this searchable. As a result, every search on the new MyProperty is done on fresh, up to date listings.
This is the 1st phase of our new portal rollout and there are a couple of more interesting features to follow. Being a self-funded independent company, resources are limited and takes careful planning plus extreme focus. But… we are enjoying it every step of the way!