Trulia releases an iPad app: food for the brain, if not for the soul

Trulia has released an iPad app. It went live in the App Store this morning. This is the third notable real estate app to be released to date, Zillow and ZipRealty being the other two (and, yes, I know Coldwell Banker released one this week).

The company also released an Andriod app (that will have to wait until I have more time to write).

I’ve spent the past half hour with it and have some quick thoughts below. But, really, I’m stoked to see money, brains and time put to work on creating real estate experiences on this platform. The tablet form factor enables home search experiences that are the “just right” in the middle of the SEO-knotted desktop web experience and the sense of constriction one sometimes feels using a smart phone.

Anyway, to the app:

Overall, it’s very good. And, I think, reflects Trulia’s effort to provide more context around properties than Zillow offers. So, for example, I can easily layer neighborhood boundaries, schools, pricing heat maps and business reviews onto my map of property search results. Most major real estate sites have this information, but Trulia seems to be placing more importance on it.

However, the app is not nearly as intuitive as Zillow’s. When you fire up the Zillow app, it’s immediately apparent where you are and what your next step might be. I also miss having a “location” or GPS icon in the frame at all times to help me level-set my search if I need to.

Trulia iPad

The search function is an improvement on what I’ve seen in other apps. There are no fly-outs, no wheels. It’s all in-view, side-by-side, and very finger-friendly.

Trulia iPad

The property detail display is pretty standard – a good thing in my opinion. A user interface should ideally “not speak until it is spoken to” by the user. This is done in that vein.

My biggest criticism with this app is subjective…to a point. This app, for all its strengths, is neither nice to look at or fun to use. The dark, almost dreary, interface weighed on me. Somehow “Trulia green,” which suggests energy and openness on their website, got replaced with a tone somewhere between avocado and algae. And the only time the app, and the brand, spoke to me directly in human voice was to ask me for a review. That’s a missed opportunity.

The Zesitmate is fun. Zillow proclaims it is “Your edge in real estate” on its ipad app’s welcome screen. Trulia simply flashes you its logo and gets down to business.

All other things being equal, what feels good wins.

What do you think?