In 2018 Nextdoor was building a self-serve advertising product called Local Deals. As a hyperlocal network, Nextdoor had much more geospatial resolution compared to other platforms — down to the neighborhood and even block level. Local businesses lie on a spectrum from part time dog walkers and contractors to restaurants with multiple locations. The challenge was building a tool that could scale in complexity from very casual to highly professional needs.
Neighborhood Targeting is part of the Local Deal creation flow. As such it is subject to a few important constraints:
1. It'll be built in responsive web
2. The existing flow is in a modal and cannot be changed
3. Must work well on mobile devices
Given these constraints I knew I'd be quite limited by the platform and also in screen real estate. Mapping experiences on mobile web tend to be subpar relative to native. In addition there are many specific use cases that had to be accommodated. My approach was to start thinking about the base problem: how might people select areas on a map?
Map as the primary input and clicking on neighborhood polygons for selection.
Exploring ways to select multiple areas at once using a drag to multiselect gesture.
I explored the radius tool further as it was the most practical given the platform, device and infrastructure limitations. A range slider as the primary method of input is a simple constrained interaction compared to navigating freely on a map. There was also a clear relationship between the input (distance) and the output (price). Critically this experience is more suitable for a mobile experience than trying to pan and zoom on an often janky map layer.
The slider operates a distance scale which is a proxy for reach and price. This actually unlocked a huge strategic advantage for our team as we're now able to specify the minimum, maximum and the default targeting size. As an example we can increase the maximum distance on the scale for low density rural communities. Food and drink businesses have around 30% lower AOV (average order value) than home and garden businesses. We can tailor the default selection based on category to show a reasonable price to reduce drop offs. These are just a few examples of the incredible flexibility this design enables.
Neighborhood Targeting materialized Nextdoor's value proposition as a hyperlocal platform to local businesses. By making targeting much easier it also dramatically increased average order value which contributes to this product's path to monetization. This level of precision is a market differentiator and is a step function in Nextdoor's potential as an advertising platform.
Neighborhood targeting was a very complex task, and had to be accomplished in a tiny area built with limited engineering resources within a mobile web experience. Designing all this felt like trying to fit an entire house of stuff into one of those super tiny apartments in Hong Kong. Small spaces force extreme prioritization — it's key to remove any clutter that isn't relevant.
My team was unable to fully implement what was designed. We ran into quite a number of performance and legacy issues that pushed more complex features to the backlog. I partnered closely with engineers to address key issues and was in the room to make sure that technical limitations do not drive product decisions. It was a challenge to get the engineering bandwidth to fully realize the design and feature set, however it is fully functional. The final product provides a solid and usable experience but there's a lot that can be better in the UI, the performance and in dynamic pricing.
James Wang © 2020