Most of the work we've completed over the past month would not be visible to visitors. This includes database optimizations and other updates that have lead to significantly improved performance, including faster page load times.
We did however also make one notable change to the user experience.
- Social sharing - You'll now notice that we've added icons at the top of all Company Profile and Project Profile pages to make those pages much easier to share to your favourite social media networks.
We've continued to make a number of product improvements over the last month. Here are the two most significant.
- User accounts - You can now sign up for an account, though there's not much you can do with it yet. More on that to follow!
- Project renderings - It took us a bit of time to come to the decision of including renderings in project profiles. Our hesitation revolved around the varying degrees of rendering quality. But ultimately we decided that, not only are most renderings cool, many people know buildings by what they look like and not by their address. This added point of reference is helpful.
Our first month live is now officially under our belts. As promised when we launched, we've made a number of major improvements to the site.
- Maps - We've had a spot for a map on the Search Results page since we launched, but now it actually works, and populates with pins showing the location of the projects or companies being searched for.
- Browse by categories - That's right. In addition to using our search feature to search by project address or company name, you can now also browse by company category in a new page found here.
- Mobile optimization - We've redesigned our Search Results, Project Profile, and Company Profile pages for mobile. Search Results now let you jump easily between a list view and map view, and we've introduced a tabbed system to our Project Profile and Company Profile pages to better organize the data being shared in each.
Let me tell you a story.
Just over two years ago, I was working as a Development Manager for a midsized firm in Toronto. I had just shepherded a midrise condominium project through an extended entitlement process and was starting to firm up my construction budget by reaching out to trades (with the help of our construction manager) and asking them to bid on the project.
Our construction manager knew a bunch of the big players in all the major categories, so that's where we started.
We quickly realized however that many of those companies were either unresponsive (uninterested?) or too expensive. This was especially true for our formwork, windows, and mechanical systems categories.
The project wasn't viable at the prices we were receiving.
Now, this project was being planned for on a pretty great site in a very nice neighbourhood.
It struck us that midrise condos were being built at that same time on much worse sites in much worse neighbourhoods.
How were those developrers making it happen?
They must be working with different trades.
The problem was that our construction manager mostly built highrise buildings, which have better economics and are more attractive to most trades. They didn't have as strong a rolodex for the tier 2 and tier 3 trades that might be better suited for our midrise project.
So we started looking for some. Our consultants weren't much help, and neither was Google as these companies are generally pretty bad at SEO if they even have a website at all.
At one point I found myself driving around the city pulling names off of construction site hoarding signage.
"There's gotta be a better way!"
From that experience came the nugget of an idea that has now become Buildstack.
Buildstack is a directory of real estate development vendors--including designers, consultants, and trades--organized in a way that you can search for or discover them by their company name (eg, ABC Architects), category (eg, Architects), or projects they've contributed to (eg, 123 Main St.).
That last method means that you can look up a building and see all the companies that have contributed to its development. It's the ultimate construction hoarding with all the signage you need--if that signage then also took you to a page with every other project the company has contributed to.
It's BuiltWith for buildings, if that reference means anything to you.
And I'm very happy to see it live.
Over the next few months, you can expect some updates as we work through a fairly extensive backlog of features. You can also expect our database of projects and companies to keep growing.
In the meantime, if you have any feedback or other thoughts, I'd love to hear from you. You can email me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.