Project link: http://www.DesMoinesRegister.com/garagesales
Database back-end: James E. Wilkerson
E-mail alerts back-end: Matt Heeren
Classified advertising has long subsidized the practice of journalism, and traditional classified advertising has been under attack. At DesMoinesRegister.com, we wanted to see what we could do to influence that tide by applying the online development and mapping skills that we have learned in our Information Center to the user experience of finding and selling garage sales listings online.
Getting the project off the ground was initially a tough sell, as the collaboration broke through traditional departmental and philosophical barriers. But our conclusion was that there was no conflict of interest in creating a better experience for our customers, and that in trying economic times we have to use our development resources as widely as we can.
We felt we could offer several big improvements over traditional print garage sale listings. Our garage sales are automatically plotted on a Google Maps mashup, and the map display responds to user searches to show only sales in particular neighborhood or sales featuring a desired item.
Garage salers can pick their favorite sales, then print out a customized map with only their choices to take along with them as they shop.
Users can also sign up to be alerted by e-mail as soon as someone posts a new sale with items they’re looking for (“baby clothes” or “furniture,” for example) or a sale near their home.
Since the launch, we’ve had several requests from other newspapers wanting to adopt our technology for their own garage sales sites.
On a summer weekend we routinely have more than 200 sales listed — not an easy list to navigate in traditional form. Instead of fumbling with a map and a torn-out newspaper page with circled favorites, we’ve made garage sale shopping more convenient, most customized, and more fun.