I had all of the data, and I had it in an easily searchable MySQL database. Now, I had to figure out the best way to access it. I contemplated just having a bunch of search boxes, but that was quickly crossed out. It needed to be intuitive, and there were too many categories. I then thought maybe having sliders for the number of people and rooms, and the standard dropdown/checkboxes for the other values. Again, I vetoed this for something easier to grasp immediately.
I remembered reading this FANTASTIC article, which I recommend to anyone called Magic Ink, which is about how to best display information. One of the examples uses a sentence based search function, so it's easy to understand what you're looking for. This is what I originally wrote down as an example:
I'm looking for a room for between 0 and 4 people with 1-3 rooms. I want it to be gender neutral, and it should be substance free. I also want it to be between 0 and 600 square feet. I want it to be in Andres on the 1st floor, and the room number should be any. I also want it to have one shared bathroom(s).
Each of the underlined sections would be changeable (some with inputs like the numbers, and others with choices like the buildings. In the end, I went with something similar, but with some values removed: no longer could you filter by floor, number, bathrooms, or square feet. The gender options opened up. I also added in an ordering option for the results. My final iteration was:
I'm looking for a room for between 1 and 3 people with 2 to 3 rooms. The roommates will be guys , and it should be substance free. I want the room to be anywhere , and I want the results to be ordered by square feet per person.
Yay! The search function was done. I made it save the options of the previous search, and called it quits.
The other location problem I had to solve was making it appear on Google. I found a FANTASTIC resource that I used for SEO work. For the future, this is the link. It went through all of the meta tags, etc. and doing favicon's, etc. I started linking to the page (from reddit, other sites I have, and some forums). I also added the sitexml to Google through the webmaster portal, and indexed it. Specifically, one of the good links that I've never looked at is how to add in the meta tags for Facebook, Google, etc.
It's on the fourth page when you type in 'dartmouth room search' which is terrible, but it will get better. After all, it's just the first day: nobody even really knows it exists. The only problem I had now was making it look good.