A UCSB alum and current student have constructed LandlordRater and CollegeCourseRater, two sites providing UCSB students with informational reviews on off-campus housing options and academic courses, respectively.

The sites focus on helping students navigate their way through the academic and residency obstacles of UCSB, and they were developed by fourth-year psychology and communication major Sara Praw and her business partner Zac Cruz, who graduated from UCSB last year. Cruz, who works as a data analyst for dataPreneur — a Santa Barbara startup which specializes in the development of mobile applications — used his knowledge and experience in creating applications to create the new websites. The pair is also planning to launch DormRater, a site devoted to displaying reviews of on-campus housing options.

With the application software available from dataPreneur, Praw and Cruz initially created LandlordRater to give students the inside scoop on renting properties in Isla Vista. According to Cruz, the website applies surveys and marketing techniques to the data-centered application to create an appealing and easy-to-use format.

“Our idea started with just a conversation as simple as ‘I wish there was a way to review my landlord’ … Data runs our lives, literally. Many people are turned off by the word, or confused by its ambiguity but we use it every day,” Cruz said. “These websites wouldn’t be anything without the app behind them, but developing the website layout, collecting surveys, marketing and adapting the ideas along with Sara has been quite rewarding.”

LandlordRater is unique in its ability to provide students with a forum where they can learn from their peers’ past experiences, according to Praw.

“[It’s] everything you wish you would’ve known before signing a lease in Isla Vista,” Praw said.

Students rate their landlords based on friendliness, availability and maintenance, along with comparisons of properties in price, number of bedrooms and utilities included. After the idea for LandlordRater was further developed, Praw began thinking of new ways to use data from other aspects of the college experience — such as selecting courses and choosing a dorm.

Like LandlordRater, its two affiliated websites — CollegeCourseRater and DormRater — give students more perspective when choosing classes and dorms since they answer questions that reach beyond the information that is made readily available on the university website.

According to Praw, students can make informed decisions by using ratings and feedback from their peers available on the website, and will be able to contribute to the ratings as well.

“Our motto is — rate, review, get rewarded,” Praw said. “These are just three topics that we’ve decided to build on, but the possibilities are really limitless.”

Praw also said she hopes to one day expand the websites, making them available to a nationwide audience so college students across the country can have the same convenient and helpful information available to them.

Although working on these websites is a side project for Cruz, he said seeing more and more students using the website to share mutual experiences has been incredibly rewarding.

“[We want to help] college students everywhere discover what they want quickly and easily, through peer-to-peer collaboration,” Cruz said. “We are slowly watching it come to life.”


A version of this article appeared on page 1 of February 26th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.