Reimagining the search for the perfect home

User Research, Prototyping, and Product Strategy
for a real estate company

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This Chicago-based real estate company sets itself apart from competitors by offering the most pre-market listings to home buyers. Looking to find their niche in a crowded market, they teamed up with Yeti to reimagine their home search experience in a two-week Design Sprint.

As lead designer on this project, I was responsible for defining and executing on the day-to-day plan for our team to deliver user-validated product recommendations at the end of the two weeks. The Yeti team was comprised of two designers, a project manager, and our design coach who facilitated the client workshop.

sprint timeline

The two-week sprint agenda

DESIGN SPRINT

We kicked off the sprint by hosting the client for a three day workshop to get a shared understanding of business goals and the problem space. Our goal for the sprint was to tackle two big questions:

  • How do we get meaningful home search requirements from users?
  • How do we deliver meaningful results?
workshop notes@2x

Notes from user interviews with recent home buyers

We interviewed recent home buyers right off the bat, where we learned that people had a lot of feelings about the home buying process. Hearing our users’ stories first hand surfaced the range of emotions people experienced throughout their journey, from excitement to anger, even heartbreak from false or expired information.

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Another key player in the experience was the real estate agent. Realtors managed listings on search sites and offered invaluable insider-knowledge to home buyers. However, user research discovered that a single bad experience with a realtor could turn off home buyers from working with them altogether. How might we create an app experience that emulated a great buyer/realtor relationship?

hmws@2x

Ideas captured as How Might We statements

Aligning the client’s objectives with insights from the user interviews, we crafted a problem statement that served as the focus of our ideation exercises.

Problem Statement

Home buyers need a mobile home search app they can trust to deliver accurate listings, a transparent guided experience that’s relevant to their lifestyle, and a meaningful space for collaboration with agents and partners.

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ideation@2x

After multiple rounds of sketching, the group voted on our favorite ideas. By the end of the workshop, we came to a consensus of the concepts we wanted to test with users. Our hypotheses were:

  • By creating a simple and conversational onboarding experience that emulates a conversation with a trustworthy real estate agent, home buyers will enjoy telling the app about their home search characteristics.
  • By learning about what matters most to home buyers in their day to day life, we can deliver more relevant home listings by showing how each home matches to the user’s “Home Wishlist” criteria.
PROTOTYPE

Over the next four days, the other designer and I distilled the ideas from the workshop into a clickable prototype. 

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Mapping the prototype flow

Lifestyle-focused onboarding

We wanted to see how home buyers responded to an onboarding flow that took the time to learn what they valued most in their day to day life, beyond just the typical house characteristics. Gathering this data would allow the app to add more meaningful context to each listing in the search results.

We kept each screen focused on one question at a time to give users a chance to reflect on each aspect of their ideal home. Since this was a longer onbording flow, we included a progress bar and used different UI elements to keep the interactions engaging.

onboarding flow@2x

Highly-curated feeds

The core part of the app is the user’s home feed. Our priority was to highlight each home’s unique features and show how homes matched up with the preferences the users indicated in the onboarding flow. To add context to the home’s location, we showed commute times on each listing card and outlined neighborhoods on the map view.

The “tour this home” feature was a concept to counter the pain point of having to scroll through endless lists of images when looking at a listing. Often times, the images provided little context to which room you were viewing, and you had to scroll through all photos to see how the outdoor space looked. Grouping the images by room and providing descriptions of key features would allow the user to visualize the floor plan of the entire home.

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RESEARCH

We conducted 5 in-person user interviews with people in various stages of the home-buying process. Some concepts were instant hits with participants, while others sparked more questions.

Overall, participants enjoyed the onboarding flow, even though they had been expecting to see search results sooner. We found that the questions helped home buyers reflect on what they really wanted in a home. They even saw it as a potential tool to use with their realtor.

“These are characteristics you don’t initially think about. My realtor has learned these things as we’ve gone through places”

Participants loved the home tour, commute times, and wishlist match concepts. Some suggested that the app should take into account the commutes of other household members as well.

The user interviews also brought our attention to pain points in other areas of user’s home search journey, such as keeping track of favorited homes and sharing with agents and household members. These would be important to keep in mind in the end product experience.

OUTCOME

Testing the prototype with users validated many of the hypotheses we had regarding meaningful search results. We used learnings from the testing sessions and our experience building products to prioritize user stories for product development and recommended product areas that needed further exploration.

The Design Sprint yielded many insights for the client and they are currently making a decision on the next steps for their business. I’m looking forward to see what direction they take in the future!

© Elise Fung 2018