Homie - Housing Rental Website for Young Adults
2021

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The objective of this four-month project was to learn end-to-end UX and digital service design through research and iterative design. In this case, a housing rental platform was chosen to be redesigned to bring more confidence to young renters. 

There is ample opportunity to improve rental services for this user group in terms of streamlining listings, comparing properties, legal resources, and user profiles. 

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Problem, Process and Objectives

The housing rental process is something that many young adults will have to go through at some point in their lives. However, the process of finding and securing a rental can be a daunting, overwhelming, and cumbersome journey. Homie wishes to facilitate a smoother entry and experience along the rental journey to bring more confidence and enjoyment to an otherwise stressful life task.

Research Goals:

  • Understand the tools/services that renters currently use to find areas of improvement within existing tools.

  • Identify key criteria renters look for when searching for housing to empower them in their housing decisions.

  • Understand users’ knowledge regarding renting legalities to educate and build confidence in the renting process.

  • Gain insight into the end-to-end process of renting a property to uncover pain points, in the effort to streamline the overall experience for the renter.

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Competitive Landscape

User Group and Recruitment Criteria

User Group:

The interviewees consisted of 9 renters/potential tenants and 1 landlord, since the service is specifically targeted towards tenant experience. 

Recruitment Criteria:

  • Age Range: 18-19, 20-22, 23-26, 27+

    We divided age ranges to track relationships between users' age and housing criteria, previous experience, budget, and occupation. Considering people's motivations/life goals/habits to help make informed roommate matching decisions.

  • Occupation: (recent high school grad, university/college students, international students, working professional)

    We divided occupations to gain insight into the relationship between budget, relocation, as well as possible housing situation preferences and any barriers.

  • Budget (>$500, $500-900, $900-1200, $1200+)

    We divided budget into ranges to identify how broad users' options can be, get a better understanding of renters' budgets match with the market, as well as to understand how budget influences characteristics users look for when looking into housing.

  • Preferred Living Situation: (single living alone, couple moving in together, group of friends looking to move together, or single moving into existing housing situation)

    To see how preferred living situations influence how users go about the housing hunt. For example, how they interact with landlords and other potential roommates. Identify different touch points from the standpoint of different types of users.

  • Renting Experience/Knowledge (First-time renter, 2-4 times renting experience, 5+ times renting experience)

    To help determine if users are new or experienced renters and to understand their current knowledge/confidence and process for finding rental housing.

Insights and Themes

Through conducting 10 interviews with a variety of renters, many patterns and pain-points emerged. After a thorough data analysis with several levels of coding, we synthesized our findings into the following key insights:
 

  • The renting process is often learned by word of mouth and through trial and error, making it difficult for inexperienced renters to know where to begin and confidently carry out the entire process

  • Key issues for all users related to 1) poor information about properties and landlords 2) communication between landlords, tenants, and roommates 3) legal matter and 4) decision-making

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Data Analysis - Coding Sample

Personas

To develop a truly helpful solution, the users must be kept in mind, and so we developed personas based on our interviewees to increase the quality and consistency of our design efforts. We created four distinct personas—Carly, Aiden, Tamira and Samu—to serve as a guide to keep the team aligned and to act as tie-breakers in future design decisions. They helped us prioritize various features and goals, such as safety and transparency, and build empathy with those going through the tumultuous rental experience.

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Journey Mapping

The next step was creating a user journey map for one of our key personas to truly understand her renting journey and clearly see where pain-points occur in the process. We chose to tell Carly’s renting story, as we felt that her persona would provide a variety of important and unique challenges to map out.

The map gave a clear visual representation of what the renting process is like for a typical renter. It was easy to see that the renting journey often starts off well, but the experience begins to decline with the initial housing search and remains that way until the final move-in phase. This strongly confirmed the need for innovation that would make all phases more pleasant, and it revealed to us those key opportunities for improvement and where our solution could help the most.

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Design Solution - Information Architecture

Our proposed solution was primarily a web-based application that facilitates the housing rental process from the initial housing search to the final move-in. The application aims to address pain-points regarding trust between tenants and landlords, standardization of listings, safety/security, scheduling viewings, legal navigation, and document sharing.

The design solution involved creating an information architecture, comprised of all the possible pages, content, features, and user actions for Homie. Each of these assets were then grouped into named categories and organized in a hierarchical structure.

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Use Cases & Key User Flows

To begin the design of the website application, a few key use cases were identified. From those, 3 user flows were chosen that we felt were most crucial to improving the renting experience and had unique opportunities for innovation.

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Landlords Creating Listings

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Renters Browsing & Comparing Listings

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Renters Scheduling Viewings

Key User Flows & Wireframes

These key user flows were then further developed into multiple wireframes and a functional prototype using Figma, which was tested on a handful of renters for feedback concerning usability.

Testing was fairly successful, and all 3 flows were passed with high ratings. However, we were able to pin-point a few key moments where testers were getting somewhat confused or slowing down, and we welcomed suggestions for improvement. We then took all our testing insights and worked towards a final design including our proposed branding of the application.

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Mood & Branding

To establish the aesthetic of our application, we brainstormed four brand attributes that we felt best embodied the improved experience we wanted to create for users: trustworthy, approachable, friendly, and transparent. From there, we created a moodboard using a variety of photos, icons, graphics, fonts and colours to communicate the essence of our brand.

Additionally, we created some branding guidelines including a friendly logo, button styles, purple-based colour palette, and a typography style based on the font 'Inter’. Inter is a sans serif typeface that is similar to SF Pro, the typeface designed and used by Apple, which is tested and optimized for legibility on screen-based devices.

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Final Look & Feel

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Landing Page

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Search Results

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Listing View

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Comparison Page

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Tenant-Landlord Messaging

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Viewing Bookings