Context: Design Co is a professional organization that provides opportunities for designers looking to bridge their experiences between design and industry.
Challenge: Finding new housing situations are difficult, especially for young professionals from marginalized communities. There is a lack of inclusive solutions that simplify that process and take into account the diversity of how familiar people are with housing concepts.
Scope: Design and test a prototype that addresses a specific problem for a user base.
Role: Project Coordinator, UX Researcher + Designer
Time: 4 Day design sprint
Day 1— Map
Since everyone on our team was meeting for the first time, we spent our first meeting discussing common problems we had an interest in solving. We all knew the struggle of finding compatible housing and roommate situations, especially for young professionals that come from marginalized communities. We conducted quick exploratory research in order to become informed about the topic by examining social attitudes and existing solutions online.
Exploratory research and pain points
Exploratory research: Through analyzing existing solutions and examining first hand accounts of individuals from our target demographic, we were able to gather the following insights.
1. Trouble finding compatible roommates - Living space compatibility is the key priority when searching for roommates, superseding friendship or common interests. The issue is finding similar people that are also in need of a housing situation at the same time as them.
2. Issues with finding reputable housing listings - Existing solutions (e.g. Zillow, Trulia) make it difficult to filter credible listings from low quality results
3. Lack of knowledge about the housing process - Concepts such as credit score and leases are tough to navigate if you are unfamiliar with them.
Problem Statement: “How might we make housing process resources more accessible to people from marginalized communities with little experience?”
Day 2 — Decide, Mockup
The goal of this day was to detail a solution that best addressed the brief. We all sketched out ideas and presented the ones we thought were most fitting. Through sketching out ideas and diving deeper into the problem, we arrived at the swipe card design as the centerpiece of our solution, since the most important need was a proper filtering system.
Day 3 — User Flow and Prototype
As the lead UX designer, I was responsible for designing user flows for multiple use cases. The biggest challenge was creating distinct flows that were easy for users to understand while still sharing commonalities. I collaborated with another designer during this step to ensure that the copy on headers and buttons provided clear guidance for users as they navigated the app.
Since some sections were extremely similar, there needed to be distinct deviations so users wouldn’t get them confused. With the copy and information architecture laid out, we handed off the user flow to our prototyping team so they could prepare a prototype for user testing.
Once we had finalized the copy and information architecture, we handed off the user flow to our prototyping team to prepare a prototype for user testing. This allowed us to gather valuable feedback from our target audience and refine the user experience to ensure that it met their needs and expectations.
- The user journey starts with the Sign Up process, where users create a profile and input personal information such as housing preferences using toggle-switches and sliders. The information collected allows the app to provide high-quality roommate and housing recommendations. To ensure users feel comfortable sharing information, the sign-up process only requests relevant data.
- Users are shown individual profiles of other users looking for roommates, and quickly scan the information provided to tell if it is someone they are compatible with. If both users swipe right and indicate they are interested in rooming with each other, they match and can message each other within the app to further discuss compatibility.
- Similarly, the Housing Finder feature allows users to browse housing listings and save them to their profile for future comparison. Users can also send messages to landlords within the app to ask specific questions about leasing. The flow for this feature mirrors the Roommate Finder flow, ensuring users understand how both features work.
Day 4 — Testing and Next Steps
I wrote the usability testing script, which tested how usable each flow was.
- Complete the sign-up process
- Find and match with a roommate
- Save a housing listing you are interested in
- Locate the resources page
Due to time constraints, we were unable to make further adjustments to the design, but we gathered valuable data and insights that led us to identify several areas for improvement:
- Further measuring usability heuristics - While our testing focused on whether users could complete the flows, we did not assess how easy it was for them to understand the app's interactions. Assessing usability heuristics would give valuable insight into how to best streamline the interactions of the app.
- Streamline onboarding - Users would sometimes misclick when trying to make to the end of a flow, suggesting the need for better guidance during the onboarding phase.
- Clarifying confusion in UI - Some users noted during the user tests that the icons in the onboarding phase were too small and ambiguous for easy recognition. While our team put effort into choosing icons that accurately represented values on a spectrum while onboarding, a few of the icons were too ambiguous to be effective indicators. Instead of icons, plain text may be a better option for easy understanding.
Contrary to other projects I had worked on, our team was faced with a tight schedule, which forced us to simplify our process and focus on the most essential elements to ensure we completed the project on time. In future design sprints, I would ensure that my team implements the following fixes to avoid similar issues:
- Defined Objectives: Defining project goals and objectives is essential, especially at the beginning of the sprint. This helps ensure that everyone on the team is aligned and working towards the same objectives.
- Outlined Milestones: Even if the general process is planned out, it's important to establish specific objectives that must be completed in a timely manner. This helps ensure that the team stays on track and has a functional deliverable at the end of the sprint. Our team started off running behind schedule, but caught up after we enacted a system of hard deadlines for tasks.
- Equal Voice Among Team Members: In a team made up of people with varying levels of assertiveness, it can be easy for important observations to get lost if they're not contributed by a dominant voice in the group. It's important to establish open communication to keep up morale and create an environment where everyone can contribute input to the final product.