HomeFinder is the oldest real estate portal in the United States and has existed since 1999.

In 2020, more people are sharing the living experience to save money and curate a shared social experience.

My team was tasked with the challenge of designing a website that connects people to live together.

Hypothetical work (General Assembly), Desktop Design

My Role:

UX Designer

Focusing on Research and Brand Design

(Team of three)

Duration:

Two weeks (January 2020)

Methods Used:

Surveys, User Interviews, Heuristic Evaluation, Affinity Mapping, Journey Mapping, Comparative and Competitive Analysis, Feature Prioritization, User flows, Paper Prototype, Wireframes, Usability Testing, Hi-Fi Prototype (Figma).

The Client:

HomeFinder helps homes and people find each other. They are committed to making online home shopping a fun, practical and hassle-free experience. How? By creating a doorway connecting home buyers, sellers, renters, and real estate professionals, all to give people the listings, tools and resources they need to make their home finding experience as easy as possible. 

The Opportunity:

As the cost of renting and buying continues to skyrocket (particularly in urban areas), more and more people are opting to combine forces and share a home -- not simply as casual roommates, or renting rooms AirBnB-style, but as people who make a conscious decision to come together to create a home. This trend is being observed at all ages -- from young adults, to empty nesters, to retirees. Knowing that they have someone compatible to share not just the cost, but the living experience, can make all the difference in considering partnering up to find that perfect home. These decisions are financial, for sure, but also about companionship and co-existing well in a shared space. This is where technology can help, by creating a platform for renters to find each other and share space.

Discovery Phase:

Survey/ What do people really look for in a roommate?

My team and I discussed our own experiences living with roommates and the things we might look for when searching for one. Living with another person is ultimately a very intimate experience. What we didn't know was what people generally found to be the most important when it came to finding a roommate. 

 

A list of commonly asked questions in roommate interviews was created; age, sex, job information, extracurriculars etc. The survey asked participants how important they consider all of these traits in choosing a person to live with. There are a lot of platforms that also provide the service for choosing a roommate. The survey also asked which ones they used the most. Many people search for a room with a roommate they already know they want to live with, but we wanted to know how often this happens. 

15

Most important factors is age and employment status

15

10

5

Sexual Preference
Age
Organized and Accountable
Gender
Employed
Cleanliness
Pet Friendly

When looking for a roommate the two main considerations people make is age and employment status. Factoring in a way for users to search for a roommate by these criteria was noted. 

50% of people look for a roommate by themselves

From this evidence we concluded to create a means to look for a room individually or with another person.

50% of people look for a room with another person
Current methods to find a roommate is Craigslist, Facebook, and Word of Mouth

20

15

10

5

Craigslist 
Roomi
Facebook
Word of Mouth
(friends. coworkers etc.)

Craigslist is a platform that can construct a post to your needs. Facebook is a platform that uses social networks and so does word of mouth. We wanted to take what is working in these applications into our design.

Discovery Phase:

Interviews

My role on the team was to lead reasearch and I reached out to everyone I knew that is lives with roommates, three people agreed to be interviewed. I need to dig deeper into the road-blocks people have when it comes to finding the perfect roommate.

After conducting the interviews I wrote down the important points and put them in an Affinity Map to discover the reoccurring similarities. 

“Need to know how much they cook. Too much conflict when someone else is cooking too much. I cook a lot so I don’t want that kind of conflict.”

-Interviewee

“Someone who enjoys cooking and other house duties.”

-Interviewee

The contrast between the two statements shows how different each person’s needs are when they are looking for a roommate. 

Discovery Phase:

User Profiles

Our research lead us to create two user profiles.

Searching for a roommate AKA "The Lease Holder"
Searching for a room AKA "The Roommate"
  • Looking for someone to rent a room in a home they already live in

  • Needs to uphold lease agreement

  • Cost of rent is too high to live alone

  • Wants a social connection 

  • Has specific wants and needs for a home

  • Looking to rent a room from someone who has a home set up

  • Cost of rent is too high to live alone

  •  Wants a social connection 

  • Has specific wants and needs for a home

Discovery Phase:

Empathy Map

Creating empathy maps for both user profiles helped to condense findings from surveys and interviews into a visual map of key considerations for each user. 

"Lease Holder"
"Roommate"

Problem Statement

01.

Potential Roommates and Leaseholders need a way to find compatible co-living arrangements.

02.

Finding a person and a place, that matches their specific needs is challenging and time-consuming.

Solution 

Statement

We believe that by creating an application,

called “RoomFinder”, dedicated to helping potential roommates match with each other based on similar interests, we can find them a compatible and vetted roommate quicker.

Information

Details about the people living in the house and the house itself 

Verification

Authentication of candidates in database

Search and Filters

Ability to search for candidates based on personal requirements

Account

A personal account to keep track of data

Iteration Phase:

Journey Maps

We decided to make two journey maps for both of our user profiles, New Users and Experienced Users.

  • For both the "Lease Holder" and the "Roommate" their journey map created similar reactions to the process.

  • Emotions like anticipation and anxiety are present until a connection is made, a lease agreement is signed, or the move-in day. 

Roommate
Leaser Holder

Iteration Phase:

Feature Prioritization

There is an endless list of features we could have included to this project but the research really dictated the most important ones.

  • Two homepage designs; one for creating an account and one for the signed-in user. 

  • A sign-up flow to gather individual requirements of the user to cater their search to their needs. Also a means of vetting the new user by connecting to a LinkedIn profile, or Google profile.

  • Filters within the search bar to narrow search to location, move-in date, and cost of rent.

  • Pages to search through roommates and through apartments.

  • Profile page of a selected room with information about the room, pictures, and information about the current roommates.

  • Profile page with information about a person looking to join an established house.

  • Messaging system for potential roommates to communicate and set dates to meet in person.

Iteration Phase:

Design Studio

We ran design studio sessions where we sketched, discussed, and refined ideas for a low fidelity prototype. 

After creating a low fidelity prototype from our design studio we ran usability tests on five people.
The majority of feedback from usability tests had to do with the sign-up flow:
  • In the image above the question “Where would you like to live?” followed by “Anywhere specific?” seemed redundant.

  • The second line could consist of clarification of the neighborhood.

  • Another important point was that the sign-up flow was extremely long.

  • This was because the sign-up flow is capturing the user’s preferences when looking for a roommate or a room.

 

  • The solution was to allow the user to save and continue later.

Final Design:

Features

Onboarding
  • Applying feedback by providing a dropdown to choose area / city the user wants to choose to live.

  • Including breadcrumbs at the top so the user knows how many steps they have.

  • Providing the option to “Save and Continue Later”

Physical and Cultural Details 
  • Initial research pointed to a need to understand the kind of environment the home provides

  • Who lives in the house? What are their interests, occupation, and age etc.?

  • By including a space for the current occupants to describe who they are answers these questions potential roommates have.

  • Physical details such as location, bedrooms, cost, move in dates, and other amenities are provided.

Roommate Details
  • Similar to the physical and cultural aspects of the room is are the people looking to be a roommate.

  • What are their interests, occupation, and etc.?

  • Giving them a space for a public profile allows people to look for a new roommate to easily discover someone who matches.

Visual Design Choices
  • Similar to the physical and cultural aspects of the room is are the people looking to be a roommate.

  • What are their interests, occupation, and etc.?

  • Giving them a space for a public profile allows people to look for a new roommate to easily discover someone who matches.

Final Design

Play the video to see the prototype in action.

Usability Tests

Results

  • Many users declared the product easy to find quick and relevant information.

  • The use of filters makes amplifies the search for my relevant information.

  • However, the signup process is lengthy. 

  • There needs to be a way to save favorite listings for later review.

 

Next Steps

and Final Thoughts

Next Steps
  • Find a way to shorten the sign-up process but still make the experience cater to the individual.​

  • Create a section to save listings as "favorites" for later review.

  • Create a mobile design. 

Final Thoughts

This was my first project with a team at General Assembly and I learned a lot about what it takes to work with a team.

Communication is key. Either with verbal exercises or by keeping notes of discussions, and agreements.

I conducted the interviews on my own and loved having conversations with people about their experiences. Asking the right questions in response to something a participant says a skill that I have.

 

Playing with the branding of the product was also something I really enjoyed about this project. Researching what other trendy websites are doing lead me to this design. A stand out design and color pallet can affect the mood of users and make it an enjoyable experience.