Housing Search UX Design
How might we make the housing search process quick, safe and transparent?
Finding a room in a new city is a lengthy, cumbersome, and sometimes unsafe process, especially for someone who doesn't already have connections in the area.
Enable users to have a quick, safe, and transparent housing search process
To design a user-centric solution, I first conducted user research through in-person interviews, contextual inquiry, and competitor usability tests. Key research goals were to:
- Discover biggest pain points of house hunt process
- Determine what tools users currently use, and the tools' effectiveness
Two main personas surfaced from the interviews:
- Newcomers (moving from a new city): urgent housing search timeline, less concerned with exact location, more flexible with who to room with, less bargaining power
- Residents (moving within the same city/area): more relaxed timeline, stronger location requirements, strong preference for studio or living with friends
- Users were fairly complacent toward fixed constraints, such as selection of housing, pricing, and location in their search. They were most upset by variable constraints, such as when landlords communicated poorly, or when friends were flaky on finding housing together.
- House-seekers have strongly misgivings about housing postings and sometimes landlords or housemates, especially before they meet in person.
- Keeping track of different housing options logistically and communications-wise are major pain points. Users opened multiple tabs to compare options.
- Users tend to browse instead of search, especially when they're not sure what they're looking for yet.
Through 8 user interviews, I found that most of my interviewees could be segmented into either newcomers or seasoned residents. How new they were in town and whether they already had connections in the area dictated the urgency and timeline of their search. Newcomers tended to put up with living with strangers, less central neighborhoods, and higher rent, whereas residents had more leeway, having the option to extend their current lease or crash with friends.
User Journey Map
I decided that newcomers had the bigger pain points and brainstormed a platform for them. The design opportunities encompassed the areas of trust, communications, and comparison/tracking. The design challenge could be reframed as "How might we provide newcomers a safe, transparent, and efficient way to find housing in a new city?"
How do we build trust online?
- Identity check
- High-quality photography
- Timely communications
How do we facilitate a faster housing search process?
- Encourage in-person interaction by making booking open houses easier
- Be more transparent about the fixed variables
- Provide tools to help users track housing progress
After conducting usability testing on the first set of wireframes, I found:
- Users did not immediately know what the site was for
- Filtering with a map was a necessity, not a luxury
Wireframes with Maps
There are 3 ways to arrive at a home listing page: through the search bar, through the map view, and through the card view. Housing options in the user's area are pre-populated.
In user research, users mentioned that they were more likely to consider a home if an open house time was listed, so the page includes an open house calendar booking widget.
After another round of usability testing, I found that there was room for improvement in terms of readability of important information, i.e. in the previous iteration, people were reading the bullets first and skipped over the information about rent. It was also slightly difficult to parse information in two columns.