Find Your Roomie’s

👉 Finding and keeping a good roommate gets harder as more people crowd into cities. Most of the city dwellers tend to spend most of their twenties (Age 20 to 30) living with roommates.

🍒 Task: Design a mobile product experience that makes it safe to find the ideal roommate in New City. the experience from the perspective of a person who is looking for a roommate as well as the one who is looking for the apartment. After finding the ideal roommate, what else can this product do to make the roommate experience better?

Let’s Begin!!

The approach to making the product launched with problem-solving User Experience, I have followed step by step process described in top UX frameworks. At the beginning when I was learning UX, I have gone through various articles and learning platforms video series and found the below great process which makes every product works. In the below steps, I have distributed my 48 hours which means I didn’t get enough time to take interviews of real users but I have tried to mentions all process for a reader.

A Step by Step Process

  1. Learn/Research & Survey.

2 .User persona.

3. User journey.

4. Approach

5. Wireframes.

6. Visual References.

7. Prototype

1. Learn/Research & Survey

While studying the existing approach that people have for dealing with the roommate and landlord experience, I got to know the pain points and what people are missing and how these issues can be resolved.

The research process includes surveys & user feedbacks as a very important factor but to expedite the process I managed to do my desk research and go through different websites and mobile apps to understand the user base.

Roomster and Nestaway helped me gather some information.‘Roomi’ and ‘SpareRoom’ are good options but apparently not in India.This is after looking for a shared accommodation I have decided to tackle this issue. From this search experience, I have kept in mind a couple of pain points I wanted to solve:

  • Time, it takes a lot of time to search for places matching my expectations
  • Communication, arrange a viewing was complicated because I had to sync my calendar with the one of ad poster
  • Trust, you never know if the persons you gonna live with are trustworthy

User Pain Points:

  • Fake images & listing with fake details
  • Very limited filter to refine the best result
  • No expense management system / Lack of rent-paying functionality
  • Unauthorised/Unverified users
  • Hard to find people you can trust
  • Friend as a roommate often breaks the relationship
  • Different life habits

Needs/Goals:

  • Find someone that’s not your friend but can be trusted
  • Find someone that has a similar lifestyle

Assumptions:

  • People need a way to explore other people’s life habits
  • People need a way to evaluate other people.

Constraints:

  • Life habits are hard to observe at first

Design process

We have followed a Human-Centered Design approach to make sure our design decisions would be supported by strong rationales.

Go beyond our hypothesis

To go further my own experience and understand what are room seeker expectations and frustrations, we have run a research phase. To start things off, we have defined our targeted users and research objectives. This is by doing this exercise we have realized we needed to focus not only on room seekers but also landlords as they are the room providers.

More than helping us to create our user personas, the affinity map gave us directions to build later on the MVP (see Features list section). Here is a condensed view of the insight groups we have focused our attention on.

Besides those findings, we have also made a meaningful discovery that was not translated on this mapping exercise.

2. User persona.

I conducted two interviews within the provided time and as it happens I created 2 user personas with the help of online resources. Below are two user types with different professions and age.

Interviews

In addition to these quantitative data, we have also run 15 face to face interviews with room seekers and 4 with landlords to get qualitative data. By mixing these 2 types of data our goal was to create the most accurate user personas possible. To help us in this task, we have extracted key interviewees’ insights (room seekers and landlords) and built a unique affinity diagram.

Survey

To reach out our objectives, we have designed a survey for each target and sent it to our friends and acquaintance matching these profiles. Starting with room seekers, here is what we have learnt from the 19 respondents.

84% use Craiglist to look for a room
80% have mentioned that is time consuming
78% have mentioned there is a lot of scams
74% have requirements to feel comfortable to live with other people

Top criterions:
1. Budget and location
2. The person people they would have to live with
3. Amenities

Tasks flow

Prior to ideating solutions, we have also designed the core task flows of the MVP with our 2 targeted users in mind.

  • The room search flow, for the room seekers
  • The roommate search flow for the current tenants

Our goal was to identify where in the search experience the pain points occurred. Based on our research discovery, we have mapped out the roommate search flow by starting with current tenants and not the landlords.

3. User journey

Inspired by these user stories and features list, we then had our guiding ideas to build the room seeker user flow:

  • Sign up process. Only ask information that matters to maximize chances to convert people into users.
  • Room search criterions. Set up once for all requirements, and then let users browse matching ads. Offer a progressive disclosure of the search criterions. Define budget, location, and the number of people to live and then see matching results or add others to be more specific (these criterions were the most mentioned during our research phase).
  • Room selection. Let users quickly scan important requirements by displaying key information at the first level. (room ad quick views vs room ad detailed view)
  • Recommendation system. Build a secure and trustworthy environment by allowing roommates to review each other.
  • Curation. Introducing a system allowing users to express their interest or nor for a room. If the user expresses its interest in a room, the ad poster receives a notification. From there the ad poster reviews the room seeker profile and decides or not arrange a viewing. On the contrary, if the user expresses its non-interest for a room, the room ad will never be displayed again.
  • Arrange a viewing. To arrange a viewing, the ad poster has to accept the viewing request and send several time slots to the room seeker. Then, the room seeker receives a notification asking to select a time slot. From there the room seeker just has to select one to confirm the meeting.

Mind Map

Below I mapped the overview and user journey flow considering the user personas and the problem statement.

4. Approach

Goal: To design a product experience focus on user problem solving and motive user to use digital products to find their Ideal Roommates & Manage basic need through the mobile application itself.

Tasks: Find an Ideal Roommate/Find an Ideal Landlord(Room Owner)

Case Scenario: The fastest approach to find Roommates with maximum user preferences matched.

Tests

First iteration

To test our prototype we have tried to recruit 5 users as close as possible to Jane, our room seeker persona. Here was our user panel:

  • 4 women
  • 1 man
  • from 25 to 32 years old
  • had lived or currently live in a shared space

Before running the tests, we read to users a scenario to make sure they would understand the mindset of the room seeker persona. Here was the scenario:

Originally from Airdrie in Alberta, your are Jane a talent recruiter who moved in Vancouver last summer after accepting a new job. Conscious about the expensive price of the housing market, you have chosen to live in shared accommodation. Focused on the rent cost at that time, you did not take care to learn more about your roommates before moving in. Unfortunately, you quickly realized you have no affinity with them. Worst than that, some tensions have recently appeared. You have now reached a point where you are uncomfortable every time you get back home. Hopefully, you recently heard about a new app called Elly which helps people to find a shared accommodation with people they are in affinity with.

It’s Saturday afternoon, you are chilling, drinking a Latte in a coffee shop. You think it’s a good time to test this new app. You just downloaded it and are about to launch it…

To evaluate our design we have asked them to complete these tasks:

  • Find a room in a shared space with the following criterions:
    - a monthly rent between 8000 and 10000 rupee,
    - live with 3 other roommates maximum
    - a 1 year stay minimum duration
    - reviewed with 4 stars minimum
  • Discover common points of interests with other roommates
  • Arrange a viewing on Thursday, March 9 after 5:45 pm

Prior to running the tests, we had some hypotheses:

  • We thought that users will find out how to define their monthly rent budget as well as the maximum number of roommates they want to live with.
  • We thought that users will understand the swiping gestures to express their interest or not for an ad.

We also had some fears regarding our design:

  • We were not sure if users would find out how to narrow their search to a specific zone of a neighborhood.
  • We were not sure if users would understand how the matching system between room and roommate seekers work.

Here were the key takeaways of our testings sessions:

Second iteration

With our test results in mind, we got back to pen and paper to solve the issues mentioned by our users. Here is how we have tackled the issue related to defining a search zone from a specific neighborhood (Mount Pleasant).

We have also tackled the issue related to the review system. From user feedback, it sounds the review system was unclear. They were also no comfortable to review their shared space. For these reasons, we got rid of the review system. However, we still wanted to address the security topic, which was one of the main concerns of our targeted users.

To do so, we have created a label named “Verified profile”. To get it, the ad poster (roommate seeker) has to write a small biography about himself, link to its profile at least one social media account (Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram…) and get at least one recommendation from a previous landlord or professional contact. This is by having this transparent approach we wanted to build trust and security.

Here is how we have translated this idea into wireframes

To test our second iteration we have recruited 5 new users. As before, we have given them the same scenario and have asked them to achieve the same tasks except one. Because we got rid of the review system, we have asked them this time to

Prior to running the tests, we still had some fear regarding our design and especially if users would understand this time how to narrow their search to a specific zone of a neighborhood. Our other concern was about the “Verified Profiles”. We were not sure if users would understand the purpose of the label.

Here were the key takeaways of this second round of tests:

Even if this second round of tests revealed new issues, we had to move forward and start producing mockups because of the tight deadlines we had. However, we have taken into account the user feedback and have integrated them into our hi-fi mockups.

The solution

Final Information architecture

Prior to start working on the visual style of the application, we have adjusted our initial I.A. to reflect the discoveries we have made during the user testing sessions.

5. Wireframes

In the wireframe I have introduces Chat Bots & Chat system to create a Room by adding roommates which will create a group where a landlord can Request Pay for rent and other Utility bills. or all roommates can Split the bill with the help of chatbot (Integrated Payment Gateway or UPI in backend).

6. Visual References

After wireframing I look for visual references help me to deliver an app with effective impression on the user.

Color Scheme: Used a bright color scheme for both primary and secondary color Gathering these insights brought forward mixed feelings. From excited, cheated, sociable, stress, safe, open-minded, trust, to frustrated or loyaltythese keywords were the result of good and bad experiences in shared accommodation environments.
To turn these negative feelings into positive ones we have chosen to work with a blue color palette.

Indeed blue is associated with open spaces, freedom, trust, loyalty, sincerity. In many cultures, blue color has also significant spiritual meaning by bringing peace and keeping the bad spirits away. To reinforce this positive aspect and get a color that stands out among these shades of blue, we have also chosen a yellow. This color is associated with happiness, positivity, clarity, energy, and optimism which was in line with what we wanted to communicate.

Because we wanted to create a platform to facilitate communication between room seekers and roommate seekers, we wanted to find a font expressing a friendly and human feeling. That’s why we have chosen

Typography: Montserrat is a geometric sans-serif typeface designed by Julieta Ulanovsky, inspired by posters and signage from her historic Buenos Aires neighborhood of the same name. It is rather close in spirit to Gotham and Proxima Nova, but has its own individual appearance — more informal, less extended and more idiosyncratic. It is provided in a total of nine different weights, with up- right and italic shapes, and every one of them has Small Caps and Small Caps. There are two quite different versions that don’t fit into the usual LATEX classifications. The version having the appellation Alternates has letter shapes that are much more rounded than the default version, reflecting the signage in the neighborhood of Montserrat.

Iconography: fewer screens and fewer icons used, most of the icons are picked from feather icons(SVG) website

Final Designs

7. Prototype

After all Research, Sketching & Wireframing it will automatically expedite your prototyping process, in my choice of tool I have used Adobe XD for UI designing and Marvel App for prototyping. Please check below final Prototype

Conclusion.

It has been such an interesting journey to design this mobile application. Dealing with a short constraint forced us to be extremely organized and efficient to meet our deadlines. In this context, our research phase has been essential to identify user expectations and frustrations. This is how we have discovered two important discoveries. Contrary to what we thought, landlords are rarely involved in finding new tenants for their property. We have also discovered how important communication, was in the room search process, or in roommates’ daily life. Security and character compatibility were also major concerns. In addition to these discoveries, designing the room seeker and roommate seekers flows helped us to identify pain points.

Just believe in yourself & open your mind while research, sketch and create a wireframe. Trust me when you go through these steps you will keep improving your design in every step and at the same time, you will improve your skills. Here in this challenge, I have just used a simple approach and tools which you use every day to make the product design more problem-solving.

In order to improve further experience of users after getting a room or roommate, we should enable features that help them manage their common expenses with their roommates (expense management system).
We can also include a feature which helps them to pay the rent online and make it hassle-free (rent-paying functionality)