UX CASE STUDY

Homebuddy 

Homebuddy is a digital product focused on preventative maintenance for the first-time homebuyer. In order to grow their business, Homebuddy tasked us with expanding their digital offerings to assist with repairs and renovations that are intimidating for the new homeowner.

My team and I created a digital concierge service to support users through the purchase of their first home. Our digital solution included an educational guide with tips for first-time homebuyers, a homeowner dashboard with a status of the house's vital elements and a service request form where the concierge coordinates home repairs. 

DELIVERABLES

  • Persona
  • Journey map
  • Concept testing
  • Site map
  • Mid-fidelity wireframes
  • Mid-fidelity prototype
  • Usability testing
  • Annotated wireframes

ROLE

  • UX Designer
  • UX Researcher
  • IA
  • Lead strategist: Facilitated synthesis activities to interpret our research and strategize next steps

TOOLS

  • Sketch
  • Axure
  • Keynote

TIMEFRAME

  • Four weeks

THE CHALLENGE

Building a Digital Concierge Service for First-Time Homebuyers 

Ryan, the Founder of Homebuddy, brought our team into the fold in the midst of repositioning their business model. Homebuddy is a start-up initially focused on preventative maintenance to help users maintain their home value and avoid large unexpected repairs. In order to diversify their offerings and grow their user base, the stakeholders tasked us with the following:

  • Expand the product to include home repairs and renovation
  • Incorporate a concierge service into the platform 
  • Gain more understanding into users’ needs around home repair
  • Understand what information homeowners would enjoy regularly seeing about their home

PROJECT KICKOFF

Where Does Homebuddy Fit in? 

Since we weren’t given onboarding materials, we kicked off the meeting with questions around the new business model. Homebuddy’s mission is to ease the transition from renting to buying for the millennial first-time homebuyer. We needed to build a solution that includes a concierge to serve as a point person for issues that may arise for the new homeowner.

I came up with an activity to do with the clients during the meeting to get actionable next steps. I mapped out the user journey of a first time home buyer and identified a few areas of focus for Homebuddy. I saw the most opportunity for our solution to assist once the user has moved in and needs a repair because that’s a big pain point. However, our clients were not sure where they saw Homebuddy coming into the process. They wanted to explore where they can best help the user during the journey through home search and homeownership. They asked us the question UX Designers love to hear:

“Well, what do the users want?”

Whiteboard

User Journey whiteboard session to kickoff the conversation during our client meeting 

DOMAIN RESEARCH & SME INTERVIEWS

Surveying the Landscape

Since our direction was so broad, research was extremely important to help narrow our focus. I dug into the domain research to understand the real estate industry. We also interviewed two real estate agents and a home inspector to get a better idea of their roles and experiences with the first-time homebuyer.

We had three main takeaways:

Since our direction was so broad, research was extremely important to help narrow our focus. I dug into the domain research to understand the real estate industry. We also interviewed two real estate agents and a home inspector to get a better idea of their roles and experiences with the first-time homebuyer.

We had three main takeaways:

Our research uncovered that during the home search, homeownership responsibilities are not top of mind. We wanted to understand how Homebuddy can alleviate potential problems for new homeowners. The interview with the Home Inspector caught my attention as a potential to be an area of opportunity for our solution. The home inspector has significant knowledge about the new home, yet new homeowners don’t typically take full advantage of their inspection. I wanted to validate with users that the home inspection is when they first think about maintenance and repairs.

USER INTERVIEWS

First-Time Homebuyer's Must Haves

For our user interviews, we talked to seven millennials 24-35 years old, three first time homeowners, and four people searching for their first home. We used the journey map to inform our user interview questions. I kicked off building the script and interviewed two users. I also lead the synthesis of the interviews to pinpoint key areas of focus moving forward.

User Journey Map Sketch

Our journey map highlighted a few key ups and downs for our user on the path to homeownership and beyond. 

Our journey map highlighted a few key ups and downs for our user on the path to homeownership and beyond. 

Coming out of user interviews we had some takeaways from the key moments of the first-time homebuyer user journey:

During the Home Search

Users don’t want to worry about maintenance and are willing to pay more for new construction

Home Search

Selecting a Realtor

Most users are referred to their realtor and don’t see them as a go-to for maintenance recommendations

Selecting a Realtor

Most users are referred to their realtor and don’t see them as a go-to for maintenance recommendations

Selecting a Realtor

Home Inspection

The Home Inspection helps the buyer prioritize when it comes to home repairs and maintenance

Home Inspection

The Home Inspection helps the buyer prioritize when it comes to home repairs and maintenance

Home Inspection

Maintenance and Repairs

Users are more reactive than proactive to issues that arise in their home

Maintenance and Repairs

Users are more reactive than proactive to issues that arise in their home

Maintenance & Repairs

These findings reiterated our domain and SME research. In the early home search process, users are focused on finding their home and don't want to think about home maintenance. Additionally, the realtor is not seen as a source for repair information. The user interviews validated my hypothesis of the home inspection as being a point when they realize the potential issues that will arise in their new home. We wanted to determine how Homebuddy could integrate into this key moment when home maintenance and repairs are top of mind.

These findings reiterated our domain and SME research. In the early home search process, users are focused on finding their home and don't want to think about home maintenance. Additionally, the realtor is not seen as a source for repair information. The user interviews validated my hypothesis of the home inspection as being a point when they realize the potential issues that will arise in their new home. We wanted to determine how Homebuddy could integrate into this key moment when home maintenance and repairs are top of mind.

SYNTHESIS

Focusing on Our Opportunity 

Selecting the Neighborhood

From our user interviews, we built our persona Jeff, a Millennial first-time homebuyer who is late in the process of homebuying.

Persona V2

Based on our interviews, we learned users lack education around home buying and homeownership. Our users also didn’t see themselves as handy around the house. They are comfortable with smaller projects but prefer to hire a professional for a larger repair. Homebuddy has the opportunity to educate Jeff on home maintenance and connect him to professionals once he’s a homeowner.

I led the synthesis of our research through an affinity mapping exercise. The goal was to identify where our digital solution could best address our user’s needs. Based on our domain, SME and users research we determined the first-time homebuyer will be most receptive to Homebuddy during the home inspection. We recommended to the client that we focus a majority of our solution around the home inspection because that is when home repairs are top of mind. This allowed us to focus our product ideation on use cases once the user owns their home. But based on their business model, we also needed to consider how our solution can bridge the gap between home search and home ownership. 

Based on our interviews, we learned users lack education around home buying and homeownership. Our users also didn’t see themselves as handy around the house. They are comfortable with smaller projects but prefer to hire a professional for a larger repair. Homebuddy has the opportunity to educate Jeff on home maintenance and connect him to professionals once he’s a homeowner.

I led the synthesis of our research through an affinity mapping exercise. The goal was to identify where our digital solution could best address our user’s needs. Based on our domain, SME and users research, we determined the first-time homebuyer will be most receptive to Homebuddy during the home inspection. We recommended to the client that we narrow the scope to begin at the home inspection because that is when home repairs are top of mind. This allowed us to focus our product ideation on use cases once the user owns their home.

IDEATION AND CONCEPTING

Laying the Foundation

LAYING THE FOUNDATION

Based on our client feedback we finalized our problem statement:

Based on our client feedback we finalized our problem statement:

Based on our client feedback we finalized our problem statement:

The journey for millennial first-time homebuyers is overwhelming, so they need a trusted digital service to bridge the gap between searching for a home and being a homeowner.

The journey for millennial first-time homebuyers is overwhelming, so they need a trusted digital service to bridge the gap between searching for a home and being a homeowner.

We then developed our design principles to guide our product build:

Speak my language

Speak My Language

Use language that is succinct, easy to digest and understand for the user.

Encourage me

Encourage Me to Take Action

Motivate users to maintain their home by showing them the impact on value. 

Keys to the house

Give Me the Keys to my House

Provide all the information to empower users to make and own their decisions

These design principles kept us honest to the needs of our user when dealing with the overwhelming homebuying process. Since the first-time home buying journey is so complex we needed to ensure our product was concise, encouraging and empowering for our user.

We kicked off our ideation brainstorm by revisiting our user journey to see where the opportunities lie. We created five divergent concepts spanning from home search to home ownership. I lead the ideation and creation of the scheduling concept, which was one of the most critical areas since our focus was on repair and renovation with the concierge. We tested with six millennial users in total, with an even mix of users searching for their home and users who were homeowners.

With our revised focus, it was time to start concepting. We kicked off our ideation brainstorm by revisiting our user journey to see where the opportunities lie. We created five divergent concepts spanning from home search to home ownership. I lead the ideation and creation of the scheduling concept, which was one of the most critical areas since our focus was on repair and renovation with the concierge. We tested with six millennial users in total, with an even mix of users searching for their home and users who were homeowners.

Before testing, we identified some of our goals:

  • What type of information do first-time homebuyers want to see? How do they want it customized?
  • How do we best present the value proposition of Homebuddy initially?
  • What do users expect from a concierge service?
  • How would users like to connect to industry professionals?

Users reacted positively to three concepts; Educational, Dashboard and Service Request. Here's what worked well...

Based on our testing results and discussions with the client, we focused our efforts on iterating the education concept, dashboard, and scheduling concept from the feedback. We had two other concepts that did not test as well, so we did not move forward with them with our final designs. 

OUR SOLUTION

OUR SOLUTION

Building Our Home

Building Our Home 

Since users found the education, dashboard and scheduling concepts the most useful we focused on them for the final prototype build. I iterated on the service request section of the site based on our testing results. We further refined other features before final convergence and usability testing.

Since users found the education, dashboard and scheduling concepts the most useful we focused on them for the final prototype build. I iterated on the service request section of the site based on our testing results. We further refined other features before final convergence and usability testing.

Hb Hifi Education Page

Education Guide

Education Guide

The education guide served as the solution to link the early stages of the home search to the Homebuddy concierge service. This page includes articles and tips from the Concierge to help guide users through the home buying process. Based on testing, we updated the flow so users do not need an account until they are homeowners. During the home search, Homebuddy agents can refer users to check out the educational page. Once users purchase their home, they would receive a home inspection code to populate their home details into the Homebuddy dashboard.

HB Hifi Dash

Home Dashboard

The dashboard serves as a guide for the user to understand key elements in their first home. The dashboard focused on five main parts; alerts and reminders for upcoming maintenance, an interactive home map that linked to appliance information, a graph displaying current home value, a home inspection report, and articles with relevant tips for their home. Based on testing, users really enjoyed the home value graph which showed the impact that maintenance and renovations have on the value of their home. Users also liked the interactive map tailored based on their floor plan. From the map, they could easily access information about their appliances when troubleshooting issues or contacting a professional for repairs.

HB Hifi Home Inspection

Home Dashboard: Home Inspection Report

Based on the research insights around the home inspection being an opportunity to educate users on their home, we came up with an idea for Homebuddy professionals to do a second inspection to make this information more digestible. After the inspection, the Homebuddy professional would upload the information into the dashboard. Many users mentioned this being much more helpful than just receiving a traditional home inspection report that they would file away and forget about. We wanted to ensure users could easily access this information and it would be actionable so they could prioritize maintenance or contact a professional for repairs if needed.

HB Hifi Service Request final

Service Request

Service Request

I lead the build of the service request feature which users found most useful. When an issue pops up in the user's home they can easily enter their information including photos for a service request. Once the user submits a request, the Concierge does the legwork in finding and vetting professionals while also coordinating based on the user's availability. If the issue is urgent users have the ability to directly chat with the Concierge in real time for guidance. Users enjoyed the option to chat, so we added a chat feature to the rest of the pages for convenient access.  

HB Hifi Concierge Recos Final

Service Request: Concierge Recommendations

After submitting a service request, the Concierge provides three recommended professionals that best fit the user's needs. Users enjoyed that the concierge gave three options with ratings, reviews, and costs so they could do further research if needed. Based on testing, it was important for users to receive recommendations of multiple professionals, so they can vet them and have the final say in hiring. Users also found it convenient to be able to book directly with the professional from the availability they provided.

Check out the full prototype here.

FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS

FUTURE CONSIDERATIONS

Maintaining Our Home

Coming out of our final round of user testing, we had some future considerations for our clients from both a user experience and business perspective.

Considerations Stacked

Our clients were extremely happy with the product we built. During our final meeting, they asked if they could get our prototype to share with stakeholders later that afternoon. Homebuddy will also be showcasing our work in the 2019 Edward L Kaplan ‘71 New Venture Challenge nationally ranked accelerator program to launch their ideas into viable businesses. I am excited to see how Homebuddy continues to evolve after handoff!

REFLECTING

On to the Next Build

During this project, I further developed my design confidence which allowed me to be more decisive while working under a tight deadline. I used my past client experience to get actionable feedback from our stakeholders and make our meetings productive. It was rewarding to work on such an interesting and challenging concept. I learned so much during this project, but summed up two key learnings that I will take with me moving forward:

  • Be flexible- You never know when a client might throw a curveball that has major implications on the product you are designing. As a designer you can’t get too attached to your direction and need to be able to pivot if necessary. I learned how to quickly adjust so we could build a product that met both the user and business needs.
  • Go broad before you narrow focus- The homebuying journey is very complex. It was important to consider all the different touch points for the before defining the area of opportunity. By grounding myself in the domain and empathizing with the user I identified the problem our product could best solve for.

Interested in seeing more of my work?

The Eric Carle MuseumDesigning a digital experience with comprehensive lesson plans for underfunded educators

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