The Brief

Concept project for HomeFinder.com, a real estate site similar to Zillow or redfin, to create a service for communal housing.

Team & Duration

2 weeks
Team of 2 UX Designers

My Role

Research

Analysis

Product Design

Tools & Methods

 

Competitive Research

Survey

Expert Interview

User Interviews

Contextual Inquiry

Affinity Mapping

Empathy Mapping

Personas

Paper Prototypes

Pen & Paper

Rapid Prototyping

User Testing

Wireframes

Sketch

Research

To begin getting a feel for the state of the industry, I had the opportunity to speak with Oshrat Carmiel, residential real estate reporter for Bloomberg News. “Co-living” as she called it, is currently drawing significant interest from investors.

“For every apartment, you only need to build one kitchen and one living room, but you collect four or more rents from that unit. You multiply that by an entire building and the revenue potential is tantalizing.”

-- Oshrat Carmiel, Bloomberg News

Current major players in the space include WeWork’s Wall Street located off-shoot WeLive and startups including Common, Bedly and Roomi. The revenue potential from this style of housing is drawing interest from start-ups, venture capitalists and big companies alike. But what are these companies offering to users? Are they serving their needs?

Conducting a Survey

We wanted to know who is currently living communally, who is not living communally but would consider it (indicating a potential target for growth) and what is most important to them about those arrangements. We asked ourselves, what do users really need to live communally? How can we better serve them?

Key Insights:

  • 81% of survey participants rent, while only 14% own

  • 47.6% don't live communally but 52.4% would consider it

  • The top criterion for choosing a communal living space were price, cleanliness and the rules and maintenance of the space

  • When given only one choice, "rules and maintenance of the space" was chosen as the most important criteria

Interviews & Contextual Inquiry

To get deeper into motivations and needs, we interviewed people who are currently living communally. We were able to visit three communal living spaces including Chateau Ubuntu, Rainbow House and a personal home. 

An interviewee at his communal home

 

Synthesizing Qualitative Data

To analyze the qualitative data from our interviews and contextual inquiries, we created an affinity map to extract major patterns and significant insights from our research.

Users had a major pain point in finding homes as a group.

Groups of friends seeking to form a communal house face a significant obstacle in finding spaces that are suitable for them. They’ve found that landlords are unwilling to rent to intentional communities and are instead looking for more traditional arrangements. Users felt hopeless about finding a home or group of homes that would be suitable for their community.

Existing communities find new members through their personal networks.

They prefer to find new members via word of mouth, friend-of-a-friend or at parties thrown at the house. There typically is a series of screening procedures for new members. They value endorsements from people they know and trust. They only turn to online avenues like Facebook groups or craigslist if they didn’t find someone through their personal networks first. And they don’t use home-searching sites like Trulia, Zillow or HomeFinder because they feel that it doesn’t suit the specific needs of communal living.

Synthesizing Qualitative Data

In order to get a more holistic view of our users, we took our major insights and created an empathy map. What are they thinking and feeling? What is the context of their lives?

Defining the value proposition 

Many of the companies emerging in communal living feel oddly devoid of context, taking the ideas behind communal living and turning them on their head and into a luxury product.

We can make communal housing accessible to more people by helping people form their own communities, their way.

Instead of offering communal housing as a luxury service - providing the house, furniture and social interactions at a premium - we can leverage HomeFinder’s extensive network.  To differentiate us from the competition, we hypothesized that we could better serve people's needs by embracing communal living ideals – pooling resources, affordability, friendship, community. We can do this by creating a platform for people to form their own communities.

 

Design

We began designing the product with a design studio session. Quickly generating and combining ideas, we created a paper prototype.

We got feedback on our paper prototype to find out if the concept made sense and the layout was intuitive.

Feedback:

  • Clarify labeling/connection between two tabs and navigation and the two options on homepage

  • Add location!

  • Think about search filters -- what is necessary for the specific needs of the users and what is redundant?

Design Iteration

We incorporated the feedback and developed the product further with low fidelity wireframes.

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The site's two functions are easily accessible on the navigation bar

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Photo carousel of available homes encourages browsing

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Brief explanation of the site's core functionality, above the fold 

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Brief explanation of the site's core functionality, above the fold 

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People who live in intentional communities value feeling like part of a group. We can serve them by providing updates from the larger community

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Breadcrumbs allow users to easily navigate and stay oriented on the site

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The most relevant information to intentional communities is front and center

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Lots of photos of the property are vital to online listings

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The CTA is to contact he broker, with their name and photo for a personal touch

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Users wanted information about the neighborhood

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Outdoor spaces were very important to people living in intentional communities

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Location-based suggestions for similar properties encourages continued browsing

Business Recommendations

Our solution depends upon HomeFinder to leverage their network to provide more communal housing options.

We would recommend they:

  • Host a training event for real estate agents within the HomeFinder network to inform & educate them on communal housing. The real estate agents would be trained to look out for houses, apartments or groups of houses that would be suitable for communal living. The agents would have the possibility of selling multiple houses or units at once, making it an enticing possibility for them. 
     

  • Educate developers and landlords by hosting educational and training events about communal housing and its revenue potential. Communal housing offers less construction and maintenance costs while providing greater revenue potential. 

Next Steps

To move forward with this project, we would:

  • Continue researching communal living with further business analysis, competitor analysis, surveys, interviews and contextual inquiries.
     

  • Develop the wireframes into an interactive prototype and test it with users.
     

  • Incorporate the visual design and create a mockup.
     

  • Testing, testing, and more testing!

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2019 by Katie Levitt.

UX & Visual Designer