An estimator design that seamlessly integrates call-to-action towards claiming homes
ROLE: UX Research, UX/UI Design
DURATION: 3 weeks | Aug 2019 - Sep 2019
TEAM: Tony Dattolo, Caroline West, Stephanie Runte
Defining Realtor.com current state and homeowner objectives
For homeowners specifically, Realtor.com (RDC) wants to empower them to get the most from their home and partner with them through their home owning journey. On Realtor.com®, homeowners have the ability to claim and verify their own home. Once verified, homeowners have the opportunity to track and edit details about their off-market listings. There are approximately 80 million homes owned in the USA; currently RDC has 900K total claimed homes on their website, averaging approximately 65K claims per month. Most claims currently come from its off-market Property Detail Pages (PDP).
How can RDC grow claimed homes to 10 million for FY2020? What are ways to improve the conversion of owners who already use RDC?
There are many areas in RDC's sites and apps that currently aren’t using their full potential to get owners to claim homes. In this project, we are specifically tasked to increase claimed homes to 10 million for FY2020 as well as enhancing the emotional connection between RDC and the user in order to be a part of their "home-buying journey" and process.
Design considerations: Although this project targets homeowners; home shoppers are still the number one target of the site. Our proposal should not take away from the home shopper experience, rather it should help create a loyalty loop for shoppers as they become owners and then possibly sellers & shoppers again.
In this design, we were asked to create a web-based mobile application of RDC's website.
Bestimate offers the best-case theoretical valuation based on available data, regressional and correlational analysis, and a Monte Carlo simulation. It then allows you to update specifics that may have an impact on that valuation after claiming your home, i.e. a pool or addition. This provides a tangible reason to sign up, claim your home, and creates a sustained vested interest in keeping up with it on the part of the user and becoming a part of their home-buying journey.
An estimation landing page that seamlessly integrates call-to-action claim home button
What we know about RDC's current user group
Within RDC, there are 4 prominent home-owner segments to keep in mind.
Decor Evangelists (24%) - Strongly motivated by showing off home and its upgrades; consistently work on home.
Value Watchers (18%) - Always stay on top of home value, very interested in own and neighborhood’s financial information; prioritize home improvement projects that will improve the value of their home.
DIYers (23%) - Get excited about home projects but not as social; not as interested in following neighborhood updates. Motivated more by the joy of renovations than the impact on value, and prefer buying fixer upper homes.
Mandatory Fixers (12%) - Do not enjoy home improvement projects. Only make updates when things are broken or when need to sell house. Often prefer to hire professionals.
From this research, we found a key trait among each group to be some aspect of home improvement, whether it is a passion for it or a desire to ease the home improvement process. After further validation in our user research and interviews, we decided to integrate this into our design as a core user need and hook into getting users to claim their homes.
Buying a home is the biggest investment
Owners watch their home value closely; it is the #1 reason both owners & sellers visit their own home’s page on RDC.
Values on real estate websites vary from each other making owners question accuracy. RDC prides its differentiation of offering the most accurate valuation data.
A home is always a work in progress and owners are constantly looking to either improve or maintain their home.
What motivates the home-owner user need for accurate value tracking?
They recently bought the home and are interested in seeing how home value is expected to change over time.
To stay abreast of what their investment is worth.
To compare their own home value relative to the neighborhood market value.
To keep abreast of the market in case they ever have to move.
They are interested in HEF/HELOC now (or in the future) and need to understand how much home is worth.
For home stats in order to know the house inside out (things that are not included in the inspection report).
For local information about neighborhood (parks, festivals, doctors, attorneys, hospitals, schools, etc).
For home improvement and general remodeling guidance & inspiration (ROI, how to steps for projects, popular trends, guidance on budget and timing).
What we learned from our initial user testing and research
Testing the user's interaction with the current RDC mobile website:
We first interviewed several home-owners between the age of 25-60 to test out the current format of RDC's web-based mobile home page. We gave them the seemingly simple task of claiming your home and identified key pain points from their experience.
From this research, we found that claiming your home is an arduous task in itself. Many users were unable to find the button to claim your home; thus, we focused our design in simplifying and easing the process of claiming homes without pushing it into the user's face. Further, users did not have a purpose for claiming home other than being asked to do so. The main issue was the lack of awareness of how and why to claim a home with RDC, creating a disengaged and frustrated user who doesn't want to sign up for spam.
We also had our users test out the Zillow, RDC's main competitor. We noted the distinction between RDC and Zillow's design and how it makes the user feels. Most notably, users reported that Zillow's user interface is much more minimalistic, easy to navigate, uses more calming colors, and feels more intuitive.
Deriving key insights from usability testing
Common pain points
>> I don't understand the point of claiming my home
Many users were confused about the purpose of claiming a home with RDC, therefore they were hesitant to do so.
>> I feel overwhelmed with too many options
The RDC landing page is cluttered with an overflow of options and things to do, making it even more difficult to locate the Claim My Home page.
According to Don't Make Me Think author Steve Krug, users feel cluttered when screens have more than one focus.
>> I don't feel connected to RDC
Users lack emotional engagement to RDC and its community, and consequently do not consider them in their home-buying journey.
The current design does not evoke any emotional response towards home-buying.
>> I don't like how low my home valuation is
When users see inflated home values from competitors such as Zillow or Trulia, they become resentful towards Realtor.com for providing a lower valuation, even if it is more accurate.
This also establishes less trust between the user and RDC. Although RDC has more accurate data, the user is inherently distrustful of the site that is giving them information that they don't want to hear (a lower valuation).
>> I wish that I could easily improve my home and my home valuation
Users want to increase home valuation without exerting too much effort.
It is easy for users to find valuation improvement opportunities, but much more difficult to implement.
This was also validated in our secondary research.
>> Explicitly state the benefits of claiming home
Make the benefits clear-cut and concise so that the user understands why they are doing it.
>> Simplify the home page and process of claim
Integrate a simplistic approach into the new landing page.
Keep the buttons minimal and clicking process easy and quick, especially in consideration with the age group that RDC targets (home-owners are typically older).
>> Create a sense of community and camaraderie between RDC and the user
Establish credibility and trust by evoking an emotional response.
- Improve the design and wording to create a greater sense of being a part of RDC.
>> Leverage the accuracy of RDC's data by offering more enticing statistical insights
Although RDC's main differentiation function is to provide more accurate data than their competitors, users do not like to see a lower perception of their value hence this function is actually harming them. RDC could instead use the data in other areas, such as using a regressional analysis to find key data points that reveal accurate valuation improvement data.
>> Ease the process of refurbishing your home and adding value
Become a part of the user's home-owning journey by guiding them through the process of improving their home, thereby improving their home valuation.
Link references to local refurbishers.
Identify core needs of ideal home-owners
We created a user persona that visualized the ideal home-owner that would be browsing Realtor.com. We based this user off of the users we initially researched, finding that most people simply browse RDC out of curiosity on their home rather than for a specific purpose such as to buy or sell their home.
Map out Karen's main frustrations with RDC's current claim layout
The journey map is meant to understand the home-owner more clearly by mapping out a customer’s journey in navigating the current RDC website and identifying the key issues that arise when using its interface. This focused on the current user flow of claiming homes. We referenced back to our journey map several times throughout our design process and ideation in order to build a solution accordingly without losing sight of its core intention.
Building a community, joining the journey, and enticing the user to claim their home
Here's the stage that took us the longest time: deciding a design that both created a sense of community AND engaged the user to claim their home on Realtor.com, all the while communicating the value proposition of RDC. Our initial design concepts focused on creating that community, trying to create a sort of guide for RDC users, or some sort of friendly essence that users can rely on in order to establish trust, credibility, and an emotional pull. During this stage, we used post-it notes to post up any ideas we came up with, then used stickers to vote on each idea.
We came up with two initial ideas:
(1) Creating an animated mascot, "Homie", which becomes a friend that the user can rely on and go to for advice about their home. However, after researching past usage of mascot-type of designs (most notably, "Clippy" from Microsoft), we found that these designs have faced major backlash and user loss after implementation. While we dabbled with the idea of using other forms of "Homie" that doesn't have a face to it, such as a "How can we help?" chatbox or a Siri-like voice advice feature, but the idea was ultimately scratched because of lack of ease of use within the user age group. AI and other forms of friendly media typically are difficult to use for older users, in which case most home-owners will be.
(2) Creating a forum where users can ask questions about the nearby area and ask about valuation in the threads. This creates a community within RDC and establishes credibility and loyalty to the site. However, we struggled with a viable verification system and managing the inevitable internet trolls. We also recognized that this idea doesn't directly increase the rate of claimed homes and could find a more effective approach in this situation.
Finally, we looked into the actual differentiation strategy and focused more onto the claiming homes process, making the emotional pull a secondary concept in our design. After clearing our head space with this task, we quickly came up with Bestimate: an estimator that uses RDC's highly accurate valuation data in order to create a "best-case" scenario, splicing the valuation data by conducting a regression analysis to find the correlation between homes and factors such as number of bathrooms or deck renovation in order to create a viable estimate of home improvement value increase calculations.
Idea 1: "Homie" or mascot sketch
Idea 2: Forum-based community
Visualize the process by sketching out user flow
Tools used: Pen and paper, Lucidchart
Sketch 1: Bestimate landing page
Sketch 2: Bestimate onboarding flow
Sketch 3: Concatenation of both sketches for user flow
PROTOTYPING & TESTING
Consolidate the main and alternative user flow
ROUND 1: HIGH-FIDELITY ITERATION & USER TESTING OF APP
Gain critical feedback from initial user testing
Once this basic prototype was developed, the next step was to conduct user tests. We asked 5 different home-owners to test out the new flow with the goal of claiming their home.
The main purpose of usability test is to observe how the user interacts with the overall Bestimate feature, given the main goal of claiming a home. We also noted their likes and dislikes to find other aspects to improve.
Round 1 findings:
Users were confused by the tabs and tended to click the Search bar before hitting the tab. The flow did not make sense to them.
Users would mindlessly click through each button. Because of this, they also did not read the Claim benefits because it was too wordy.
Users were confused about the congratulatory message, "You're now a home-owner!" because they were already a home-owner. The wording could change to something more visibly connected to RDC, such as "You're now an RDC home-owner!" or something that pulls the user in as "one with RDC."
Users were confused about the header changes when clicking between tabs.
Users appreciated the journey progress tab.
Goals for Iteration 2:
Redesign the user flow of filter to search so that it becomes search to filter.
Illustrate the benefits so that they are clearly marked and difficult to click through.
Change the wording of the home-owner message.
Change the wording of the headers of delete them altogether.