Knowing Home

UX Research & Strategy
Overview
Apartment hunting and renting can be a frustrating, stressful experience. Knowing Home began with my friends' conviction that there must be a way to improve the end-to-end process of finding and renting an apartment.

The goal of this personal project was to define a value proposition, research user insights, and map out the user flow.
About
Role: Solo designer, personal project
Responsibilities: UX research, strategy, and design
Tools: SurveyMonkey, Figma
Research goal
Uncover patterns in renters’ apartment hunting behaviors and common problems/difficulties related to rental experiences to gauge if there’s an opportunity to address these issues with an app, website, or new feature.
Research questions
  • What kinds of information about new rentals are most important to potential tenants?
  • What of this information do tenants typically find difficult to learn upfront?
  • What tools, platforms, and devices do people use to find rentals today, and what do they like and dislike about those resources?
  • What obstacles and issues do people commonly experience during apartment hunting and after beginning to live in a new rental?
  • How often do tenants change apartments in a 2 year period, and for what reasons?
Methodologies
Customer surveys: Request survey feedback from users about how they approach apartment hunting and why. Conducted via SurveyMonkey.

Customer interviews: Engage one-on-one with users and request to hear stories from their experiences, past or present, of apartment hunting and renting.

Contextual inquiry: Observing users perform an apartment search the typical way they carry it out today. Integrated into the customer interview.
Participants
Adults age 25-55 who are currently looking for a new apartment rental OR who have moved to a new apartment and signed a long-term (6mo+) lease within the last 2 years. Must use online resources to facilitate their apartment search.
Competitive analysis
I took a look at the competitors referenced in user interviews and created a feature matrix to narrow in on the potential feature set for Knowing Home's MVP.
Synthesis: Types of users
The demographic constraints I set on the survey and interview participants gave me a starting point. User feedback made it clear that renters face distinct issues and obstacles during their apartment search and after moving in to a new apartment. I decided to treat these two stages in the user journey as two personas and created an empathy map for each.
POV & How Might We
A recent university graduate moving out of his family home for the first time needs to find his own apartment close to his workplace, but is intimidated by the process, afraid of being taken advantage of or misled, and unsure of what questions to ask in order to be confident in his rental decision.
  • How might we best identify the most desirable rental units in a given area?
  • How might we make apartment hunting feel more like online shopping?
  • How might we standardize the evaluation of rental properties?
  • How might we stop property managers from misleading or withholding information?
  • How might we facilitate a more transparent rental process?
A young professional couple needs to move to a new apartment because their lease is up, but having had personal issues with neighbors and communication difficulties with management at their current location, they want to feel reassured that they won’t repeat those bad experiences when they sign their next lease.
  • How might we inspire renters to be better neighbors?
  • How might we treat renting out apartments more like a service industry?
  • How might we hold landlords and property managers more accountable for the quality of life at their properties?
  • How might we encourage tenants to share their experiences?
  • How might we better scrutinize rental properties?
  • How might we facilitate better communication between tenants and landlords?
The hardworking parents of three young children want to find a new apartment to give their family more space and access to a better school district, but they need to have confidence that they are approaching the application process as efficiently as possible because they don’t have room in their budget for unexpected fees and surcharges.
  • How might we reward property management companies for being as forthcoming as possible with information about their rental units?
  • How might we streamline and standardize the process of applying to rent a property?
Ideation
Based on the insights I'd gathered during discovery, I hypothesized that users would find value in a more detailed and well-rounded tenant review system. But to explore other possibilities, I brainstormed more options through a few Crazy 8s sessions and floated the best ideas to some of the users I had interviewed previously.
User journey
Next, I mapped out the user journey for the 3 features that got the most positive responses: an in-depth criteria-based tenant review system, customized checklists for apartment searchers, and location-specific legal resources on topics such as renter's rights and accessing public records.
Style and brand guide
To facilitate landing page and product screen designs, I created a basic style guide consisting of a color palette, logo, image style, and font and spacing rules.
Landing page
I created a landing page to test with a live user market–a faster way to validate ideas than prototyping the full experience upfront.
Testing
I conducted user tests with the landing page to see how users feel about the problem that Knowing Home seeks to solve, and the features I proposed as a solution. The criteria-based tenant reviews and custom checklists evoked the most enthusiastic reactions.

Based on these findings, I created a strategy for gauging interest: offer a downloadable PDF checklist asset to all email waitlist signups. Then, poll the waitlist signups for feedback on which Knowing Home feature to prioritize first.

Stay tuned for results and next steps. In the meantime, here are some core screen explorations.
Jumpstart Filings
Product Design
Novel Financial
Product Design