Case Study — Product Design

Reinventing the Home-Searching Process

Or how I helped design a new product vertical for a technology first real estate brokerage, streamlining the home-searching process for real estate agents and their clients.
Product Strategy
Product Design (UX/UI)
Design Systems
Product Design Lead

Project Background

In mid-2022, after transitioning from a UX Engineer to the product team at Avenue 8 (a real estate brokerage in San Francisco), I took on the leadership role in designing a new product vertical aimed at simplifying the home-buying process. The process of buying a home can be challenging, even when working with a real estate agent. Despite the agent's expertise and knowledge in the housing market, various factors such as limited housing inventory, high demand, and intense competition can make it difficult for home buyers to secure a suitable property. Additionally, conflicting interests and a lack of transparency between the buyer and the agent may further complicate the process.

Due to this, the goal of this project was to find ways to improve the collaboration between home buyers and real estate agents, promoting trust and effective communication, and making the home-buying process more efficient and satisfactory.

Problem Framing

How might we improve real estate agent <> client interactions
during the home buying process?
But where to begin?
We have a starting point but, how do you approach building a new product from a how might we? We can leverage the double diamond process and begin by doing something called generative research. 

Generative research tries to identify or define an opportunity to solve a real human issue. It produces a redefined problem statement. Once we have this we move on to exploring solutions and producing the actual product.
First, we need to understand the current home-buying process.
Doing user interviews with real estate agents as well as clients (recruited through we found 3 main topics. Out of the 3 main topics, together with stakeholders we identified the 3rd one the most painful AKA most important one to solve and crafted a new redefined problem statement around it.

Other research methods used at this stage: Competitor analysis, surveys.
Target Users
So the target users we want to interview are 1) home buyers and 2) real estate listing agents, but within these groups we want to interview those that are the most innovative users who are prone to learning new things, or the “innovators”.
User Interviews: The Results
Processing the qualitative data, Part I.
To process the qualitative data collected from user interviews, we conducted affinity mapping with the product team. However, we encountered a problem: the categories we used to label the data were not useful for generating insights. What steps should we take next?
Processing the qualitative data, Part II.
So, we did a second pass at the data with new groups. This gave us very useful information which gave us a lot of design opportunities.
The 3 Main Themes
From the various groups, we created multiple insights and findings, which I won't cover here. However, we narrowed these insights down to the top three candidates for design opportunities. These three themes allowed us to redefine the problem statement, effectively closing the research diamond and opening the next phase.
Clients generally had a bad experience with their agent if their agent had not educated them about the buying/selling process both before and during the process. How might we digitize the education process for buyer/seller clients to reduce agent time and streamline the process?
Status & Workflows
Clients know the home buying process has a lot of moving parts, and moves quickly in a hot market, so users want to be kept updated at all times so they can change their home strategy. How might we automate the constant agent-client micro- updates along the entire process?
Organized Search Collaboration
Agents want clients to use a real estate focused SaaS software, but clients tend to drop off due to usability issues, and default to text/email (disorganized). 
How might we improve the client-agent communication and create an easier, streamlined way to manage the home search process online?

Redefined Problem Statement

How might we improve client-agent communication and create an easier way to manage the home search process?
Concept Generation Workshop
Having our redefined problem statement, we then had a concept generation workshop which after several iterations and cleanup, generated three concepts. All three concepts tackled the same idea of creating a place from which agents and clients could communicate and interact during the home-searching and buying process.
Concept #1 focused on bringing interactivity to an existing product, users could like properties on the presentations
Concept #2 was bringing a new product identity into the product offering.
Concept #3 is focused on including a more fun and interactive way of deciding if a client liked or not a property.

The winning concept is...

Concept #2 — Sharespace
Sharespace LowFi's
Once we had the solution nailed down, we began working on the Wireframes and eventually the High Fidelity designs. This process was done together in cross-collaboration with product management and engineers.
Sharespace HighFi's
Find and save properties
Once we had the solution nailed down, we began working on the Wireframes and eventually the High Fidelity designs. This process was done together in cross-collaboration with product management and engineers.
Follow up on any activity
Everything that happens inside the sharespace is tracked and can be followed up on.
Like and comment on any property
Check out the details of a property, then decide to “like” it, dismiss it or chat with your agent to leave some feedback.
Find your home, together with your loved ones.
You can invite additional people to the sharespace in order to search and collaborate easier together.
Learnings & Outcomes
Design with constraints
The primary obstacles encountered during the project were time limitations and human resource restrictions, which stemmed from both internal factors and broader market conditions. We had to be smart about what to design and how.
Operationalized the internal Design Process.
At the beginning of the project, the internal design team did not have an operationalized design process. As a disclaimer I have to say that the design process is not something easy to standardize as every project is different, but there are guidelines we can follow depending on the situation we find ourselves in.
What difference did we make?
At the time this case study was written, the project was a work in progress so no real world results could be measured. Though, from the user interviews we understood that around 70% of all the agents from Avenue8 were very excited to learn that we were working on this project and marked it as their most anticipated release for the year.

[ More projects ]

Let's create together!

Reach out for designs that bring your ideas to life!