Part 1: Taking an existing online service, improving it and making money with it

Quick intro

Quick note before you read any further. I’d like to say that I am by no means a good writer. I am writing this simply to document my journey on taking an existing online service, figuring out its disadvantages and making something better and more user friendly for one and only purpose — trying to make money.

Let’s get started

Here is what I’m going to be working on — there is a service called Flatmates in Australia, which allows people to find rooms, apartments or houses to share with other people.

I really love the idea of Flatmates, and their service is great and helps a ton of people find places to stay!

As a student, it is a huge hassle to find nice people to live together with, share an apartment or a house, and this service solves a whole lot of problems in that regard. It has many benefits that you would expect from a service that existed since 1990, such as a safe and secure platform to connect with random people and find a place to live, make new friends and just have a great time living in Australia.

Disadvantages

However, there are some downsides that I think could be leveraged to create a better, more affordable and more customer friendly service, which in turn will generate a nice side income for me.

Pricing

Frankly, their pricing sucks, considering that their biggest target market is mainly students, their pricing is a tad bit high for what they offer. Take a look:

I believe that charging $25 and only allowing 10 days access to premium features is not great, and there is room for improvement :D Also, I have a feeling that these guys know that their pricing sucks and thus make it very hard to actually find the pricing before you even create an account. Go ahead, try and find their pricing page.

Layout

What I mean by layout is how the content is presented to you on the website. Let’s say you’re looking for a place to stay, either an apartment or a house to share. What are you interested in seeing? Obviously, available places that are being rented out. Then why am I presented with a whole bunch of pictures of other people looking for the same thing as me? Take a look, out of 8 options, only 2 are actual places to stay, while the rest are people like me, looking for a place:

Can you see what I am getting at? No apparent organisation of information on the site.

Now, you can actually filter the results by rooms, flatmates or teamups, but that requires around 3 clicks to get to, and is not apparent when you just land on the site. Let me know if I am wrong, though.

‘Getting Started’ Flow

I am by no means an expert at UX or UI design. But you don’t have to be to realise that their sign up flow is not as straight forward and pleasant as it could be. This also includes no explanation or even slight hints that whatever you see on the home page mostly requires a paid account to take advantage of.

A few others…

There are others, which are somewhat trivial but together they add up and negatively impact your experience with their service. This forces you to use free alternatives, which are equally effective, but are a lot less pleasant to use, such as Gumtree.

The new service

Based on what I wrote above, I will create a service that will have:

  1. Improved pricing model:
  • 2 tier pricing — free account and premium account
  • Free account — basic functionality to view and save listings
  • Premium account — $15/m with full features and no limits in functionality
  1. Improved information presentation and sorting: will make it clear what places are available for rent and who is looking to rent a place on separate pages/sections
  2. Improved and streamlined getting started flow: will make it clear what the free account can do and what the premium account can do.

Conclusion

In this part I’ve discussed advantages and disadvantages on an existing and very successful online service, which I hope to take as a base and improve upon, then create my own service and attempt to grow it and make money with it.

Coming soon…

Part 2: I will be sharing the new layouts and designs for this project and my ideas on how to make the UX better and more pleasant.

Part 3: I will be sharing my marketing strategy and where I will be trying to advertise and get initial traction from.

Part 4: I will be sharing technical aspects of this project, such as what will be running on the back-end, on the front-end, where it will be hosted and why and other tech details.

Part 5: I will be sharing my results of various marketing tactics attempts to drive traffic and increase conversions to paid memberships for this project, with full earnings and traffic stats.

Special thanks to Pieter Levels and Marc Köhlbrugge for inspiration to work on this project!