Tiny Toronto: UX Case Study

Redesigning tiny homes

What is a TinyTo and what does it do?

Tiny Toronto is a startup that plans on building and selling tiny homes for use in peoples backyards. They are currently prototyping a unit that will be good for use for all four seasons. They are currently predicting a selling point between $25,000–30,000.

The snag, the pivot, and the new direction

Recently the founder, Sa’ad, had hit a snag. Due to regulations within Ontario getting a permit to build a tiny home as a living solution is not possible. Tinyto however can sell its space permit free as a non-living space, a detached studio space. Sa’ad plans to pivot his tiny home into an external workspace for people who want to forgo commuting and work from home. 

This is where we come in. Currently the website does not commute the site’s pivot so we were introduced to realign the website with its new direction and to conduct further research on the pivot strategy. 

Our job for this project is to:

Test the product’s new direction
the branding of the site to fit its new direction
a high fidelity mockup of the website

Research Goals

Before we could start redesigning Tinyto’s website. We had to get better idea about Tinyto overall and figure out if Tinyto’s new direction is valid. To do that we created a survey and interviewed as many people as we could related to tinyto’s business. Our goal was to learn more about the following:

  1. How to position Tinyto’s product?
  2. Customer Insights

Product Positioning

We needed to figure out what people would do with a detached studio space? To better understand how to position the product and present it on the website. 

To do that we surveyed 61 homeowners with backyards, we learned:

  • 57% would use a detached studio space for hobbies and personal projects
  • 11.5% would use it as a workspace , 8.2% would use it as a living space.
  • Types of hobbies and personal projects: fabrication, beer brewing, woodworking, gaming, personal gym, painting, model trains, etc…

We also interviewed several homeowners and relevent individuals. that pointed at the same results we got from our survey.

  • Many felt that having a work office in their backyard was unprofessional. Bringing a client to their backyard or keeping critical work documents made them feel uncomfortable.
  • Louis an individual who sold tiny homes in belgium and accross Europe explained to us that people who bought tiny homes often didn’t actually use them as a living solution but as rather an extra room for their house. 

For the most part people weren’t interested in the unit as a workspace or as living space. They would rather use the space to pursue their hobbies and personal projects.

Customer Insights: home expansion and product feedback

In our survey we had a subset of 14 people who indicated that they were interested in expanding their home. We learned from them that:

How much they would budget for when expanding their home:

  • 50% said $10,000–20,000
  • 21% said $20,000- 30,000

Most important factors when expanding their home are: 

(1st) Price 
(2nd) Construction Time 
(3rd) Customizability

From interviewing homeowners we learned:

  • A lot of homeowners felt the price point was too high and that at most they were willing to pay was $15,000 and that it would have to be highly customized.
  • Homeowners were generally intrigued that the unit could be effectively insulated for four seasons. 

Our takeaway was that price would be a large concern for homeowners. This problem was more so outside of our teams scope. We recommended that they sell the four seasonal insulation as an up-sell to. 

Persona, dreaming up the customer

Now that we had our research we had a solid base to start planning. To start we created a persona, a made up person that in this case represents Tinyto’s customer…

The Homeowner

John Benjamin | 45 years old | IT worker | Oakville, Ontario

Bio: John is a father of three. When he gets home from work he likes to pursue his hobby of brewing beer. However, he has little extra space in his house.
“I love my family but sometimes I need my space to do my own thing.”

With John forged from the volcano of research and intuition, we could use John to help us develop features that he would want.

  • Pictures that demonstrate how he would personally aspire to use the space. 
  • A way to stay updated for when the product will be available. 
  • A way to contact Tinyto if he has any further questions.

With the features we came up with we sorted them into must-haves and nice to haves. The must-haves would be included into our product and become part of our minimum viable product. 

Having to make the hard design decisions

Choosing a product name

We knew we wanted to have a name to for the product mostly out of our own frustration of having to call it a detached studio space. We came up with the name Solace, it aligned with our idea of positioning the product as a space to get away to pursue ones passions.

TinyTo vs Solace

A dilemma we had early on was deciding on how to make the pivot. Tinyto’s previous website had a very different target market because it was aiming to create sustainable housing for lower bracket income consumers. It had a very strong story of creating sustainable affordable housing. 

However, with the pivot we would have to change our messaging from affordable housing to a way to expand ones home. Targeting home expansion immediately positions it to a higher bracket income and because of this conflicts with the previous brand values. 

We were stuck having to make a hard decision. We had two options:

  • Create a whole new brand dedicated to the product and discard the previous brand altogether.
  • Keep the product under Tinyto brand but have to navigate the two brands conflicting messaging.

With our current timeframe of a week and a half getting rid of the existing brand was too large of a decision to make in such a short amount of time. Our safer option was to keep the product under the existing Tinyto brand.

The Design

The new site

For our design we wanted to create a clean site that provides a sense of luxury and peace of mind. 

The home page 

 We wanted to the focus to be immediately on the product. To provide users a quick understanding of the product without having to scroll very far. We also thought it was important to address Tinyto’s mission to speak about the companies values.

The product page

We created a product page because we wanted to give an in depth overview on Solace. It is important to do so because Solace’s price point is quite high and it will be a major decision for the people purchasing the product. 

The prototype

In Conclusion

The project overall was very successful. We were able exceed our clients expectations. We were able to provide him with solid research and a clear direction for the future. It was an exciting project to work on that was challenging and surprising at times. My favorite moment working on this project was the research phase, I didn’t expect that people would want to use the space for hobbies and personal projects.