SAVING FOR YOUR DREAM HOME

To say the housing market in Toronto is red hot is an absolute understatement. Even if the recent government intervention, price continues to remain at a historical high. Red Academy in Toronto urges their students to create an application to help solved problem that Torontonians are facing and make Toronto a better place to live in. They called it the Toronto Capstone Project. Knowing how important that housing is in everyone’s life, I am going to create an app that aims to find a solution around this issue.

THE RESEARCH

In order to gather more information on this topic, I went out and did 5 interviews. In order to gain insight from a wider perspective, my interviewee includes young fresh graduates, recent first time home owners as well as long time home owners. First and foremost, there was no surprise that 100% of the interviewee felt that the price is very high. However, one thing that standout out from the result is that most interviewee did not feel that a price adjustment is coming in the near future.

To further verify this finding as well as gaining more insight from this direction, I created a survey and received 22 responses.

With 84.2% of the people surveyed voting for an uptrend in the house market for the next 5 years, it’s a strong indicator about the confidence Torontonians have in the local housing market.

The above question in the survey confirms that the only issue that is holding Torontonian back from buying their first home is money at this point. Confidence is a non-issue all together.

With this insight that I’ve gain from the survey, I decided that what I could focus on tackling the money issue that most people are facing. Within the survey I also have a number of questions focusing on current home owners. Even though they are not exactly the demographic I was focusing on in this case study, there should be things that we could learn from these success stories of people who were able to achieve their goal as home owner.

Of the the methods in gaining the financial power to be a home owner, good old traditional savings still seems to be the most popular and highly effective choice. With this insight, I decided to create an application that helps Torontonians save up for their first home.

Looking around the market, there are abundance of saving applications to help people manage their finances.

While all these applications excels in one way or the other, one of the things that all these applications lack is in the area of goal visualisation. For example, when you set out a goal for saving up for a home, all you get is a number that represents your process on screen, without getting a visual sense of what you are actually saving for. With this in mind I set out to begin the design process around this concept.

THE DESIGN

The principle persona for my application will be someone around 30, has been living with parents for most of the life. She would be employed, has a positive outlook to the house market, very motivated to saving up for her dream home but is not sure whether she has done enough to achieve that. Due to the confidence issue, beside the progress visualisation, I also include coaching/recommendations in the MVP for this application.

With persona and my feature bucket defined. I then move on to a basic work flow of the application and sketch out some rough wire frames on paper.

Here are a few of my sketches of version 00 wire frames.

During this time I have the luxury of conducting a basic usability test to iron out some of the preliminary problem before I go on any further.

Link to Paper prototype: https://marvelapp.com/29ef5hc

At this point I begin transferring all the paper wire frames into Sketch to enable a more proper prototyping. And this is when version 01 was born. It remains a low fidelity wire frame in order to focus on the content and structure.

THE PROTOTYPE VERSION 01

Link to prototype version 01: https://invis.io/N5C03NQDG#/237078432_Splash_Screen

And then I put version 01 through its pace on the InVision. To no surprise at all I come back with more usability problems.

The wordings I have chosen to use in the app still causes a lot of confusion. Even though I stated to the tester that this is an application to help saving money of dream home, all test comes back confused with the words like “Goal” and phrase like “How much time do we have”
The layout and the call to action areas clearly need improving. I’ve notice that user tends to stare at the sign-in and setup screens much longer than they should. Even though my task to them clearly states “please sign up as new user”, all tested going right into areas intended for existing user. User also have a hard time deciding what to do with the upload picture area as well as the tab bar underneath the setup screens.
The design of some of the icons also needs to be clarified. In the expense entering section of the setup screens, I’ve used a circle with an “i” to indicate an area where user needs to go in to enter more information. However, it was mistaken by on of the tester as “optional information” area didn’t act upon it.
Since it’s a low fidelity prototype at this point, I did not have any colour or pictures in my wire frames. However, tester was unable to evaluate the visualisation aspect of this app.

At this point, I felt that in order to properly test out an validate the design, I needed to take it a step further and create a mid-fidelity prototype. With the increase in fidelity, I felt that it’s also the right time to give the app a name.

THE NAME

When I was choosing the name, I gone back to study the persona I created. Couple of the brand that my persona is affinity to are Lululemon and Tesla. These name are simple, easy to remember and trendy. Therefore I try to stick to this principle and avoid long and cumbersome names like “You need a budget” (one of the apps in my c/c analysis). I would like the name to be positive and uplifting, so that it’s in sync with the encouraging theme of this app. After some brain storming I decided to name the app…

With the naming out of the way, I moved forward to create a mid-fidelity prototype. And I also took this opportunity trying to iron out the problems I discovered in the first round of usability test on version 01.

PROTOTYPE VERSON 02

Link to prototype version 02: https://invis.io/93C7G5NHC#/239224375_Splash_Screen

IMPROVEMENTS ON VERISON 02

The label “Current User” has been added on top of the ID entry to indicate that this field is only for current users to sign-in.
“Setting X of X” has been added to all setting screen so that user have an idea where they are in the setup process.
A picture for visualisation has been added to the progress screen. Process is shown using color. In this example. 25% of the saving process is completed, therefore only 25% of the visualisation will be in color. Showing you the whole picture of the dream home is aim to give user encouragement (CARROT), and discolouring the unachieved process could be view as the “stick” to push user to keep moving forward.

Another round of usability testing was done base on this version 02. While some area did show improvements in usability, other areas remains a pain point for the testers. On top those, there are other, deeper level problems arise in this round of usability testing.

The sign-up issue remains despite the extra labelling. User still not able to complete this task of signing up as new user on the first try. Failure rate is an astonishing 100%.
Testers still not able to get through this set of setup screen smoothly, spending too much time than they should
Some tester point out that they feel the Done button in the wrong place.
This home screen has been confusion for some testers. One tester point out that since he just got from the setup screen to this screen and has been entering information into the app all these time, he though he still need to enter more information when he get to this screen. There was no indication that at the point the app is starting to give user feedback instead.
The arrows and pointer keep drawing the testers try to move and slide it, when in fact these are only indicators depending on your saving process and cannot be moved arbitrarily.
One tester commended on this flow from the main screen. He felt there was too much back and forth when going through the app, and the home screen does not serve much purpose for him.

After usability test round 2, there is still a lot of things that needs to be ironed out and that’s to be expected. However, another fundamental issue arises. Couple of tester commented, “Why is this app only limited to saving for home and not other things as well?” It is at this point when I started to look back at the app, and realized that at it’s current state, it hasn’t offer features that specifically benefit home buyers. One thing lacking in my initial research is comparing the needs of saving for a home vs the needs of saving for something else.

This realization drives me right into a crossroad at this point. Do I change the direction of CARROT and make it a generic saving app for everything ; or do I go back to do more interviews and surveys to identify the pain points focusing on home buyers alone? Initally, I have set out to create something that makes Toronto a better place to live, and I think I owe all the people who helped me in the interviews and surveys for a solution on this. I have decided to put more time to understand this issue and hope I could ultimately do something to ease the pain for all the potential home buyers. However I have now used up all the time Red Academy has provided me and have to conclude this case study at this point. But stay tuned as I will keep working on this project whenever I have time.

TBC……….

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