New New York — fostering relationships and safe environments for roommate-seeking millennials

Feb 4, 2018 · 7 min read


My goal was to design a mobile product experience that appeals to millennials and allows them to browse roommates and apartments in New York with a sense of security. This challenge is particularly aimed at specifying the interface design and feature ideation process.



More millennials are seeking opportunity in or near cities. More than half of the world’s populations now live in cities and towns. By 2030, this number will be 5 billion. This project will primarily target millennials who have earned their university degree and are moving to New York. Millennials are any persons who are reaching their young adulthood in the early 21st century, born between late 80s and early 00s.


Urbanization. Movement of new businesses to urban centers offers career development opportunities.

Cost of living. Increase in demand for living spaces due to the increase of people relocating to urban centers.

Community. Changes to housing styles to accommodate age groups of individuals moving into neighborhoods.


  • Building better home environments starting with the people living together.
  • Strengthen community by connecting harmonious lifestyles and living situations.
  • Provide the opportunity for rewarding relationships.


Millennial living situations

  • The cost of living alone in New York City for a typical renter takes 34.3% of income, millennials 33.8%.
  • More than 20% of them live with roommates.
  • 60% of millennials in America now either live with parents, siblings, other relatives or roommates.

Advantages of mobile

  • Nielsen shows that 98% of millennials aged 18–24 own smartphones.
  • Those between 25–34 have a 97% ownership rate.
  • Those in Generation X between 35–44 years old are at 96%.
  • People spend ~3–5 hours on smartphones daily, with more than 90% of that time on apps.


I asked a few friends what they considered to be the most important factors in finding a new roommate and place to live. They were in their early twenties and have been through the roommate-finding process before, during and after college.

Welcoming common area.
They expressed that they’d like to have a living room where they could relax, watch TV, and have a few friends over to socialize. They wanted to “chill on the weekends” at home after work.

Price and size.
Of course how affordable a place is determines whether they’ll be able to live there. Getting the right deal for their space is a huge factor.

Setting expectations.
Being forward and honest about roommate and living expectation. They would like to find accommodating or complimentary lifestyles.


Competitor and Comparative Analysis

There are plenty of competitors in the same market. However, there is a call for interfaces that encourage conversations about expectations. There should be more communication between potential roommates to understand what the interaction will look like before committing.

Many use Craigslist to post available housing and room availabilities. There is no standard format for the roommate description, giving users freedom to write whatever they feel is important. There are posts that have detailed roommate and housing descriptions, but the majority focus on amenities.

Facebook similarly does not have a standard format for users to describe their available room or themselves as a roommate. It’s interface focuses more on the experience of browsing housing than the experience of finding roommates. Posts about available housing are 3 times more likely to receive comments and likes, whereas posts about only seeking a roommate have little to no activity.

Insights for Facebook and Craigslist

  • Focus on housing and room availabilities
  • Open-ended roommate description (if considered)
  • Unspecified post by potential roommate or landlord

Roomi allows people to post availabilities and listings for needed roommates. Their search field includes Region, Neighborhood, Move-in Date, Duration, and Price Range. Their public profiles include photo, occupation, FB, integration, details, questionnaire, and interests.

Insights for Roomi

  • Given ability to browse before creating profile
  • Focuses on housing more than finding roommates
  • No isolated way of browsing roommates

Key Design Decisions

First interaction between strangers standardized as an icebreaker quiz: Efficient process of reaching out with predetermined questions encourages responses.

Second interaction between strangers is flexible: message or meeting: Opening introductions gives the idea of starting an in-person conversation.

Encourage period of reflection after meeting with potential roommate: Follow up survey after meeting has passed.

Become Roommates To have a matched roommate, you are able to request to be roommates after completing a questionnaire or after scheduled meetings.

Feature Ideation

I looked at the onboarding process, messaging system, and social verification process when exploring features. After brainstorming the possibilities and features, I decided to primarily tackle the onboarding process and messaging system. The final feature choices were driven by insights gleaned from my interviews with roommate-seeking millennials.

Final Feature Choices
Gamification: Social Verification

Gamification: Social Verification
I played around with the idea of awarding badges based on how many endorsements users receive from their peers and are reviewed by New New York. There is a baby, adult, and expert (The New Yorker played a role in incorporating a top hat).

The baby level has 0 reviews, adult has 3–5 reviews, and the expert has 5+ reviews. The levels of endorsements is presented on their profile as a testament to their greatness as a roommate. These badges incentivize users to receive a substantial number of endorsements in order to strengthen their social verification.

Elicit Concrete Interaction
I asked how I could use technology to leverage concrete interactions outside of the application. I wanted to encourage users to meet outside of the virtual space at the press of a button. The three types of interactions I imagined were ‘Set Up a Meeting, ‘Grab a Coffee’, and ‘Hop on a Call’. These options would be integrated into the messaging keyboard for accessibility.

Social Verification and Connectivity
Millennials are plugged in, with a great online presence through social media. Profiles will surface important information such as age, gender identification, occupation, habits, interests, and roommate expectations. This is further verified through links to social handles and websites of their choice, which is intended for a variety of professionals and impressions.

User Process Flow

I illustrated the following flows for creating a roommate account and sending messages or introductions after two rounds of revisions to original sketches. This helped me understand and consider the outcomes of each pathway when designing screens.

Screen Flows

Success Metrics

In the event of its development, I considered ways in which the app would be able to generate users and make an impact on roommate-seeking millennials.

  • Increase in number of matched roommates, messaging activity
  • Increase in number of new signups, roommate and landlord
  • Increase in percentage of sessions generated by users
  • Increase in number of daily active users will increase cost per ad, increase revenue

Interface Design Process


Onboarding Process

Messages for Roommates

Messages for Housing


Pixels are building blocks towards a sound interface design

I put more effort towards refining the details in the interface design process as well as the features that would facilitate roommate matches. Besides iteration, being meticulous with numbers and spacing kept my designs organized. Lesson: accuracy and consistency create a sound interface.

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