UX Case Study: A faster, smarter way to create property listing descriptions

Lindie Botes ✦
8 min readDec 28, 2021

99.co is a Singaporean property search portal that enables property agents to create listings and connect with property seekers. As the product designer on the agent team, I worked closely with my PM, backend dev and SEO lead to build a value-adding feature that instantly generates listing descriptions for agents.

What was the problem we had to solve?

Property agents are rushed for time and often don’t want to write comprehensive listing descriptions. When agents create listings, they spend lots of time researching the development and nearby amenities to include in the description. Property seekers also complained that listings do not have descriptions that are useful for them.

We needed to find a way to encourage agents to write more comprehensive descriptions for their listings so that property seekers can have a better browsing experience.

Our hypothesis

If we create a value-adding feature within the listing creation process that does not exist on our competitor portals, we hypothesized that agents would choose our portal as their first point of creating listings, bringing up our portal’s overall listing volume.

Uncomprehensive vs comprehensive listing descriptions on our site

For agents who do create listings organically, but don’t spend time on comprehensive listing descriptions, the feature would need to speed up their listing creation process and encourage better descriptions.

The solution: Smart Description 📝

Smart Description lives within the listing creation form and automatically generates a rich description with relevant property information such as amenities and project info from our backend, with the click of a button. We released it on mobile and web, so agents can use it on the go or on their computers.

Smart Description flow (mobile)

By auto-populating information that agents would search for and write anyway, the time they spend writing descriptions is reduced and they can focus on what matters — getting and responding to leads. Agents also have the option to edit the text or add in key features specific to the unit they are marketing.

SEO is an important factor for our company as it makes up a key part of our traffic, bringing in users who subsequently bring in leads to agents. By making sure the description contains keywords that property seekers use when searching, we are able to kill two birds with one stone and bring more traffic to the site via the descriptions.

Content structure (web)

Previously, the description text field was hidden in multiple pages on desktop and in an “additional details” page on app. After creating a single page for the listing form and surfacing the desription on the main page without additional steps, and then introducing a 1-click generated description, the time agents spent creating desriptions went down from an average of 10 to 2 minutes.

How did we get to the solution?

Validating the problem through user research

After extensive surveys and user interviews to understand what the main reason for agents to create listings on other portals instead of ours was, we learned that 20% of agents found creating a description the hardest part of the listing creation flow.

They mentioned that it takes them too much time, as they may look at a competitor’s listing to copy keywords, or Google the location of their property to find nearby schools and amenities.

“I just write some nonsense for the description. I will write more descriptive text when I’m on a laptop”

From our surveys, we noticed agents seemed to be asking for something that speeds up their process of creating listing descriptions:

  • Please get some AI to auto generate description. If the user wants to customize, then they can do so on their own”
  • “Create standard description templates. It will lessen typing and hassles of spelling errors”
  • “It would be good to provide a description template, so we can make appropriate changes to make them unique”

Design exploration

Entry points

I started with considering different entry points. We could not rework the entire listing creation flow with this feature, nor did we have time for a big marketing launch, so a simple banner had to bring awareness within the flow.

Exploring entry points that can gauge user interest

To validate the feature before development, we originally planned to have a test banner with “try it” as a CTA that will track taps and potential user interest before building the feature. However, being short on time (startup life!), we scrapped this and went straight to building the MVP.

Key features

From our research, we learnt that differentiation is very important to agents in a cutthroat real estate industry. Agents were afraid of having similar descriptions from others, so we needed to give them a way to quickly add differentiating features to their descriptions (such as “city view” or “high ceiling”.

My project manager and I looked at current state listings by agents to understand common formats and styles to write descriptions. Agents prefer short, quick bullet points rather than intricate descriptions. By having a key features section where agents can quickly tap a button to automatically select a key feature and have it show up in the text, we are improving on an already existing behavior.

I explored various ways of allowing users to add key features, such as icon buttons that lead into a subsection, or table rows that open a list. In the end, I took the fastest route, which is a drawer containing all quick selections upfront, to save page space and be visible at all times.

Medium fidelity mockups exploring how users can choose key features

Mapping out the flows

As this feature is backend-heavy, I spent a lot of time mapping out user flows for desktop and mobile. These indicate where the entry points are, what type of information is pulled from the backend, what happens when an agent cancels a flow, and when and where agents can fill in extra information.

Mapping out all the flows and states on iOS

🤔 Constraints

Lack of time

As we were pressed for time, we couldn’t test with many users before releasing, and chose to do a soft launch and use data tracking to see whether agents were using the feature, and then interview them after. As such, I decided to workshop the Smart Description feature with the larger design team to get some outside perspectives.

Brainstorming placing smart description on a separate popup or within the flow on web

A fix from usability testing

We made Smart Description optional to still allow agents who prefer writing their own descriptions the choice to do so. As such, the entry point to Smart Description was designed as a banner above the regular description text box.

During the first round of usability testing, many agents ignored the gray banner. When changing the banner from gray to blue, the visibility increased by 100% in the next usability test, where all agents were able to locate and use it.

The second version of the banner significantly increased the click-through rate

Technical constraints

Our devs did not have a lot of time to work on the feature, so we had to launch the MVP with limited editing access for agents. Originally, I would have wanted agents to be able to edit the text right after it was generated, but technical limitations meant we had to build it that agents could only add key features via multiple selection for the first release, and edit the text after pressing “use this description” on web.

Smart Description popup on the desktop web listing creation flow

🤓 How was it received?

After two weeks of a soft launch without any marketing efforts, 30% of all active listings were created using Smart Description. 90% of agents interviewed after the release said they use Smart Description every time they create a listing. Agents provided positive feedback in interviews post-release:

“I thought it was quite fast. It’s very convenient for me because I don’t like to write my content”

“I like this feature so much. It gives me new ideas which I never thought of and changed the content of what I used to write!”

“I don’t have to crack my brain to think of a creative description or eye-catching words”

🔍 Post-release research

A few weeks after the release, we noticed the usage of Smart Description was dropping. Quantitative data will tell you this is happening, but won’t tell you why. I wanted to determine why agents who use Smart Description once have dropped off to not use it again, so I decided to run a round of user interviews with agents who regularly use Smart Description on all listings, and with those who seemed to use it once and never again.

An interesting point

It turns out that those who seemed to drop off were actually using the same template we provided and then copy-pasting it into other listings, bypassing the entry point (and our data point). They were still using the feature, just not in the way we expected!

Collating agent feedback regarding Smart Description to uncover opportunities for improvements

📝 Main takeaway

Add value first, fix broken windows later. Originally, I wanted to rework the entire listing creation flow, tackling broken windows we knew that we needed to fix. However, by adding a value-adding feature before reworking the flow completely, we were able to get more agents who wanted to try out the feature and use our portal as their listing platform of choice. Thereafter, we could continue working on fixes within the listing creation flow to a larger, more satisfied user base.

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Lindie Botes ✦

Exploring the intersection of languages & design. UI/UX designer & Masters student in Japanese Aesthetics. Multilingual language enthusiast. www.lindiebotes.com