Housing.com (Case study) — Customer Search Experience Improvement


The design challenge was to discover problems in the current search experience and design a solution prototype.

Design Process:

The entire process of this exercise has been gone through to the 4 stages:

  1. Defining User Persona
  2. Usability Testing Session
  3. Problems Finding
  4. Solution Prototype

1. User Persona

To begin this exercise, the first thing I had to start with is defining user persona. This user persona should be closer to the target audience of housing.com. So that I could test the current search experience and discover problems.

Take a glance at the real persona’s - demographics, pain points and, the goals:

User Persona — Bhavna Sharma

2. Usability Testing

Now, I had successfully defined the user persona and was ready to proceed with the usability testing exercise.

A) Task Scenario:

Usability testing is a task driven exercise, where the usability analyst narrates a scenario to the tester to help in getting into that situation to perform the given task.

Scenario: Assume that recently you got a job offer from one of the reputed company in Gurgaon and now you will have to travel from Delhi to Gurgaon around 4–5 hours everyday. Now you are thinking of relocating to Gurgaon and suddenly one of your friend suggested you a website Housing.com. Where you can explore some rent properties and can easily connect with the contact person to proceed with further formalities.
Task to perform:
1. Access www.housing.com from your desktop.
2. Find the best suitable rent properties in Gurgaon.

B) Testing Recording

This testing session was recorded using Silverback software to capture the entire user’s journey, pain-points and expressions (satisfaction, confusion or dissatisfaction).

Usability Testing Exercise Performing by Bhavna Sharma

C) Testing Observations

User has taken 10 minutes to accomplish a task and there are several other points I have observed during this testing as following:

Observations During Usability Testing

D) Post Testing Q&A

Most of time user skips many important areas in the flow during testing and understand things differently. It’s quite important to discover those areas through post testing Q&A round. Take a glance at the questions and answers given by the user as following:

Q1. What is your first preference to begin your search with? (Buy/ Rent option -OR- city / location)
Ans. I prefer to start with location first, because Rent / Buy option is already pre-defined in my mind and, I am clear that I’m going to search for Rent.
Q2. What do you mean by the popular location you used during the search?
Ans. I think users have searched maximum in those places.
Q3. Was popular location helpful?
Ans. I don’t think so, because every user has very specific location in his/her mind to proceed with. I used it because i was not getting results.
Q4. What were those most important keywords to begin your search with?
Ans. Location/City, Rooms and Budget.
Q5. What were those most important keywords in your mind to refine your search?
Ans. Availabilities, Property Type, Amenities, Security/ Safety and Near by places.
Q6. Additional filters were useful in search?
Ans. Yes, but frustrating when i didn’t find any results after adding it.
Q7. Was map-view useful in search results?
Ans. No.
Q8. Did you find sorting options in search results?
Ans. No.
Q9. Did you find filter options in search results?
Ans. No.
Q10. Why you didn’t explore rent properties using city specific page?
Ans. Sorry, I didn’t find any such page.
Q11. How was the overall search experience?
Ans. Average.
Q12. Anything you were missing that should be there in the flow?
A. Yes, I was missing users rating option to filter my result.

3. Problems Finding

Based on usability testing and contextual inquiry the number of problems, I discovered as following:

Problem #1:

Landing Page:- Purpose of the city selection over a layer is to prepare a city driven homepage. Which is not matching to the user’s mental model, for user it’s just one of the option to begin the search.

Problem #2:

Landing Page:- User’s mental model is pre-defined to fulfil his/her requirement through search, hence city driven page fills no purpose for the user.

Problem #3:

Search + City Selection:- Major disconnection between search, city and rent/buy options. Since these all are search elements for the user, hence should be at one place.

Problem #4:

Search:- Popular & Recommended localities in search not fulfilling any purpose due to 2 reasons:
1) Popular localities means to user is highly searched localities, which could be different from user’s search criteria?
2) Recommendation only makes value when system has some existing data from the user to recommend?

Problem #5:

Search + Filters:- Additional filters in the search (before the results) increasing the chances of showing low OR no result. Which is leading user to:
1) Frustration in case of 0 result.
2) Spend lot of efforts and time.
3) Build negative impression of not capable of fulfilling his/her request by the product.

Problem #6:

Results Page:- User unable easily discover the sorting and filter options to refine his/her results.

Problem #7:

Results Page:- Filter and sorting options are not easily discoverable for the user, which are most importance substance of search to refine user’s results.

Problem #8:

Results Page > Map-view:- Right side of the page has been used for displaying Map-view. Which is not making any important value to the user, hence should be used for something valuable and important information.

4. Solution Prototype

I have re-designed the entire search experience as per the user’s mental model and the expectation. The softwares I have used for designing wireframe is Sketch App and for creating click-through prototype is InVision App.

You may please click on the below prototype link / card to explore the improved search experience.

Link: https://invis.io/MRN3J8ED32V

Note: This concept prototype has been designed based on just 1 user persona.

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