07.31.20
five Rounds of Research

Home Buyer Portal

Our team designed & built a progressive web application for a home building company that allowed customers to track the progress of their home's construction, as well as to keep track of the tasks required of them throughout the process.

At a glance

16 weeks
3 rounds of customer research
37 customer interviews
2 rounds of employee research
10 employee interviews

Our Internal team

Team Lead
UX Researcher (me)
Visual Designer
Development Team

Our client team

Chief Information Officer
SVP Operations
VP Marketing
Director of Information Systems

PROJECT OVERVIEW

Planning & facilitating research to inform a brand new customer portal

Our company was chosen to design & build a brand new progressive web application for a national home builder. They wanted to create an online portal for customers to track build progress & manage their tasks (to-do list). Our client had never been exposed to UX research before, so they had to be guided throughout the project to understand the value it provides. This project also had to be done 100% remotely due to the pandemic.

My Role
As the lone researcher on the project, my first responsibility was to provide my internal team a foundational understanding of the entire homebuilding process from both the customer & employee perspectives to inform initial concept directions. Next, I planned and facilitated a usability study to inform design decisions prior to the release of our MVP. To inform future releases, I co-created customer 'tasks' & realistic content with employees, and then evaluated the design of the task lists with customers.  

Photo by Annie Gray on Unsplash

research objectives

I planned and executed 5 rounds of research, each tailored to the current needs our of team:

Foundational Employee 
Discover gaps in core team’s knowledge, understand the end-to-end service, understand employee pain points

Foundational Customer
Understand the customer journey, prioritize features based  on customer value, receive customer feedback on initial design directions

Evaluate MVP
Evaluate the usability of mobile designs of our MVP in 7 key scenarios, explore customer preferences about mobile vs. desktop,

Employee Co-Design
Collaborate with employees to create a realistic list of tasks & content to test with customers

Evaluate Future Release
Evaluate the usability of 'tasks' & 'notifications' (which were planned for the next release), measure customer preferences related to systematic completion of tasks

Round 1 - Foundational employee

Building our team's understanding of the entire home-building service

Objectives
Our internal team needed to gain a solid understanding of the entire end-to-end home building service, as well as challenges employees face. At first, the senior executives we were working with were skeptical about talking to employees because they believed that they knew exactly how everything worked in their company. However, I was able to convince them to allow us to conduct some stakeholder interviews just in case they had some knowledge gaps (they did).

Methodology
I facilitated 5 group interview sessions with employees from each part of the organization: sales, design, construction, financing, and closing. I built employee journeys in real-time using Miro while sharing my screen & facilitating the conversation.

I invited my internal team and the client team to listen to these conversations so that our entire working team shared the same foundational understanding of the home-building process.

Outcomes
Our client team discovered some gaps in their understanding about their current processes by listening into our conversations. I built a service blueprint to visualize the entire home-building process and highlight the biggest pain points from the employee perspective. I was also able to gather informational pdfs and communication templates that employees send to customers today to inform our designs.

round 2 - foundational customer

Understand the customer journey & explore how a portal could improve their experience

Objectives
Next, I planned & facilitated research to understand the customer journey of financing, designing, building, and closing on a home. We also wanted to have customers prioritize potential features to understand what would be most important to them in the portal. Lastly, we wanted to get some customer reactions to some design concepts to validate our initial design direction.

Methodology
We recruited 6 client customers, and 6 competitor customers with mixed demographics who all had built a home in the last 6 months. All participants were given a homework assignment aimed at eliciting memories throughout their home-building experience. We created groups of 3 participants for each session, but I provided each participant with an individual Miro board with activities to complete on their own, followed by sharing with the larger group.

Activities included: identifying stressful or confusing moments in their journey, prioritizing potential features into a bullseye, and placing 'stickers' onto initial designs to mark what they liked, disliked, or were confused about.

I invited my team lead & visual designer to attend the sessions, and we held debrief sessions after each day. I also recorded all the sessions and shared them with our client team.

Outcomes
We identified key opportunities for the portal to provide value throughout the customer's journey. We prioritized a set of potential features to include in the MVP release. We also got some customer feedback on initial design directions, such as: having both a task list and a to-do list was confusing, suggested articles seemed spammy, and a list of all potential design decisions would be valuable.

round 3 -MVP evaluative research

Informing MVP design decisions

Objectives
Our foundational customer research informed the design of our MVP, but now we needed to test the usability of the designs before the development team started building components. We also needed to explore customers' preferences about notifications & devices.

Methodology
We recruited 12 participants with mixed demographics who had purchased a home within the past 6 months. I had everyone download GoToMeeting on their phones prior to the session so that we could simulate them using the site on their phone without any technical difficulties. I collaborated with our visual designer to create a clickable prototype in Figma that covered 7 key scenarios.

I moderated individual usability sessions by providing them 7 task-based scenarios that were most critical to a good experience. Once again, I invited our visual designer and team lead to observe the sessions, and we had debriefs after each day.

Lastly, I created a survey to measure customers' preferences about notifications on different devices, as well as notification frequency.

Outcomes
We found quite a few issues with our MVP, so I collaborated with our team lead and visual designer to quickly iterate on our designs to bake in the customer feedback. The survey also informed decisions about how to customize notification preferences.

round 4- Employee co-creation

Co-creating the task list with employees

Objectives
Now that the MVP was all buttoned up and ready for development, we focused our energy towards designing future releases, which mainly involved creating a 'task list' for customers. Our client team wasn't able to provide us with an accurate list of all the tasks that customers are currently required to complete throughout the process. Instead coming up with tasks on our own, we decided to co-create these tasks with the employees who currently assign these tasks to the customer today.

Methodology
I facilitated 5 group interview sessions with employees from each part of the organization: sales, design, construction, financing, and closing. I created specific worksheets for them to fill out to define: what tasks should be present in the portal, what the task should be called, what are the instructions, when in the task due, and what materials should be attached to the task.

Outcomes
By the end of all the sessions, we had a long list of realistic tasks, descriptions, and due dates to test with customers.

round 5 - Evaluate future release

Informing design decisions for future releases

Objectives
The last round of research was to ensure that we nailed the design of the customer 'task list'. We incorporated the ideas and content generated from the employee co-design sessions into a clickable prototype.

Methodology
We recruited 12 participants with mixed demographics who had purchased a home within the past 6 months. I collaborated with our visual designer to create a clickable prototype in Figma that covered 7 key scenarios.

I moderated individual usability sessions by providing them 7 task-based scenarios with realistic 'tasks' they would have to complete during their home building process. Once again, I invited our visual designer and team lead to observe the sessions, and we had debriefs after each day.

Outcomes
This study led to tons of discussion with our client executive team. Basically, we learned that customers expected the system to notify them when a task was marked complete. However, this was not feasible today due to poor business processes that lead to inaccurate data in backend systems. Because of this research, they decided to change & enforce new business processes in order to create a 'task list' that matched customers' expectations.

"Surround yourself with people who know what you don't know. Become enticed by the unknown." - Linda B. Smith

© 2020 Braden King