Most real estate solutions today are built for the agent, not the buyer (or seller). This more than often leaves a buyer feeling overshadowed by a poor home buying experience. Nuhom is a platform created to empower the user in the daunting journey of buying and owning a home.
A new kind of home buying experience
When I was approached by Nuhom's founders, they had a bold vision for a new way to empower homebuyers in a ruthless market. They were already operating with a landing page and a small but steady client pipeline.
They were ready to take the next step and invest in new tools and services, and were looking for a Product Designer to help direct the future of the Nuhom experience.
Where to begin?
I was clueless about the real estate industry, but I understood ecommerce very well, and like ecomm, this was a transactional experience (home buying/selling) for users (homebuyers), albeit a much more emotional one with many more avenues.
There were different stages the user would be living in: researching (learning about home owning, getting a feel for prices, etc.), browsing and favoriting a limited-stock product catalog (searching for homes), considering additional features (contingencies, insurances, etc.) and finally moving through a checkout funnel (submitting an offer on a home).
That is all a BIG oversimplification, but maybe you get the point.
Their scope was massive, moving from a humble landing page to a new experience robust with novel features, tools, and experiences the rest of the industry wasn't tackling well. I had to comprehend their goals, the varying personas our new products helped, the problems they were trying to solve, who the competitors were, what differentiated Nuhom, and some semblance of a timeline, among other things; and then I had to take a moment to breathe and convey the concept of MVPs and version iterating to set realistic expectations.
Who are we working with?
I needed to understand Nuhom's clients. I didn't have access to them first-hand, but I did have the founders, who were both seller and buyer agents, and had worked directly with clients for years. I also had a handful of friends and neighbors who were first-time homeowners, recently going through the process themselves. After a series of interviews and conversations with our target audience, I was able to lead us in a persona creation workshop, and come up with a few examples spanning a dozen important traits and variables.
Once we had personas, we workshopped and mapped out the site and its nuanced experiences. Search, education, home touring, pre-approval and lender applying, selling, creating offers, account dashboard, calculators, and many, many others. Getting an idea of how users would move around the more focused experiences helped us all visualize what our personas needed and where they could get stuck, even at the "happy path" level like this:
Let's make a long story short
We built out a site map, user journeys, and, with the insights we'd gained from the previously mentioned research, loose wireframes and interactive prototypes using Sketch and Invision. I'd love to share those with you but they're currently under NDA lock & key. After a couple months, we'd gotten far enough to have some fleshed out experiences that resonated with what our users would need.
Then everything came to a halt.
We came to understand that we weren't going to start with the traction we needed for this to be successful. What we were building was the ultimate goal for empowering buyers, but we didn't have as much of one key element as we'd thought we would to make that possible: seller buy-in.
After understanding that we wouldn't have the seller base we thought we'd have, we decided to pivot. Fortunately we hadn't committed to developing anything yet, and the prototypes we'd built so far aided in our epiphany.
We start over! (and get back to a long story)
Sort of. Our efforts were by no means fruitless. The experience we'd built is something we'll be able to come back to later, and knowing where we wanted to go once we cultivated a larger seller base was extremely helpful. It was stepping backward to move forward.
The new goal was to court seller agents with a platform that would encourage them to list with us first,. As the Nuhom founders were both agents themselves, I again had plentiful access to our users via their network, and was able to sort out and prioritize pain points with them. The largest was the lack of organizational tools agents had at their fingertips to keep track of every listing and the nuances of a listing's details and buyer interest. To my surprise, it was a modern-presenting field with extremely antiquated tools.
With an idea of how to serve sellers, based on moderated interviews and surveys, we began to accumulate and curate ideas for the features and tools that would make a difference in their lives, and how we'd differentiate ourselves from the tools they were already familiar with.
Clean dashboard interfaces with easy-to-read reporting details was the high-level goal to solve of our users' problems. Our research told us what details were worthwhile for reporting and how users wanted to view them. Cleaning up the interface and making reporting more useful was valuable to our audience, but I knew it might not be enough to pull them away from the tools they had already formed a habit and familiarity with. That's why "making life easier" for them wasn't good enough for V1, and we decided to include other important features to increase the likelihood of adoption early on.
Facilitated by the reporting and organization of a better modern dashboard, this platform would let seller agents more easily accept, reject, and document buyer offers all in the same place. It would also allow them to better facilitate communication with buyer agents through the process, a boon to buyer agents that would also plant the seeds of appealing to them before we approach them as the next target audience. Along with several other features we believe are new to the industry's process, we had a good idea of what V1 needed to be to gain traction.
We broke the tools and details down to simple individual containers, to visualize how it could turn out, and grew it from there.
We filled in the blanks, iterating on different ideas and came out with a V1 concept we were happy with. Some of the vision shows in these WIP mocks.
I'll show you what I mean below.
Look and feel
When the founders asked me to explore the brand, I tried to understand how I wanted this product, as a whole experience, to feel. We were trying to change the way buyers and sellers handled their homes. For most people, this is a very emotional transaction, and one that they may only make a couple times in their lives. I needed it to feel like the positive concepts of walking into a new home that most people imagine. I needed it to feel warm, inviting, safe, and tranquil; adjectives that aren't typically used to describe the home buying/selling experience itself.
My first concept was "morning light splashing on walls through warm curtains."
I found some images that captured that and extracted the colors from them.
This pallet didn't end up working for me. Some of the color combinations were bright and fun, or on the earthen adobe side of warm, which was attractive, but not quite the feeling I was trying to impart.
I wasn't done with the feeling of light and warm spaces, so the next concept was "afternoon light splashing on walls in neutral, lived-in environments."
I went through the same process and was much more pleased with what I'd extracted. I knew immediately that these were too saturated, but I could see how, if we were to soften them up and cherry pick the right ones for the right feelings, we could be on to something here.
I applied some of Concept 2's colors to the background of these "filter" wireframes to act as the home's wall, and others to the elements to act as the home's accents. These designs aren't final, but our testers agreed they each convey a warm, lived-in feeling in their own way.
Judging by user feedback and our own thoughts on how the site should feel, we ended up going with the green, albeit somewhat different from what you see above.
Our users noted how the slightly warm background and green accents reminded them of some of their favorite places in their homes, and for some, it made them think of the potential favorite places in their future homes.
In either case, it was a warm, well-lit room with plants.