UX|UI Case study · 9 min read

Improving the home
repair marketplace

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RepairMate

Overview

The challenge

Part of Flatiron UX/UI boot camp, our team has been asked to assess the full end-to-end customer journey of the home repairs process to build a marketplace that connects millennials with local tradespeople and brings ease, transparency, and control to the users.

The problem

In United Kingdom, millennial homeowners and renters report difficulty in finding reliable and affordable tradespeople, and they lack DIY skills.

My role

I was involved in the research, synthesis, ideation, prototyping and testing the web design, preparing annotations for handoff, and presenting our weekly progress to our instructors.

The team

Casian Pascu (UX/UI)
Charles Edwards (UX/UI)
Gary Herelle (UX)

Tools used

Adobe XD
Adobe Illustrator
Adobe Photoshop
Milanote
Flow Mapp

Deliverables

Domain Research
Competitive Analysis
User Interviews
User Personas
Annotated Wireframes
High Fidelity Prototypes
Usability Tests

The approach

We had four weeks to design a new platform from scratch for the target users, and we started by surveying the users to find out what device they use when looking for tradespeople. The desktop was winning, followed very close by mobile.

Following the Design Thinking method, we started by empathising with the user to find the problems they face, synthesising the findings, ideating to solve those problems, and testing the prototypes before the handoff.

Research

User Interviews

What users said

To start our research, we spoke to tenants and landlords to find out more regarding their behaviour in these types of situations, as well as the main pain points they face in resolving repair issues.

“I usually wait a long time for a reply from my landlord,
as they have multiple properties to look after.”

“I can never reach my landlord over the phone,
so I have to send an email if there’s anything I need.”

“If anything breaks in the property,
I go directly to my landlord.”

10 tenants interviewed

What Tenants Said

Property issues are reported to their landlords/agents

Often miscommunication with property managers

Long waiting times to get a reply from property managers and to fix the problem

What homeowners Said

Slow communication between them, the estate agents, and tenants

They have trusted tradespeople from previous jobs

Trying to avoid being disturbed at inconvenient times by tenants

“I’ve known my trade guys for years so we’ve
built up a mutual understanding and trust.”

“It’s important to keep my distance with my tenants,
as I don’t want them ringing me late at night.”

“I use a lettings agent who contacts me
if there’s a problem. They’re useless though!”

5 landlords interviewed

Surveys

Defining the target user

We sent out various surveys, and we realised that we need to narrow down our target user. 100% of tenants participating in our surveys say they contact their property manager when something needs fixing in their homes.

We focused on millennial renters with no DIY knowledge because of time constraints but keeping in mind the rest of the parties as well.

The discovery

A long-winded process

Many parties are involved in the actual process from the moment the problem is found until it gets fixed, and it is a time-consuming process.

The competitors

Market research

We conducted an in-depth competitive analysis to find a gap in the market and to find out what services existing platforms were offering their users.

No other platform currently offers tenants the ability to report repair issues directly to the property managers. Most platforms focused solely on sourcing tradespeople but didn’t offer users the ability to identify the type of issue they had.

Defining

synthesising

Defining the
user needs

Using the data we’d collected from our research, we began synthesising it all into actionable points that would allow us to empathise with our target user.

1) Users need an easy way of providing tradespeople with detailed information about the problem.

2) Users need to be able to easily identify problems through the platform, as they often don’t have any DIY knowledge.

3) Users need a way of scheduling appointments to make sure they are home at the time of the tradesperson arrival.

4) Users need an incentive to provide reviews on tradespeople after a job, as they often don’t write any reviews.

User journeys

Building the experience

To find out how the users will interact with the platform and keep all the parties in mind while designing, we created some user journeys.

We focused on three main situations for the users:

1) User knows what type of trade they need to repair an issue and they have plenty of time to fix it.

2) User doesn’t know what type of trade they need to repair an issue and they have plenty of time to fix it.

3) User doesn’t know what type of trade they need to repair an issue and they are in an emergency situation.

Ideating

Ideating

Initial sketches

We started our ideation phase by conducting a series of divergent sketches, in which each team member came up with divergent ideas on how we could solve the problem for our user.

This allowed us to explore multiple different concepts quickly and effectively as a team, deciding what features we wanted to include.

Concept 1

The user would be able to use a chatbot in the app to identify their problem quickly, describe the job, book a tradesperson (wait for their approval), and pay for the job once the tradesperson confirmed availability.

Concept 2

The user could use a series of dropdowns to identify their problem, describe their problem in next steps, and a tradesperson would be booked for the job, and the user would be able to track the tradesperson.

Introducing
the UTC

One of our solution to our problem was creating the Unique Tenancy Code, which would be provided once the tenant signs-up with a unique link sent by the property manager when a new tenancy begins. The tenant would need this code for future home repairs.

This process only involves the property manager to accept or reject the reported issue by the tenant. Both parties are informed of the process at all times. Let’s see how is the one time sign-up process for the tenant:

This process only involves the property manager to accept or reject the reported issue by the tenant. Both parties are informed of the process at all times. Let’s see how is the one time sign-up process for the tenant:

This sign-up process may look familiar to you as it’s similar to signing up for online banking with many verifications which include a photo ID, selfie, email and phone verification, for extra security and obtain the UTC for further use.

Prototyping

Building
on top of ideas

While my teammates were focusing on the mobile version of the website, I was focusing on the desktop version. I started building, on top of my initial concepts, the first version and prototype it so we could quickly test.

Identify the problem

To speed up the process and help to identify the problem, the user would be able to select the type of trade, what needs fixing, and the problem from the dropdowns.

Booking through Chat

Including a chat assistant function to help the user identify, describe, and book a repair job without leaving the chat.

The homepage

The booking process

Testing

The prototype

User feedback and iterations

We tested the low-fidelity prototype with 6 participants. Here are some of the critical bits of feedback we received for the desktop version and the changes we implemented in the high-fidelity version.

The homepage
New process

The users were still having problems identifying the type of trade they need when a problem occurs. We introduced a new way of identifying the problem by reducing the number of dropdowns and changing the order. We kept the previous method for the more experienced users.

Signing-up process

“What am I signing up for?”

“Why do I need to give all of this personal information?”

“I just want to sort out the problem!”

The users found this process overwhelming: they felt like giving up too much information for this kind of service, as well as too many verifications. Do we need all these? We got back to the board and iterated the process (see below).

New process

The previous process was completely removed, and now any user can book a tradesperson with or without the UTC and providing minimal personal information.

What about the UTC?

The property manager will provide the Unique Tenancy Code at the beginning of the user’s tenancy.

The booking process

Remember the booking process?
The users were feeling like they were going through a government application. I redesigned the process to avoid overwhelming the user and keep them informed at all times.

Information Architecture

Rethinking the content

To visualise the structure of the website and avoid missing crucial steps, I created a site map for the new version of the prototype.

Final Designs

Final Design

Chat assistant comes in handy

We were running out of time, but we managed to test the high fidelity version with 5 participants just before the handoff. The results? Highly positive feedback from the users, especially for the chat assistant.

Is it Uber? No, it’s RepairMate

The users can track the requested job at every step of the process. The function the users liked the most after the assistant was tracking the tradespeople as they are on the way and get notified.

Easy to report, easier to fix

The competitors analysis helped us understand what kind of information is required from the user when reporting a problem and make the tradespeople better understand and get prepared for the job ahead.

The UTC is not strictly necessary

We designed the platform to make sure the tenants can repair their issues even if they don’t want to report to their property managers. When choosing to continue without reporting, they can pick the tradesperson and pay.

Conclusion

“This is brilliant…”

“…I would love to develop it!” - That was the first impression of the Senior Developer at Flatiron; This tells us not only that our platform is feasible, and it could be built, but it is also desirable as we found from our tests.

We found a gap in the market and the next steps for our platform would be to design the flow and features for agencies, landlords, and tradespeople, and also improve the tenant/homeowner experience. This could ultimately be a Uber platform for tradespeople.

As a final reflection, this project made me realise that I'm used to diving into competitive analysis before ideating, which is not necessarily a bad habit, still, it could limit my solutions based on limitations discovered from the analysis. I shouldn't allow that to solely drive my UX solutions but break away from competitors practices by ideating beforehand.

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