Selling homes with a service people can actually love and trust

UX of the mobile application and its back-office system for the Swedish real-estate start-up norban.

How might we design a trusting, stress-free and overall better experience for everyone involved in the home selling process?

Challenge: Facing a criticized industry

There is a lot of mistrust in the real estate industry these days as it is still a broker-centric, commission-driven model. With a story behind every house sold and emotions involved these experiences must be handled with care. We were wondering how might we utilize technology to streamline the home selling process for everyone involved?

Solution: Aiming for transparency and collaboration

We created an application that guides sellers step-by-step through their selling journey, giving them more responsibility and enabling them to make informed decisions thoughout the entire process. The back-office system enables norban to support transactions and communicate with buyers and sellers at every step of the process.

Time: 2018 — 2019 Mentor: Ana Barbosa, Senior User Experience Designer Client: norban Context: Internship at ābove agency → Read more at ābove's website.

My role: I mainly supported the senior user experience designer as we focused on the research part involving real estate agents and the design process that followed. Furthermore, I was given the responsibility for designing the back-office system. In doing so, my experience in coding stood me in good stead when communicating with the development team.

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A wizard enables a simple home ad setup. The seller is guided through the creation process in a matter of a few steps.

The home selling process is divided into phases that represent major milestones. Upon entering a phase, the user is given a brief introduction to the upcoming tasks.

Sellers are guided through the selling process step by step, while being informed about the latest happenings in real-time. The app allows sellers to be fully flexible in their decision on when and how to proceed in the process.

The back-office system enables the realtors to monitor, perform tasks and communicate with sellers. Images or documents can be uploaded, notifications can be sent, as well as next steps and information can be unlocked, which are then visible to the seller in the app.

The process of designing for norban

Exploring opportunities: How might we ...
→ create an experience that engages sellers and earns their trust?
→ make selling homes flexible?
→ create a collaborative experience for both the seller and the realtor?

User journeys

To discover and understand pain points in the current home selling process, we interviewed industry experts and target users and created user journeys together with them. By the time I started working on the project, I was participating in the research regarding industry experts.

Aligning user insights with business goals

After the research, we aligned their needs with norbans' business goals. We aimed to develop a common understanding and achieve consensus. Based on the results, we structured the sales process and created navigation architectures, wireframes and lo-fi prototypes.

Navigation architecture.

Guiding principles

We had some guiding principles that we developed based on the user insights.

In order to ensure that sellers understand every (upcoming) step we aimed to enable them to make informed decisions while accompanying them step by step through the entire home selling process. In doing so, we want to prevent the user from being overwhelmed by the process.

Selling a home is not a time-bound process. Realtors pointed out that flexibility is one of the most key drivers. To make sure we considered flexibility in the design, we delved deeper into the process of selling a home and its user scenarios.

With the real-estate industry under heavy criticism, we learned that potential sellers need to be assured that norban is a trustworthy and reliable service. We wanted to do this by making it easy to contact the designated realtor and keep sellers informed of every past, present, and upcoming step of the process.

The sales process should be a collaborative interplay. Sellers are able to plan their steps and perform tasks at their own pace. In the meantime, norban keeps track of upcoming deadlines and bookings.

Turning broad concepts to UX solutions

We developed a wide range of ideas and turned the sketches into design mock-ups and flows. Throughout several rounds, we tested our prototypes. After validating our concepts, our Visual Designers applied the visual branding elements.

Shaping our design decisions based on our HMW explorations

→ Create an experience that engages sellers and earns their trust

• by designing a short onboarding wizard to create a home profile.
• by creating design considerations for each step of the process.
• by clear communication through microcopy.
• by taking edge cases and error conditions into consideration.
• by making customer support easy to access.
• by notifying the seller about every event triggered by realtors actions in real-time.
• by informing the user about upcoming steps.
• by providing an introduction reading in every step.
• by providing a history of happenings.

→ Make selling homes flexible

• by allowing users to continue within their own pace.
• by enabling to go back in the process.

→ Create a collaborative experience for both the seller and the realtor

• by enabling sellers to plan steps themselves, such as requesting a booking and filling out required forms in the app.
• by enabling norban to keep track of upcoming appointments, deadlines, and tasks in the back-office.
• by keeping both parties informed about happenings on the other side.

What I have learned

• Working in multidisciplinary teams in an international environment has allowed me to experience design from multiple perspectives and approach issues differently than I was used to.

• Gaining confidence and thus trust in my own abilities.

• I was able to learn a lot about how I communicate, what words I use and when, as well as how to explain and present my work in order get it across to the client and my colleagues.

• By working together hand in hand with the development team, I learned how to communicate and collaborate with them, for example, when handing over wireframes and prototypes.

Little did I know when I started my internship at ābove that what awaited me would be a truly memorable experience. Being surrounded by so many talented people in such a unique environment influenced and shaped me more than a young designer like me could have asked for.