One of the biggest challenges in real estate is finding the right home in an endless list of available properties.
On average, North Americans spend about 124 hours looking for a home. With so much at stake, real estate companies must provide the best user experience possible when listing properties online.
The real estate industry is brimming with competition. New sites are launched almost every day, and some have the potential to become big players in the industry. However, many of these sites fail because they lack effective design and user experience features that can quickly turn away potential customers.
At Uptech, we have created multiple real estate apps and have seen the good and bad practices when it comes to UX design reviews of real estate apps. With our expertise behind our backs, we know what works and what does not. To keep up our knowledge, we also conduct UX reviews of exciting apps and talk with users.
UX review is a process of studying how users interact with websites and apps. It helps us understand how they feel about their experience, especially their interactions with the site or app. In this blog post, I will share a very efficient process that we use to review the user experience of real estate sites and apps and some of the best practices for designing the UX.
Our Process for Conducting UX Reviews of Real Estate Apps
The UX review process is iterative and collaborative. One of our goals is to look at the app from a user perspective, not as a designer or developer. Our goal is simply to find usability issues and areas of improvement based on usability tests.
In addition, we engage the target audience in the process using time-tested methods. The goal of this process is to uncover problems. By watching people use the real estate app selected for a case study, we can find places where users get stuck or confused and suggest improvements to improve their experience.
When we conduct UX reviews of real estate apps, we follow a 7-point process. Here’s how the process goes:
- Set objective
- Research real estate platforms
- Research target audience
- Prepare for usability testing sessions
- Conduct usability testing sessions
- Analyse research
1. Set objective
In any UX design case study, it’s essential to begin with a list of objectives. Setting the objectives early on will help you create a clear direction for approaching the UX review.
When we study UX cases at Uptech, we focus on:
- Evaluating existing real-estate apps to avoid UX mistakes
- Identify opportunities for improvement
- Serving our clients and their users
The overarching objective is usually to increase conversion rates. For example, that could be done by improving property list navigation or creating a better filtering option. At any rate, we believe improving the digital real estate landscape requires a better user experience.
2. Research real estate platforms
In our recent UX review of real estate apps, we looked for apps that are quite popular but not leaders in the market. We knew they’d have some usability problems. Otherwise, users would not be calling out for help.
After searching the internet for possible real estate apps, we narrowed it down to 5 relevant apps for our study. The apps are:
Of course, we discovered that these apps are less popular than Zillow. But they could be great real estate platforms with some UX improvements.
Before testing the apps with customers, we put ourselves in their shoes. We test the app as a user while exploring the following:
– Design patterns
– Smoothness of the main flows
3. Research target audience
Researching users’ behaviour can be very informative. It provides information about the effectiveness of features within an app. For example, it may indicate that many users stop using the app in a particular location—which could indicate a design flaw or confusing interface element.
Our team uses a few methods to study behaviour flows on apps. First, we use personas to understand user needs and build empathy. Then, we create an interactive user experience by combining the documented user journey with business and user objectives.
During our user research, we always want to gain clarity for these questions:
- Who makes up most of the app users?
- How do most users interact with the app?
- What are the possible pain points faced by the users?
- What’s their experience using competitors’ apps?
- How do the users make their decision?
- What factors influence the user’s decisions?
4. Prepare for usability testing sessions
After our users’ research, we began preparing for usability testing. Our task was to find five users who matched our criteria for a proto-persona. First, we tried Facebook groups and ads with CTA—but the best results came from personal contacts and friends of friends.
To make sure that our respondents fit the profile of our ideal customers/target audience, we sent out questionnaires. Once we receive their responses and see they’re a good match, we’ll schedule the calls.
We also prepared what we will test. We then defined the key features that profoundly impact the app experience. They are:
- Sign up
While the case study prioritised usability issues, we also hope to understand behavioural information, such as
- Influential factors that drive users towards a particular property.
- How users feel when searching for properties with the app.
- Notable habits when interacting with the app.
And of course, we prepared questions and tasks before the usability testing. Here is the list of them (I will add them to the ready article)
5. Conduct usability testing sessions
At Uptech, we usually prefer moderated usability testing. This method requires a moderator with expert knowledge to guide users through interactions.
The moderator’s role is to observe, take notes and encourage users to interact with the app or website. The session usually takes place in our UX lab, but we also run remote moderated tests if necessary. These tests are best suited for the early stages of product design to prevent developers from implementing irrelevant features.
We start each session with a friendly conversation to put the participants at ease. Here, the team gets acquainted with the users and asks them some preliminary questions (this also helps to fill in the blanks when we analyze the data later). After that, someone on the team briefly describes the testing process and its rules, and then the moderator is introduced.
We begin testing when we give users a specific task. However, no instructions on achieving the end goal are provided. Instead, the users must find the solution independently.
For example, find pet-friendly home using filters to rent. In that case, we can see what they pay attention to, how difficult it is for them to interact with the site’s interface, and how long it takes them to achieve their goal.
If a participant becomes overwhelmed or confused by the product, it’s not a good sign. Our moderators ask participants to speak out loud, not be afraid to express their emotions and thoughts, and to refer to the moderator in case they have any questions. This openness is the only way to accurately understand how users think and navigate the product.
Finally, we gather the testing results and ask the participants to summarise their general experience using the prototype. This data is then shared with the rest of the design team for further discussion and implementation.
6. Analyse research
We use the strategy canvas to present our UX study findings objectively. A strategy canvas allows us to differentiate how each real estate apps fare against competitors. The comparison will enable us to deduce what features the apps must focus on and improve to attract, engage and retain home buyers.
To shed light on the competitiveness of each app in UX, we scored each feature based on the following metric:
- Number and severity of mistakes
- Time taken to complete each step and the entire task.
- The success rate of completing each step and the entire task.
For each UX feature, we award a score of 0 to 1, based on the overall experience of our 5 study participants.
- 1 point: the participant completes the task with no difficulties.
- 5 point: the participant completes the task with some difficulties.
- 0 point: the participant failed to complete the task or had a negative experience.
With this scoring method, each app is awarded a maximum of 20 points. Homesnap, which scores 15.5, edges out Remax as the winner in this UX research case study.
Here’s the complete list of how the apps rank.
Homesnap – 15.5
Remax – 14
Homes – 12.5
Apartments – 11
Top Tips For Building Custom Real Estate UX Design
If you want to build custom real estate UX design for your website or app, here are some top tips for getting started based on our research:
Optimize Search Filters
One of the best ways to help users find their dream property is by providing search filters that meet their interests. Therefore, the app should accommodate popular filters and an optional search bar for more personalized searching. An excellent way for developers to provide these options is with drop-down menus for filtering options such as location (city/state), price range, and amenities that users may be looking for in their next home!
Add Interactive Map
A custom interactive map is a great way to show your property’s location and boundaries. The client can easily view the property’s amenities, features, and history with an interactive map.
The goal of any app is simplicity so that users don’t need instructions on how to use it or can pick up its nuances quickly. Your map should be easy enough that anyone can figure out how it works within seconds.
Seek Feedback from Users
A critical element of your app’s success is users’ feedback. However, getting feedback from users can be a tall order. You want to allow your users to provide you with feedback, but you also don’t want them to feel like their time is being wasted.
Asking more extended, more nuanced questions that require more effort will likely result in fewer responses. Instead, keep it short so it’s easier to answer quickly and allow people enough time to reflect before answering.
Offer Relevant, Valuable Content
Another best practice is to offer relevant and valuable content that customers want. The content you provide should be easy to find, easy to use, and valuable for your user base. For example, you can include helpful tips, stats or facts related to real estate.
Make the Design an Extension of Your Brand
A good design is more than just a pretty outlook. It has to be an extension of your brand. Users should immediately recognize familiar elements from all the properties in your listings when they first interact with the app. This way, even if someone has not come across a property before, they’ll be able to identify it as part of the same family as other properties they’ve used—and know that it’s from your brand!
We’ve been committed to reviewing and designing real estate apps for businesses seeking more competitive advantages in the real estate market. Through our efforts, we have identified actionable insights on these applications that ultimately helped increase the number of users in those applications. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s to design a great real estate app by developing an intuitive, user-friendly, and helpful experience for users.