Homesty

A design research project to support immigrant first-time homebuyers

Team Members

Aedan McCall: UX Designer (Brainstorming, Sketching, Task Flows, Paper and Digital Prototyping), Usability Testing Facilitator and “Computer”, UI Designer

Laying the Foundation

Purchasing housing for the first time involves many complexities, ranging from getting pre-approved for a mortgage and building the right credit score to communicating with real estate experts to find a place that meets one’s needs. For immigrants to the US, who are more likely to lack support and understanding of these fundamental systems, additional support can help ease the process. Our user research revealed a reliance on finding trustworthy experts to help throughout the process and the importance of developing actionable plans through research to prepare their credit and finances for acquiring a home. The other major discovery that we focused on was how critical learning from the experiences of friends, family, and other community members who had already been through the housing search process was for participants.

The Contractors’ Vision

Based on our user research, we decided to provide immigrants to the US with a way to find trustworthy people and advice through connections with others who have prior experience with the housing search process. Our project focuses on two main goals as our solution. The first was aiding immigrants to find experts who can help them throughout the process. The second was helping them to develop an actionable plan for building their credit and finances. To do this, our solution facilitates a community-based system for sharing knowledge and expertise pertaining to the housing process among immigrant communities to help build trust, foster relationships, and strengthen resilience. After they have followed the learnings from the app and acquired housing, users have the opportunity to give back by sharing their own knowledge and success.

Blueprints and Inspections

Our app’s design was developed through an iterative, multi-stage process. First, we developed an initial prototype that reflected the solutions to the problems we identified. Through Heuristic Evaluations, we then had some colleagues evaluate our prototype and give us some feedback on issues that we needed to handle before testing our design with potential users. Before this evaluation, our prototype had no login system. We embedded one into our product to allow different users on the same device to have their own plans, pictured below:

Our prototype’s earliest landing screen allows the user to fill in their housing search profile, including their name, desired location, budget range, years spent in the US and whether it was their first house or not.
The home screen we devised to give users a better idea of what they could do with our paper prototype.
Our initial screens for the user to get introduced to the app. The login and sign up buttons led to basic login and sign up screens, respectively. Once the user signs up, they are brought to the profile creation screen.
Our “Explore Stories” and “Set Filters” screens. “Edit Filters” and “Set Filters” were inconsistent across the two screens, and the search tool did not efficiently describe what constraints on tags there were.
Our post-testing “Explore Stories” and “Set Filters” screens. They are more consistent with internal language and have clearer constraints on what searches are supported.
Our initial “My Stories” Plan Mode view and edit screens, which were difficult to read and limited in capacity to control what was visible.
Our post-testing “My Stories” Plan Mode view and edit screens, which centered on having the “To Do” steps at the top and an option to display some combination of “To Do”, “In Progress” and “Completed” steps.

Scale Model

After the paper prototype and usability testing, we moved on to building our first digital prototype. Due to time constraints and the learning curve of Figma, we decided to prioritize the most important screens and the interaction flows for our primary tasks of building credit and finding experts.

Hi-fi prototype screenshots for steps to complete task one: signing up, creating user profile, searching for stories using filters, exploring search results, and adding steps to their story.
Hi-fi prototype screenshots for steps to complete task two: exploring search results, scrolling to “Experts” sections of other users’ stories (screens 2 and 3), viewing details of experts, and adding experts to their story.

Closing

Buying a home is a significant milestone. As one of our user research participants put it, with their first house, they knew that “this house, it’s gonna be like a new beginning.” However, there’s a steep journey to buying a home for the first time, especially for immigrants who haven’t gotten the same exposure and opportunities to understand the US’s complex financial systems. Our user research underlined how immigrants have been left to their own devices to fill this knowledge gap, which poses an additional challenge for those without community connections they can rely on for advice. Stemming from the user interviews, there were two areas of opportunity to aid immigrants through the housing search process. The first was helping immigrants to do research into the credit and finances needed to prepare for purchasing a home. The second was helping them to connect with experts who can help them throughout the process. With Homesty, immigrants can learn from the successful stories of other immigrants who have gone through the housing search process. Our app lets users create their own stories and keep track of their progress as they work towards buying their own home. Users of Homesty can share their own experiences to help guide future first time home buyers who have immigrated to the US.

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CSE 440 Staff

University of Washington Computer Science, Intro to Human Computer Interaction