HiHome is a young startup developing the first holistic homebuying management platform that walks buyers through their home buying journey step-by-step and beginning-to-end, facilitating communication and collaboration between buyers, agents, lenders, and more. I and a team of two other designers were tasked with the 4-week design of HiHome’s Homehunter tool and its criteria filtering and prioritizing interface, working closely with the startup’s founders to create a dynamic, innovative, and ultimately delightful tool that would make the home search process efficient and enjoyable.

Teammates: Bayanne Halimeh, Drew Schenck
RESEARCH

40% of Americans surveyed say that homebuying is the most stressful event in modern life.
—Homes.com

THE PROBLEM

While searching for homes may initially be fun, it can quickly become overwhelming and time-consuming. Search platforms like Zillow prioritize keeping users browsing for hours using imprecise criteria filtration tools.

Buyers’ anxieties about potentially missing their ideal home call for better tools than existing search platforms are able to provide. These simple criteria filtration systems often don’t capture the nuanced and specific property and neighborhood factors that many buyers prioritize, and added methods of weighting certain criteria against others are non-existent. Buyers frequently resort to creating their own spreadsheets to juggle the myriad scattershot data.

“I would have made a spreadsheet anyway if there weren’t [another] tool.... I want something better than just saying I want 3 beds, 3 baths. I want something where I can weight things in a more intuitive way. Something that says: “Here are the 5 best candidates….”
—Alistair

The Competition

With the client's input, we pinpointed the competition most relevant to cornering our particular problem: OJO, Realtor.com, Redfin, Trulia, ZeroDown, and Zillow. After comparing their respective filtering systems from a heuristic standpoint, we catalogued every filtering criteria component available among the competitors and compared it to HiHome's baseline criteria selection, channeling feedback to the client that would influence the MVP's criteria filter.
IDEATION & ARCHITECTURE
User Flow

In a nutshell, our goal as a team was to discover how to leverage HiHome's analytical hierarchy process, taking many different criteria, scoring them against each other, and finding the optimal outcome—i.e., a curated selection of promising homes. The clients had already dug deeply into how a calculation might work, performed many user tests of spreadsheet-based data aggregators and found it tedious to compare all possible criteria. Thus, the goal would be to provide users with an engaging visual tool to understand what they value and what they don't.

First, we would need to establish a simple and clear user flow for our prospective process:
Sketches

The client expressed a desire to explore an interactive system that would answer several How Might We? questions: How do we capture a user's preference? How do we capture priorities from a user? At the end of the day we needed to crank out a single, meaningful home score, but what is the ruler that measures it? The client described a potential interface where the user might "drag" criteria from a prescribed/customizable "bank" into their own bucket of home qualities, and manipulate those qualities quantitatively via some kinetic means—sliders, switches, bubbles, etc. They provided a baseline sketch derived earlier in their product development process, as a guidepost for our exploration:
Following much discussion among the team and the client, we set off on a journey of discovery via our own quick brainstorming. We chose to sketch prolifically in order to maximize iteration and output with minimal time:
We followed up our team brainstorming with another round of sketching, this time with an eye toward wireframe-level fidelity, as we approached closer to our goals.
After the prior sketches and a round of bona fide digital wireframes, the team decided we needed to be a bit more bold in our thinking, which sent us briefly back to sketching. We and the client found the concept of a data management system based on kinetic bubble interactions intriguing, and so we pushed further in that direction.
Wireframes & Animation Concept

Having a gained a sense of conceptual traction, we jumped back into wireframing, and used that foundation to begin testing animation strategies with simplified mockups. Below represents:
Following several more work sessions and wireframe iterations, the team arrived at an architecture that appealed both to ourselves and to the client. We would use this framework as the structural system of the final design. One interesting outcome of this final push in wireframing, based on a late-stage idea: the "doughnut" chart would assume a critical role in tying the visual data together:
HIFI MOCKUPS
With our architecture in place, we began quickly iterating on visual qualities of the interface—playing with palettes, gradients, varying levels of 3-dimensional qualities of the bubble interface as a baseline to be applied across the criteria filtering platform—and we offered several options to the client.
ANIMATION & PROTOTYPING
Animation & Prototyping

The client selected a preferred scheme based on a number of factors, including project scope and time constraints, and the team pushed forward and developed a high fidelity animated prototype demonstration the key user flow:
a prospective homebuyer develops a set of preferred criteria, sets their personal targets and cutoffs for the criteria, and weights each criteria based on their individual needs.
LESSONS LEARNED

The time constraints of this 40-hour project affected several factors that are important to the project:

1. User testing is critical in refining this criteria creation tool into a proven design, and while the client will most certainly perform testing at a later date under the direction of other designers, it would have been enlightening to have been able to perform that process ourselves as the original designers of the product.

2. I would have liked to further develop another of the client's preferred schemes (which was my favorite iteration, personally), seen below. It would required additional development beyond our scope and was not ultimately selected for that reason. But it's a nice artifact of the overall process.
suppaclub
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