CMU Housing Handover
Team Role: UX Designer & User Researcher Project Duration: 3.5 weeks Team Size: 3 people
The Problem Space: Transitioning into a college setting
Incoming university students experience several pain points when transitioning into a university setting, from time of acceptance to the first day of class.
Interviews: Identifying key pain points, from signing up for classes to remote housing search and meeting new people
We interviewed 1 PhD student, 2 Masters students and 1 Undergraduate student about their experiences transitioning into CMU, probing for their feelings, thoughts and actions. We grouped similar themes across the four students in a customer journey map. From these groupings, we identified key high points that centered around social interaction and community, ranging from obtaining advice from the university advisor and other students to receiving help from others and meeting new people. We also identified 3 primary pain points: students felt confusion when signing up for classes, frustration with the housing search and anxiety when meeting new people.
Customer Journey Map: Revealing themes in key high points & pain points across students
Narrowing Down on the Problem: Feelings of anxiety when searching for remote housing
We chose to focus on the problem of finding housing, particularly for incoming students who were applying from out of state and unable to see apartments in person. These students expressed feelings of distrust towards currently available websites (e.g. Craigslist) and a lack of communication with landlords, suggesting a need for information from a trustworthy source.
Reframing: How might we incentivize current students to help incoming students by meeting mutual needs?
We identified that current students would be ideal candidates for providing trusted apartment information to incoming students while reinforcing the social, community oriented high points of the university transition, but they lack incentive for doing so. Faced with a blockade, we decided to reframe the problem: what if there was a way to meet current students' needs while simultaneously providing housing information to incoming students?
We identified an opportunity within the Carnegie Mellon University Masters of Human Computer Interaction (MHCI) program structure. The MHCI program runs for 1 year from late August to early August, whereas leases typically tend to start and end at the first of the month. This creates a problem for current students who, while finishing their program, must find alternative housing (e.g. sublet, AirBnb) for the first few weeks before moving in or final few weeks after moving out.
Our Solution: CMU Housing Handover, a responsive housing marketplace website that connects incoming students to current students
Our solution was a responsive website that allows current students to 'handover' their leases to incoming students. Current students put up listings of their apartments and interested incoming students contact current students on the website's messaging system and ultimately will be provided with the landlord's contact information. Incoming students can allow current students to stay in their apartments for a few weeks past August, relieving the hassle of finding temporary housing while finishing the program for current students. Incoming students who move in early may also have the option of an overlap with current students, providing them with a mentorship connection.
Our imagined future: eliminating pain points by providing support for incoming students and peace of mind for current students.
In our customer journey map of the future, we envisioned a smoother transition for incoming students into new housing which reinforces the social / community oriented high points that existed in the customer journey map of the present, while simultaneously relieving current students of dealing with finding new housing and selling their furniture as they finish their program.
Designing a simple, efficient user flow for incoming students and current students
We started our design process with low fidelity wireframes of key screens for both current and incoming students. Our focus was to create a simple, efficient user flow that guided current students through creating a profile and listing while allowing incoming students to easily browse listings. For both incoming and current students, the key touchpoint that would form a connection between the 2 groups of users was the shared messaging system.
Creating a friendly, approachable feel for students
As we moved into high-fidelity wireframes, we began to incorporate the feel of the website, beginning with the instructions. We wanted the website to be friendly and approachable, so we incorporated a conversational, informal writing style. To reduce the burden of filling out lengthy forms for current students, we decided to provide the option of scraping the realty website for information and contacting the landlord (who would be incentivized to find a new tenant) for additional details.
Creating a feeling of familiarity and warmth through color and branding
For our initial screen design, we looked to Craigslist for inspiration on which features to include and to AirBnb for the user flow and look and feel. We wanted to emphasize forming a bond between the incoming and current students, so we kept the tone of the website friendly and inviting while using a warm, red hue that also matched CMU's brand.
The Final Product: Focusing on the temporary housing overlap between incoming & current students
For our final screen design, we were advised to focus on the potential overlap in in stay between current and incoming students. We redesigned the interface to include information that would better help students find matches for the listings, specifically related to their most important needs and restrictions when living together even temporarily. We prompted students to enter restrictions they would have with a roommate (e.g. around pets and smoking). We also incorporated several usability improvements by integrating UI elements (e.g. sliders and radio buttons) that reduced the number of lengthy text inputs.
InVision Mobile Prototype
InVision Desktop Prototype
Mockups from Rami Brika https://www.behance.net/Thisishusler Icons from flaticon.com Photos from https://www.pexels.com/