A mobile search experience that encourage people to explore and discover rooms and roommates through a chain of posts that are linked through people's desire and needs. This experience was designed with the goal to help people find a room and/or roommate that fulfills their needs without revealing too much about themselves.
Roomer is a product concept that came from a practice prompt I received from Prompts.io. The prompt had a 4-hour time constraint for 1 mockup of the search & results screen and a presentation deck. The project below is a refined version after submitting my work and receiving feedback.
Many people on the rental market have a hard time finding an apartment in their price range and desired location. One solution is to live with roommates. But what do you do when you don't already have potential roommates lined up? Design the search & results screen for a mobile app that helps people find available rooms in shared houses or apartments near a selected area.
Please check out my submission for a more detailed documentation of my process.
To afford to live in their desired place, a common scenario is that they must find someone to split the bills with, but also to share the same space everyday. Not everyone has the perfect roommate lined up before they move, as this in itself is something people spend a lot of time to pick carefully.
"Since you're living with this person every day, it's not a process I like to rush. Some people just want a person to fill the room and pay the rent. Not me. I'm looking for the right match."
― Hilary Lane, has gone roommate hunting 4 times in 6 years (Washington Post, 2016)
Finding the right place is even more difficult when you’re struggling to find the perfect roommate. So I narrowed down the scope by framing the problem around improving the experience behind finding roommates, in order to improve the current experience within room finding.
"It’s not like most other relationships, where you’re open-minded. I'm signing a contract to live with you for at least a year; I’m going to find out every bit of information."
― Anne McNulty, found one of her best friends through a Craigslist ad she posted when searching for roommates
After conducting research on the user group, as well as various room finding services and products, I gathered some key insights that helped me develop concepts and execute.
- One way to find the best fit quickly is by tracing your own social network; “friend-of-a-friend”.
- Craigslist is the primary method for a reason: it gets the job done without requiring users to reveal any information about themselves.
- People cannot confidently evaluate someone until they meet in person.
- Finding a roommate is less personal than online dating.
With these insights I gathered through market research, I aimed for an experience that allows for a quick exploration without registering, while emphasizing the discoverability and relevancy of each post.
The screen on the left is the tab specifically for room finding. Users are presented with a map and a list of available rooms around their current location. Users would be able to adjust their location and radius by scaling the map or by adjusting the setting on the top left.
Because this sector lacks long-term users, I implemented the option to toggle between "Active" and "Passive" to communicate who is actively or casually looking for roommates. And since asking users to pay for the entire service is a high barrier, I chose an experience that provides both, free and paid service, similar to other subscription services such as Spotify or Headspace.
The bottom navigation bar allows users to see their options upfront while intertwining the content to make different results discoverable. Switching the bottom navigation bar when the user opens a post was done with the aim to encourage users to continue exploreing through different posts. It’s a lot easier to explore content when you don’t have to go through different pages, so I thought scrolling and swiping was the best interaction to afford such experience.
My response to the idea of anonymity was to integrate Bitmoji into the experience. With this, users don’t have to fully reveal themselves but can still give a glimpse of their identity through the digital space. This allows users to remain anonymous while presenting themselves in a playful way.
Bitmoji act as a middle-ground between a selfie and a silhouette, or an emoji. It communicates what emojis cannot, which is “identity”. An emoji could be anyone in the world, but a Bitmoji becomes a symbolic representation of yourself. In this context, Bitmoji is your digital identity.
Bitmoji also give users an incentive to create an account since only account holders would be able to use Bitmoji. Another benefit of creating an account would be the ability to bookmark posts.
With the idea of quick evaluation in mind, I initially made multiple iterations to reduce the visual weight that comes with the blocks of text. Yet I chose to scrap these iterations since this interface would require additional interactions.
Instead, the solution was to simply scroll with given preset headers that users could fill on their own. I chose the following preset headers based on numerous Craigslist posts and various perspectives on writing the best ad on Craigslist to find roommates.
One feature that only paid members would have access to is the ability to view the rooms other seekers have saved on their list to see if you have any mutual interest. In addition to the ability to find seekers with similar interest, this feature also allows the user to look for rooms based on people with similar needs. With this approach, I was able to interwine the search experience for rooms and roommates.
By swiping the headline horizontally, users are able to sift through posts individually, rather than having to return to the list of results. With this interaction, they’re able to quickly evaluate potential roommates and hopefully find a new friend.
If a seeker found a room first and is now looking for a roommate to move in with, they’re able to include the location of the new place inside ‘Desired Location’, so people who are browsing can tap on the address and identify the location immediately.
Creating these pockets that afford a quick transition between rooms and roommates was possible with the rising card laying on top of the map. Adopting this model from the iOS map opened up many opportunities for a quick exploration.
Creating a system that encourages users to create an account and be part of a community was realized by providing additional benefits such as saving a post and integrating Bitmoji.
My goals was to give users just enough incentive for users to create an account without becoming a distraction of the content users seek for.