Using Technology to Support the Journey to Sustainable Homeownership
NeighborWorks America is a national not-for-profit that facilitates the journey toward sustainable homeownership via its 235 affiliate offices. My project team at Andculture conducted a four-month R&D project focused on increasing and retaining NeighborWorks’s first-time homebuyer client base. The final deliverable was two mobile app concepts and a tiered set of technology-focused recommendations, grouped according to the varying levels of time, capital and humanpower required to execute each initiative.
We began a initial round of research that lasted several weeks and included secondary research on the home buying process and site visits to a handful of NeighborWorks Organizations (NWOs) around the country, which helped us better understand day-to-day NWO processes. We found that each NWO had a unique operations style, especially concerning technologies used.
During our secondary research, we examined the state of the national real estate market and the technology used within that market. We also interviewed recent homebuyers and real estate professionals to understand their experiences navigating the home buying process.
Based on our research, we created user personas and user journey maps to help us understand first-time home buyers’ needs, pain points in the NWOs’ current processes, and the areas of the process that could use some improvement.
Initial Design, Testing, and Reflection
With the user goal of preparing and guiding first-time home buyers through the process and the business goal of increasing customer engagement with NWOs, our team designed two tool concepts. Each tool offered a different approach to the process: “The Architect” was focused on streamlined task management while “The Muse” took a more non-linear, exploratory approach.
The project team traveled to NWOs in Brockton, Mass., Dayton, Ohio, and San Bernardino, Calif., to test an A/B comparison between the two tool concepts with NeighborWorks clients and staff. We guided participants through a series of screen images followed by a series of questions designed to uncover preferences, dislikes, as well as areas for improvement.
The testing showed that user behavior and preference varied greatly, but there was widespread interest in digital tools that supported the user in navigating the home buying process from start to finish.
Based on the feedback from our testing session, we created another iteration of the two concepts. The project concluded with a formal presentation of our research, final tool concepts, and a set of technical recommendations to the NeighborWorks stakeholder team.