Project Summary
New York Commons = NYC

New York Commons is a community driven roommate finder that uses user defined attributes to better curate potential roommates and promotes user interaction to create community of users that can trust.

Responsibilities
UX design, user research, competitive analysis, feature ideation, wireframing, prototyping, and usability testing
Tools
Figma, FigJam, Dovetail, Optimal Workshop, Typeform
Platform
Mobile-first website
Timeline
2 Months
Problem Statement

Rent is too high

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of living across New York City has increased at historic rates. Many New Yorkers are being required to change their lifestyle to be able to afford to continue living in the city. New York Commons aims create a community to ease the process in finding compatible roommates.

User Interviews
What are New Yorker's main needs and main issues?

Before diving into ideating and trying to solve the problem at hand I needed to define exactly what were major issues and points of friction when looking for a roommate.

I conducted six user interviews of New Yorkers who have recently moved in the past year and discussed what they needed, wanted, and hated during the moving process.

"I found them on Twitter, we had like mutual people that followed us."
"I knew I definitely couldn't move alone."

Four Patterns arose from these interviews:

Cost

5/6

Interviewees talked about cost and affordability being the main reason in finding a roommate.

Personal Network

6/6

Interviewees found a past roommate or current roommate through social media or another personal connection.

Trust and Safety

4/6

Interviewees talked about trust and safety being a major priority when finding a roommate.

Lifestyle Differences

4/6

Interviewees talked about lifestyle differences being a major issue in finding the right roommate.

Competitive Analysis

Who is already solving this problem?

After looking at multitudes of different roommate finding products, such as Roomi and SpareRoom, I found that many, if not all, of the products on the market currently currently lacks one major thing: Warmth and Humanity.

With every interviewee stating that they used some sort of personal or social connection to find their current roommate, it begs the question: why are the products on the market so cold and impersonal?

User Personas

Who is this for?

After doing preliminary research by conducting user interviews and competitive research I was able to draft a persona of the model user for New York Commons.

Meet Helena

Ideating a solution

Designing the solution

By defining the user's goals, needs, and frustrations with the persona made, I defined three major aspects that New York Commons needed to be successful:

Secure and Verified

Streamlined

Community-Based

User Flows

Planning the user's journey

Now knowing what will be in my product, I had to design and define how users will navigate and access it. By creating user flows I accounted for every path that a user could take and tried to make their journey as straightforward and frictionless as possible.

Account Creation

Post Creation

Wireframing

Losing sight of the product

A challenge that I faced while attempting to actualize my product was designing the user experience after onboarding. The conceit of New York Commons being that it is a community that invites interaction between users, I leaned too heavily on design patterns of my competitors.

Preliminary Sketches

The experience of users posting on a community board of like-minded neighbors was the main feature I wanted users to experience. But when looking at competitors I convinced myself that New York Commons needed a search bar to help users navigate potential roommates.

Revisiting the user flow and the persona

After time spent racking my head around trying to create a search bar that didn't take away from the main user experience I was designing, I went back to the user flow and persona I created.

Knowing that onboarding will already be robust and detailed, I asked myself, "does a search bar contribute to streamlining, securing, or socializing the user experience that onboarding doesn't already do?"

The answer was no

I decided that a search bar didn't add value to the user's roommate finding experience. The in-depth onboarding and profile creation process already served the same purpose that a search bar would. Instead of adding a search feature that would be ultimately superfluous, I streamlined and minimalized the design to focus the user's main roommate finding experience.

Removing the search bar moving into high fidelity

Usability Testing

What did the people say?

After creating high fidelity wireframes and prototypes I invited five potential users for usability tests. 

Two iteration suggestions arose that became high-priority for me:

Making the account creation and verification process more involved.

The verification process only required a photo verification. A simple step in preventing bad actors on the platform. But users wanted more steps towards verification for their security and safety.

The Solution

To increase security, I included an extra required step of submitting some sort of government photo identification. As well as an optional step in also submitting COVID-19 vaccination status to allow users to choose the vaccination status of their potential roommates.

Adding a Budget Ranges and Easing Communication between Users

Users felt that there wasn't an easy way to contact another user directly other than commenting on a post. They wanted a more apparent way to directly contact other users. Not only that, but they wanted more tools while finding their potential roommates. They felt that the product needed more ways to narrow their search in finding the right roommate.

The Solution

To give the user more tools and make the roommate finding experience more apparent, I added a highly visible "message" button with each individual post. To help the user narrow their search even more, I added some more filters and attributes in the profile setup.

Final Designs
New York Commons

User Verification Process

There is a robust verification process to solve the concern over safety and security over finding a new roommate. Every new user will be required to verify their identity before they're able to 

Detailed Profile Set Up

Users are required to set up a very detailed profile to define their needs, attributes, and more to help better curate potential roommates in their feed. This front loads much of the user's effort in finding a roommate to allow a more streamlined process during their actual search.

Community Focused Experience

To address the issue of users needing some sort of social or personal verification, the main experience of New York Commons is similar to that of a community. This allows users interact and communicate with each other in a more open manner than what was possible before.

Final Thoughts

So what now?

Now that the dust has settled, what now? Designing New York Commons has been a real challenge, but a very fulfilling challenge. The biggest was allowing myself to make mistakes and fail. Having the knowledge that design is iterative, and experiencing it firsthand is massively different. The fear of failure stagnated my progress both on the product, and in my personal development.

Looking back, one thing I wish I could change was having more time with polishing the overall visual design of the product. In its current state it's good, but I really wish I was able to spend more time making it look exceptional. But that isn't to say I don't like my current design, I think it's good, especially with the time restrictions I was working with, and allowing myself to accept a bit of imperfection is a step in the right direction!

In my future endeavors I am definitely going to be working to gain my confidence, and gain the ability to fail.

Thanks for reading!