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Rently is a company specializing in self-guided touring solutions for rental properties. Their platform enables prospective renters to view and tour rental properties at their convenience, without requiring a leasing agent to be present. This technology streamlines the rental process, allowing users to schedule and conduct self-guided tours efficiently.
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Project overview

Objective:

Enhance the single-family self-guided tour experience to increase completion rates and user satisfaction.


Problem Statement:

A significant number of users (79%) are not completing the self-guided tours, primarily due to issues with the serial number authentication process (70%).


Current State:

The existing flow provides limited options for users experiencing serial number-related issues, leading to frustration and incomplete tours.


Proposed Solution:

Redesign the tour flow to improve the user experience, focusing on clearer instructions, alternative authentication methods, and better support options.


Key Features:

  • Redesigned user interface for entering and validating serial numbers.

  • Introduction of alternative authentication methods (e.g., manual entry, QR code scanning) for cases of illegible or missing serial numbers.

  • Enhanced support options within the flow to assist users in real time.


Success Metrics:

Increase in completion rates of self-guided tours, decrease in user-reported issues related to the serial number authentication process.


Timeline:

Phase 1 - Identify and prioritize key issues (2 weeks).

Phase 2 - Design and implement solutions (4 weeks).

Phase 3 - Test and iterate on improvements (2 weeks).

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What did I do?

I served as the product designer for the single-family self-guided flow, overseeing the design of the rental discovery, scheduling, and mobile tour experience. When I joined the team, there wasn't a dedicated product designer for this product, and designers were brought in as needed. Our objective within the product team was to address critical issues first and then introduce scalable features.

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Who am I designing for?
 

At Rently, we serve two primary user groups: renters and property managers.

 

Renters, typically non-homeowners, use Rently for the convenience of touring properties without needing to coordinate schedules with a property manager. They prefer the flexibility of scheduling tours at their convenience, often preferring to tour alone or with their chosen companions, rather than with a property manager.

 

Property managers have their own portal to oversee their properties. However, there's a disconnect as the current setup lacks visibility into renter issues, leading to communication gaps between the two user groups.

Problem

We observed that 79% of users were not completing the single-family self-guided tours, with 70% encountering issues related to the serial number on the lock at the property. Problems ranged from illegible or missing serial numbers to incorrect numbers or broken locks. The existing flow only allowed users to call customer support, file a report, or exit, which could be frustrating for users who had traveled far to see a property.

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Dog-fooding it 
 

Having several Rently rental properties in my area, I decided to experience them firsthand. I toured both single-family and multi-family properties, encountering issues such as device malfunctions, misdirection, and design and logic misalignments. These experiences inspired several ideas for adjustments and changes that I wanted to implement.

What did I find out?
 

Here are the observations I made:

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User control and freedom
refers to providing users with the ability to navigate, make choices, and take actions within a system, ensuring they have the freedom to move, interact, and correct their decisions as needed.

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Recognition rather than recall
emphasizes presenting information or options explicitly in the user interface, so users don't have to rely on their memory to recall critical details or actions.

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Visibility of system status
Users receive real-time feedback about the current state and progress of a system, helping them stay informed and aware of the system's actions and requirements.

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Match between system and the real world
assesses the extent to which a system's design and functionality align with users' real-world experiences and expectations, aiming to create an intuitive and user-friendly interface

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Consistency and standards
The design lacked consistency and appeared irregular. The design lacked cohesion and modern design elements, appearing outdated.

Data analysis

We utilized two data sources: AskNicely and Heap.

 

AskNicely, a customer experience software platform, revealed that many users experienced issues with the serial number interface, reporting missing or illegible serial numbers and broken locks. They often found no clear troubleshooting steps and resorted to calling customer support, leading to frustration when unable to enter the rental property.


Heap, an analytics platform, showed that 65% of users were dropping off during the serial number page. Most of them were either filing a report or seeking help through our chatbot.

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Iteration 1

Selfie verification
 

As a product team, we concluded that the most effective solution to this issue was to remove the serial number requirement. We believed that introducing a digitally controlled method for verifying the user's presence would be more reliable. Therefore, we decided to replace serial number verification with selfie revertification.

Limitations of Security 

Initially, the serial number was necessary to verify the user's location at the property, serving as a fixed identifier on the door. To further prevent scams and ensure physical presence, we introduced a geotagging step before the serial number verification.


However, our data revealed that geotagging alone was insufficient. Therefore, with the decision to remove the serial number, we needed to find a verification method that was equally or even more robust for security purposes.

Testing different verifications

As a team, we decided to implement selfie verification. To test other real-world verification methods, I conducted a study on usertesting.com, comparing

1. Serial number

2. Text verification

3. Selfie verification.

 

The results revealed that users preferred text verification over serial number and selfie verification.


Participants found text verification to be straightforward and familiar, while selfie verification was perceived as invasive. The serial number, although seemingly simple, was associated with underlying issues and complications.

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Scope Change 
Iteration 2
 

I questioned the need for additional verifications if we could ensure that geotagging and location verification were optimal and secure. Following discussions with the product manager and engineering team, we opted to bolster security measures and introduce a more accurate second method for verifying the user's location. This approach aimed to avoid the complex and time-consuming development associated with adding one of the verifications.

This led us to consider how we could keep the serial number page, but help the users during the problems associated with the page.

How did the design change?

Considering the challenges users faced with the serial number, we aimed to understand the specific issues they encountered. Since our goal was to ensure users could complete the entire journey and we had bolstered security with location verification, we felt more confident in focusing on user assistance rather than security.

Change #1.
As a result, we replaced the "report an issue" CTA button with "having issues with serial number?" which would guide users through common serial number-related problems.


Previously, selecting "report a problem" led to a dead-end, leaving users stuck. We decided to use this opportunity to gather information about serial number issues and relay it to the property manager, as there was no previous reporting mechanism. After collecting this feedback, users would be able to continue their journey and access the rental.

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How did the design change?

Change #2.
I implemented a modal that would appear after 40 seconds on the screen.

 

I calculated that the average user took less than 20 seconds to enter the serial number, so 40 seconds seemed appropriate in case a user encountered an issue. The modal would then guide the user through the same series of questions related to the serial number.

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Rationale 

We contemplated several potential scenarios, including:

 

  1. What happens when 3+ users report issues with the serial number?
  2. 
How can we prevent a user from exploiting a loophole to skip the serial number in future flows during future tours?

  3. Should the property go offline until the problem with the serial number is fixed?

  4. How urgently should we present reports of issues with the serial number to the property managers?


Together with the product manager, we devised solutions to address these issues.

Currently, this feature is being developed in the upcoming sprints. Based on our data showing that 69% of issues and drop-off rates were related to the serial number, by allowing users to proceed past this step once their location is verified, we anticipate that nearly all users will progress to the access code page, leading to an overall improvement in the success rate.
 
This change is expected to result in nearly an 88% success rate for the entire single-family self-guided tour flow.
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