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Trulia Neighborhods

Uncover renters' moving decisions and values in a new neighborhood

Overview

Description

This project focuses on the real estate platform, Trulia, and its unique Neighborhoods and What Locals Say features to explore perspective renters' values in relocating to a new community, along with understanding:

Search behaviors and living preferences in viewing rentals

Users' personal and lifestyle needs

Problem

As a property renter, I need to find available residences that offer an authentic, genuine experience of everyday life from people who already live there, so that I am upfront about what I am renting.

Timeline

3 Months

Project Type

Independent School Project

My Role

UX Researcher

Tools

Zoom

Design Process

Click to scroll down to each section

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Research

Existing Literature

84%

Nearly 5 in 6 Americans said the neighborhood is equally or more important than the house.

Source:

48%

“Vibe” [lifestyle] or feeling of the neighborhood significantly influenced decision[s], followed by commute time and crime rates.

Source:

77%

No single reliable source for neighborhood information. Only 38% searched for photos of different parts of the neighborhood.

Source:

Heuristic Evaluation

In the discovery phase prior to testing users, I inspected Trulia Neighborhood features against a clear, standardized set of usability best practices with fewer ethical issues.

With concerns that the evaluation only identifies general usability issues that may be marked “issues” that aren’t actual problems, nor consider user opinion in testing, I combined this with user interviews.

Property Listing

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1

Consistency and standards

'See local highlights' and 'La Jolla' links are identical, but wording is not communicated the same. 

2

Aesthetic and minimalist design

Distance by mileage adds to user knowledge about the neighborhood without interring with usability.

3

User control and freedom

Cancel allows users to reverse and undo viewing a property. 

'See All' is clearly labeled and discoverable.

'Share' and 'save' give options to meet users' needs.

See Local Highlights

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4

Match system and real world

Images of streets and outdoor environments are more easily relatable to users.

5

Flexibility and efficiency of use

Personalize the experience to find amenities by using tabs by topic or choosing a location within the map.

6

Visibility of system status

Interactive Google map shows amenities with timestamps. 

Homes for rent/sale on the market keep users informed.

User Surveys

I distributed an online quantitative survey via Google Forms to screen participants, including:

  • Community and neighborhood characteristics 

  • Behaviors and attitudes surrounding the process of finding and moving to a new neighborhood

  • Prior real estate property experience 

25-34

Average Age

California

Location reside in

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67%

Seeing a neighborhood for a new property is extremely or very important

50%

Moved to a different state in the same country within the last 5 years

83%

Feeling safe as top neighborhood characteristic in moving decisions

Target Audience

Based on survey results, I recruited participants from two target groups:

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Native Apartment Renters

New to renting or never rented

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Experienced Apartment Renters

Previous knowledge of rental properties

I interviewed 5 individuals ages 20-65 who reside in California with previous rental experience within the last 5 years, and are familiar with Trulia.

User Interviews

I conducted remote semi-structured user interviews to uncover deeper insights about: 

  • Meeting lifestyle needs during the search process

  • Values and prioritization of neighborhood features

  • Opinions, motivations, and frustrations to view neighborhoods overviews

Questions

  • How would you describe your prior experience with apartment renting?

  • How often have you moved?

  • When searching for a place to live, what considerations do you give to a neighborhood?

  • What is your experience with using Trulia and the Neighborhoods feature/What Locals Say?

All neighbors introduced themselves and were helpful and protective. If we are home alone for a week, we know someone is watching out for us.

I don’t like that I can’t find or made known about the crime aspect, I’m a nervous wreck. I like knowing what’s happening in the neighborhood.

Framing the Problem

How Might We?

After uncovering insights during research, I challenged my assumptions by rephrasing the problem statement from a renter’s point of view while leaving each question broad enough for solutions and encouraging room for exploration to lead to design opportunities.

01

How might we reassure users that neighborhood photos are reliable and trustworthy?

02

How might we inform users about the security of a prospective community and nearby places?

03

How might we capture the day-in-the-life content of a neighborhood to prevent navigation detours?

04

How might we improve users' ability to locate affordable properties to meet lifestyle flexibility?

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Findings

Identify Patterns and Priorities

Affinity Map

Findings from user interviews and surveys were organized as a tangible way to visually categorize insights into more focused, clustered groups based on common themes and patterns among user’s rental experiences and Trulia Neighborhood impressions.

Key Takeaways

  • Takeaway 1

  • Takeaway 2

  • Takeaway 3

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Customer Journey Map

I sketched a visual timeline sequencing a narrative of similar thought processes and actions found among participants during the interview to convey a renter’s thoughts, emotions, and pain points to meet their goal of finding available properties in a new, unfamiliar neighborhood.

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Bull's Eye Diagram

Gathering participant’s direct experiences interacting with Trulia Neighborhoods overview page during interviews, I designed a targeted diagram that ranks user’s prioritization of features in order of relative importance in learning about a neighborhood and identify areas of improvement.

Primary Features

Map of what's around the area

Availability of places to rent

Secondary Features

Walkability of the area

Tertiary Features

Schools & education

Amenities such as restaurants

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Insights

Authentic, immersive experiences like a local to envision new neighborhoods

Speaking with realtors and neighbors gives a genuine, personable feel for a new area. 

Viewing apartment layouts in person preferred as online photos were misleading and inaccurate.

Real-time insights from locals about safe neighborhoods before moving

Safety attributes to feeling comforted to walk alone at night with well-lighted streets. 

Consulting outside crime using websites and apps were used to find a specific address.

Comprehensive, local amenities near and around neighborhood boundaries

Proximity to essential amenities (grocery stores, workplace distance) influenced moving decisions. 

Interactive Google Map with area highlights commonly provides an all-in-one inclusive overview of an area. 

Upfront price breakdowns in neighborhood location searches

Affordability was prioritized in shopping around for property listings and values in a neighborhood.

Concern for financial commitments were associated with rising price costs and extra associated fees.

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Recommendations

Priority #1

Transparency and Authenticity Gap

Users' preference for in-person visits shows a promotional issue communicating a genuine experience of listings and surrounding areas.

Put residents in front of overviews

Record video or audio recordings of community residents' favorite memory

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Figure: Property listing on Trulia

Impact to Key Performance Indicators

Percentage of customers who

interact with neighborhood insights on a property listing vs separate overview webpage

Priority #2

Lack of availability to estimate safe neighborhoods

Crime and safety were significant in moving, and outside sources were overall consulted as part of the rental search.

Learn about safety insights

Consider a searchable feature with real-time alerts to compare neighborhoods

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Figure: 'Crime Map' on Trulia

Figure: 'Crime' tab on Trulia listing

Impact to Key Performance Indicators

Percentage of customers who

view photos with outdoor and street classifications

search property listings after reading comments and ratings

Priority #3

Do neighborhood overviews meet most lifestyles?

Research is needed to gauge if listed amenities are representative of a wider demographic.

Personalize local highlights

Receive more accurate distance mileage and time from the workplace with a typeable field

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Figure: 'Explore the Area' on La Jolla Neighborhood Overview

Figure: Commute map overlay on Trulia search page

Impact to Key Performance Indicators

Percentage of customers who

filled out a contact property form after engaging with mapped amenities

Priority #4

Pricing not prominent on overview

Financial costs influenced users’ real estate decisions when considering neighborhoods, but the lack of knowing price breakdowns presented challenges.

Restructure pricing front and center

Add a graph for rising home costs in a given area, and link rent ranges for cost breakdowns

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Figure: La Jolla Neighborhood Overview

Impact to Key Performance Indicators

Percentage of customers who

clicked rental properties for available listings on Overview page

Final Report

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Report Includes

  • Executive Summary

  • Reasons for the Study

  • Methods and Resources

  • Analysis and Insights

  • Recommendations

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Reflections

What I Learned

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What I Would Do Differently

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