UX Case Study - Houzz

Challenge: Discover pain points of the current app and propose solutions to improve user experience

Deliverables:  Strategy. User research report. Persona. Task flows. Sketches. UI. Prototype.

Role: Product Designer

Houzz is an online platform for home remodeling and design services.

Challenge

The challenge is to understand Houzz users' response to the current mobile app, discover pain points and propose a solution to improve their experiences.

Process

For the initial user research, I conducted guerrilla usability testing to understand the current problems. During the synthesize phase, I used affinity mapping to analyze pain points and determine priorities. Then I generated task flows to understand where in the process users were having troubles, created Lo-Fi sketches and Hi-Fi clickable prototypes. At the end, I was able to validate with users and confirm the pain points are solved by the redesign. The project timeline is two weeks. Now let’s go deeper into each step.

RESEARCH

Guerrilla Usability Testing

I first did research to understand the business goal, revenue model, and target audience of Houzz. During the testing phase, I spoke with 7 users to uncover pain points while using the mobile app. The selected users are reasonably close to the target market of Houzz based on statistics from this report. 5 out of the 7 users are homeowners (3 of them are new users). 4 out of the 7 users have not used Houzz in the past. I gave each user three different tasks to complete within the app:

1. Imagine you just moved into a house you bought, and want to get some inspirations on how to decorative your new living room. A friend told you about the mobile app Houzz. Could you show me what you would do?

2. Now that you have found some inspiration photos and got some ideas, you are thinking to buy a decorative wall sconce to give some character for your living room. What would you do?

3. You are not a big fan of the old carpet in the bedrooms, and want to get new flooring done. You heard from a friend that you can find experts for home projects on Houzz . What would you do?

SYNTHESIZE

Affinity Map

I synthesized my findings under 3 categories based on the main business functions of Houzz - get inspired, shop products, and find pros. The findings from my research were then organized on an affinity map to better understand their relationship to each other and to determine priorities moving forward in the process. With the short timeline for this project it was important for me to understand what I should focus on that would lead to maximum benefit to the app. 

Affinity Map
Affinity Map

Findings from 7 users
Findings from 7 users

3 Categories
3 Categories

Affinity Map
Affinity Map

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Base on the study, here are the 5 problems I decided to focus on: 

  • Difficult to find inspiration photos. Confusions about “ideabook”. 

  • Difficult to see more product pictures when shopping. 

  • Difficult to find home professionals. 

  • Challenge to sort and select home professionals. 

  • Difficult to get quotes from home professionals. 

Persona

To help communicate information about users that I collected during research, I created a provisional persona. 

Guerrilla Usability Testing

Understanding the Problems

This project started as a case study. I chose the app "Houzz", because of my passion for interior design and its promising market.

 

During the guerrilla testing, all users were confused about the so frustrated during the onboarding and initial interactions that they would barely make it to exploring the content.

Therefore, I learned that my main focus should be on resolving the initial pain points that users face such as understanding the value and navigating free content. 

IDEATE

Task Flow

I created task flows for steps a user typically goes through in order to complete two common tasks in Houzz:

  • User wants to decorate a room

  • User wants to find a Pro

To better understand where in the process users were having trouble, I highlighted the areas in purple where most users struggled, where I want to focus most during the redesign.

Fashion Web Design

Lo-Fi Sketches

Based on the established pain points, I sketched multiple options to test and see how by initiating minimal changes to optimize the user experience. During the process of redesign, I continued referring to the target audience, company mission, revenue model and my goal to focus on how to improve the user experience rather than making design changes. After a few rounds of iterations I came to a good place with the solutions. 

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PROTOTYPE

Hi-Fi Prototype

Moving forward with the process, I turned my Lo-Fi sketches into Hi-Fi prototypes. Below are the screen comparison showing before and after side by side.

Animated Prototype

To demonstrate the proposed flow when users looking for home pros, I generated animated prototype with activities from browsing, selecting, to contacting pros for pricing. The new design allows users to sort pros by customer rating, and request quotes in app from multiple businesses.

Clickable Prototype

Clickable prototype was created to test my ideas and validate the redesign. It was extremely helpful for me to test users on the tasks that I focused on to gain realistic insights, also understand what worked well and what requires further improvement. The prototype only covers the aspects of tasks that I planned to test users on.

VALIDATE

Conclusion

After two weeks of user research, analysis and redesign, I was able to validate the assumptions and changes I had made. I did this by testing my clickable prototype with seven new users. The results are:

  1. Searching for inspirations: 7 out of 7 users found it on the home screen in 5 seconds.

  2. Shopping: 7 out of 7 users were able to switch between pictures of a same product. 

  3. Looking for Pros: 6 out of 7 users were able to find it quickly. 

  4. Selecting Pros: 7 out of 7 users were able to sort and select easily.

  5. Looking for Pros: 6 out of 7 users clicked "Request a Quote" and found it helpful.

Notes: For future studies, I would like to spend more time collecting data on how often users call and how often users email when looking for home professionals. Also, how is this received from the business side.  

After Thoughts

This UX case study has been a challenging and rewarding experience for me. At the beginning, I was overwhelmed by the idea of getting out into the "wild" and talking to strangers for the usability testings. However, it turned out to be an amazing experience to understand users and find out what makes the tick. 

Although I had a very short timeline for this project, I am glad to learn that even by making small changes, we are able to yield big impacts and create a great experience for users. It is so important to always validate our assumptions through testing.

Note: I do not work for, nor am I affiliated with Houzz. This UX study was done as a learning experience for me to explore products I love and how to make it even better. This case study was published on UX Collective.