Flat & Flatmates
Domain: UX Design, Visual Design
Team Size:  01
Organization:  Self
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Flat & Flatmates is a mobile application aimed at helping people find flatmates for their apartments/houses, roommates to share their rooms, buy a house/flat or even sell their flats/houses. This mobile application has been inspired from a facebook group called "Flat n Flatmates". The group was started by one of my undergrad alumni and now has more than 80,000 members across India. The group now has local chapters and aims at creating a community where professionals can find people of similar interests to live together. India has been a growing hub of technology development and every year thousands ans thousands of engineers, and other major graduates come out of the university and move across to find jobs suited to their career interests.

Due to the high inflation rates, and plenty of opportunities, people move a lot from one place to another in searhc of better jobs, localities, cities, etc. "Flat n Flatmates" group helps to eliminate the middle man a.k.a. broker charges that brings a sigh of relief for people to not share their money with the brokers for finding a place to live in. I was also a member of the group while I was working in India and used it twice when I was locating to a different and new city for the job. Often times, when you are moving to a new city, there are many factors that come into play that affects your choices in the getting a new place in a unknown place - Your marital status, your personality, your financial limitations, your closeness to any known friends/relatives, your awareness and knowledge about the city, etc. The facebook group of "Flat n Flatmates" is a knit of friends, mutual friends who find it comforting to ask the community for help. The trust in the judgment and suggestions come from the fact that everyone work in respectful places and somehow they have friends or some know person in common. Even if not, they try to connect with one another through their mutual friends. People who don't know each other come out to help with suggestions, feedback, review on questions posted by another person from the group.

Although, there is huge amount of messages, posts, comments being shared around in the community, there are a couple of challenges with the usability of the group feature in facebook. I took this as a challenge for myself as a post work inspirations to think of a mobile solution that would help them use the group with much ease and frinedliness. There are a lot of usability issues with the current group on facebook - finding relevant posts, repetetive data, filtering out choices based on constraints, clear hierarchy of information and readibility, only to name a few.

Current Design/Usability Problems

. Lack of proper information organization, hierarchy
. Availability of Filters to narrow listings based on criteria
. No ability to create a wishlist/save a list so that one can followup later
. Compare between multiple listings
. No notifications system to be alerted based on saved interests
. No locations based views

My idea of choosing this project was for my own learning of mobile design, understanding how to solve real world problems expereinces first hand and enabling my skills beyond my regular work. I witnessed couple of feeds coming from the groups where people were struggling to find the relevant information that wanted to look at. After few times I thought and questioned to myself as how could I solve this problem if the group was an actual mobile application. And there began my journey of solving the problem in a defined scope of mobile app design. Follwoing are the list of features that my mobile app intends to support to enhance usability and improvize the user experience of the application

Features/ Spotlights

. Defined information structure
. Capability - Filters, Sort, Search to manipulate listings
. Manage Wishlits
. Get Notifications
. Share Ad details with friends
. Location based listings
. Enhanced interface design



Other Projects of the "Design Sprint Weekend Challenge"

Amazon.com Redesign  .   Zillow.com Redesign


Team Size

Two



My Role

Product Designer



Tools Used

UX Design: Whiteboarding, Pen and Paper, Sketch

Design Idea

The idea spun in me from looking into the feed of "Flat n Flatmates" social group on Facebook. I started to find out ways to nurture my talent besides work and find ways to design solutions ot problems I would see in everyday lives. When I looked into the group feed, I found out many anamolies and problems from a usability perspective for the users. And there, I questioned to myself as how would I design it differently to be able to adhere to those problems. Choosing to do mobile first was preideated to me. I was looking into designing mobile solutions to improve my own skills in mobile design. So, I thought how could I see this group as a mobile app. And, form there begand the idea of designing a mobile app called "Flat & Flatmates"

Early Research

I did an intensive study on the group and read through all the feeds to firgure out the loopholes and what users have been conversing about. Many at times, you can easily see the gaps within the group and how it's users are still having problems in using the group. I documented all the problems and started looking out for ideas on how can we improvise the user experience and usability of the application. I furthered conducted three separate skype interviews with some of my friends who were looking into the group and were using/planning to use to find their new flats/flatmates/roommates. The interviews shared many insights into the expectations and experiences of using the group, some good some bad.

This was my first project outside of work, as part of my design sprint program. I conceived this idea of "Design Sprint" where I would carve out time during the weekends to work on real life porblems I would encounter from my daily life experiences. As part of this sprint program, the first project I chose to work on was Flat n Flatmates. I wanted to design more mobile experiences as I always want to continue learning and exploring my skills and taking them further to the next level. I strongly feel that once you open up your mind and let go off any constraints and just focus on the user needs and wants, there are pretty amazing experiences that can be thought upon. Learning mobile design has been very helpful to me to understand how you choose to design experiences for such small screen spaces.

Statistically speaking, mobiles phones have penetrated large number of people around the globe and its accesebility has been growing to accomplish all sorts of taks - big or small. So, to be competent and relevant in this fast changing, technology embraced era, we as designers havs also to innovate new ways and means to be able to provide rich and usable solutions to make lives easier for everyone around. Be it ordering food, accesssing emails, instant messaging with friends, searching for items, etc. I strongly feel that there is a lot of scope for me as a designer to innovate those experiences for oeple around me.

When I see diffferent problems, I usually document them and plan to work upon them one day or the other. "Flat & Flatmates" has been an endeavor for me to enhance and improvize my design skills on mobile design to find creative and user friendly solutions on challening problems faceed while interacting applications in mobile.