EcoHomes

Mobile Application for 'Green' housing solutions

Course: Interaction Design

Duration: Sept 2017 - Dec 2017

Type: Individual

Role: UX Designer

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Design Problem 

 

Sustainability as a way of life is developing rapidly in the country, however, still lags far behind in the state of Michigan. The intervention is based upon a project by the City of Ann Arbor called ‘Green Rental Housing’ which aims to increase energy efficiency in the community by targeting the housing market.

 

50%

of energy used 

by buildings in US

27%

of energy used 

by residential in MI

80%

fossil energy used in MI

Data Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

Challenges

 

 

Affordability 

Many of the renters in Ann Arbor are students and end up paying a large portion of their income for high utility costs which makes the housing unaffordable

Information Gaps

Renters and homeowners do not have adequate access to information on sustainable properties and also, the value of buying/renting a more energy efficient property

Environmental Sustainability

To protect the environment and reduce GHG emissions, it is important for the general public to be aware and participate

Design Process

 
Personas

Competitive Analysis

Detailed competitive analysis of these tools suggested that only two tools are formally designed for customers to look for green homes – Greenhomesforsale and Sustainable House Day, but both are just web based tools.

The other three tools serve only a very limited part of the context such as rental search and relevant information.

 

User Analysis

To get an understanding of who the target audience are, their needs and motivations, I sent out a 15-question survey to the academic community of the University. Click here to access the survey.

Having received a total of 53 responses, following were the key takeaways: 

 

96%

say strongly or 

somewhat concerned about the environment

77%

say they would be willing to buy a green property in future

83%

cite affordability as their key deciding factor, followed by distance to work/school and then their environmental impact

92%

would be more willing to rent if they felt more informed about the financial incentives and were able to find renters

92%

feel very little or not informed at all about green properties in Ann Arbor

Design Strategies and Storyboards

Based on user studies and design challenges, seven different solutions were identified. Storyboards were created for each of these solutions as shown below.

 

User Interviews

Six users were recruited from the respondents surveyed for a more open-ended discussion about their thoughts and motivations, as well as provide feedback and comments on the above design strategies. Here are the key insights:

 

It would probably be a good idea to consider the needs and limited resources for students, given how many of them are in Ann Arbor.

I do really want to contribute my part to the environment, but finances are and future investment are my primary deciding factor

I don't really know how to understand green? Plus won't this limit my options if I have other things in mind as well?

Personas

Based on target user research, I developed the following three personas which speak broadly about the target population.

P1
P1

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P2
P2

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P3
P3

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P1
P1

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1/3
 

Design Synthesis

Target Solution


Based on brainstorming and research, user interviews, and survey, I  proposed a mobile application (quoted as the most used platform for housing search) that will connect the target users to nearby green properties through search function, facilitate gauging transportation options and evaluate their environmental impact/carbon footprint. In addition, monthly expenditures associated with housing and transportation are also communicated.  


System Features:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 


 

 

Connect target users to green properties through a search function with every property listing monthly finances

Gauge transportation options along with transportation expenditures for the selected property.

Estimate carbon footprint based on the selected house and transportation

TRANSPORTATION
SUSTAINABILITY
HOUSING

There were multiple approaches to implement the design. To understand the best approach, QOC (Questions, Options and Criteria) Analysis was done which can be seen in the QOC diagrams below.  

Design Rationale
 
Questions
Options
Criteria
Positive Assessment
Medium Assessment
Negaitive Assessment

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Based on QOC assessments, the options that best the design criteria were incorporated. These are:

  1. Simultaneous map and list based viewing of properties.

  2. Map + List show housing based on a ‘green’ score and/or other filtered criteria, with features once they select the property.

  3. Few landing screens before search to address motivations. 
     

Wireframes

 

Wireframes created for the first task which is defining goals and motivations which then leads to the search screen based on the defined goals 


 

 

Low-fidelity Prototype

Based on the above wireframes, a low-fidelity prototype was created (video walkthrough below), and the screens were then shown to the same users for their comments and feedback.

 

User Inshights

The participants pointed out some key points which were finally taken into account in the high-fidelity prototype. 

"It would be nice to have the transportation details entered before only rather than filling separately in profile" 

"I would like to know the basic information like beds, bath etc. on the pop-up"

"But how do I know if these numbers rank good or bad?"

 

High-fidelity Prototype

The final Hi-Fidelity Digital Prototype was developed on Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop and InVision.

The concerns expressed by the participants were incorporated in the Hi-fi protoype

Goal Based Search

The fundamental driving factor for the design solution was people’s motivation in a social cause. Hence, addressing those motivations before seems like a wise thing to do based on research and user interviews. Those motivations aren’t just the goals of the user but also overlapping concerns such as rent and utilities.

Address Motivations

The goals and motivations are addressed in the initial few screens, where the user is asked to enter information before reaching the final search interface, and then saves the data in a profile. This ensures that what the user wants is taken care of before

Filter based on preferences 

Users can filter their search based on their motivations, which from interviews were broadly identified as:

 

  1. ‘Eco-Score’, 

  2. Monthly energy

  3. Regular monthly rent

Utility

Check monthly utility cost breakdown and sustainable features 

Transportation

Gauge transportation options and transportation expenditures for the given property

Impact

Estimate Carbon footprint based on the property and transport data

Interactive Prototype

Check the interactive InVision Prototype below to see how the design works 

Project Report

 

Click here to view the full project report.