SnowOnly.com is a platform which dedicates to buying and selling ski properties. It simplifies the way for users to search for accommodation online. It offers detailed chalet information to help the user determine where they would like to purchase their ski property.
Website - https://www.snowonly.com
Web Courses Agency
July - August 2017
Researcher, UX / UI Designer
Identify Key Features
Our first step is to understand business goals and the needs of end-users. I interviewed stakeholder. He is an investor and landlord. After years of running his business, he found that there are plenty of websites that advertise the houses, but only a few that provide the information on ski chalets. He wanted to build a website where people can rent out or buy the property near the ski slope. He gave a list of his competitors to me to learn more about the business model.
I spent time looking around his competitor websites, studied their user flows,
found out the strengths and weaknesses of their platforms.
After we got a clear idea of our client's wants, we found that there are two customer groups: people who want to buy the ski chalet and stay there on vacation with their family. Another one is a group of friends who just want to go on vacation and rent a house in a ski resort only during the stay. We interviewed people who love to travel and do outdoor activities and families that have vacation houses. The main questions we asked include the following.
- Tell me about the last time you were on vacation.
- How do you plan a vacation trip?
- How did you choose the chalet to rent?
- Why did you choose the one you stayed between the trip?
- What are the things you have to consider to decide which accommodation you would buy or rent?
- What steps are involved?
We also asked the follow-up questions (WHY questions rely on the user's answers.) Then we crafted three personas base on the qualitative data from user interviews. We have three user types: buyers, tenants, and agencies/developers.
User Type: Tenant
Location: Perth, Australia
A guy who loves to travel with his group of friends. He enjoys extreme sports and wants to travel to locations where it offers them. All the places he went had to be photogenic to impress his subscribers. He loves outdoor activities, expecially adventure sport games.
- Knowing transportation information, how to go to chalet from the airport and from the chalet to ski resort.
- Want to live in the resort near the ski slope.
- The place have to be beautiful and interesting enough to record the video and upload on youtube.
- The website doesn’t provide an easy way to contact the resort owner.
- Cannot see the environment of the resort and website doesn’t provide proper information.
- The site doesn’t provide with the weather information for the outdoor activities.
User Type: Landlord
Occupation: Attorney, Housewife
Location: Alberta, Canada
She was a layer, working in Ottawa, capital city of Canada. After she got married and has 3 children and became a housewife and moved to Alberta. She divorced her husband, right after that she need to make a living and raise her children all all by herself. She own ski chalets and want to make money from the properties.
- Be able to advertise and make her properties to be on the top of the list.
- Get contacted from the buyer and tenant throught the site.
- No one was interested in renting or buying her properties.
- People contacted her but never showed serious interest in buying or renting the property.
- Did not know where to start, how to advertise to attract customer to buy or rent her properties.
User Type: Buyer
Occupation: Business Owner
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Kyle is a business owner whose work requires him to travel very often. He wants a nice chalet near a ski resort, so he can spend a quality time on his vacation enjoying his favorite sport which is skiing.
- To search for a nice chalet with a suitable size for spending time with friends and family.
- To compare chalets and see which one is the best choice to buy.
- To buy a chalet that’s convenient in particular area.
- The information on the website look unreliable
- Overwhelm with a lot of information and don’t know where to start consuming the data.
- Does not receive notifications when he gets a reply from the seller.
Here are the findings that we got from the interviews
1. Getting Contact
Agents and developers want to get inquiries from customers. Meanwhile, the customer wants to hear back from the agents and developers as well. This website is worldwide. People around the world could buy or rent out the chalet. It might not be convenient for our users to make a phone call across the countries.
2. Overloaded Information for buyer
Everyone needs to make the best decision before buying a house. Since there are so many factors to consider, sometimes buyers do not know where to start.
3. Using external websites to check weather conditions
All the outdoor extreme adventure travelers should check the weather condition before they plan the journey. But it is hard to find the weather of a specific area to see if it is appropriate to ski.
4. Sellers want their properties to be top search results
If someone wants to sell something, they want the customer to see their products before seeing their competitors. Same here, our landlords want to be the very first result that customer finds.
After we knew the users' pain points, we brainstromed, finding out many ways of solution as much as we can. And here are solutions that we picked.
1. Built-in Messenger
We allow buyers and tenants to send an inquiry if they are interested in the property. By doing that, they will find the contact form on the chalet detail page. Agents and customers have to create their accounts before cooperating through this feature. It helps them track the response of each side.
2. Breakdown the data into small group
On the chalet detail page, we presented the information in tabs. Tabs might hinder the information, but we found that it is easier to navigate and view content in the same context than scrolling through the long page. Users can predict what they will find in each given tab.
3. Weather tabs in chalet detail page
Isn't it better if the travelers could check the weather of the area they wanted to visit before booking a chalet? So the tenants can plan their journey and activities according to the weather condition.
4. We offers several packages
Here, where the business can make a profit. Before the agent can advertise their properties, they must choose which package they want to purchase. A premium plan brings more visibility and a higher chance of getting contact.
After we picked the solution, we discussed the user journey and created a
user flow. This process helps reveal other features that users need
to complete their tasks.
As you can see from the flowchart, we could identify more features on our site. And here are vital features for the seller: viewing and purchasing the package, account creation, listing and collecting the properties, request messenger, and creating a profile.
And here are features for buyers and tenants: searching property, inquiry messenger, comparison, and account creating.
All of the above are must-have features. We also listed out nice to have features here: find agent, seller's and buyer's guides, currency calculation, blog, lenders and financial institutions, and website feedback.
Since we knew all the features we need to build, we broke them down into small tasks and created the site map, as you can see below.
Then I started sketching the lo-fi wireframe on paper for several versions and use them as a rapid prototype for usability testing to get feedback from users. I digitalized it using UXPin, then we had a design critique and showed it to the stakeholders. We changed the design a little bit after reviewing with the stakeholders to make it fit with the business purpose.
The design required to create it in illustrations style. The website owner doesn't want his website to look too formal. The design should show good vibes and encourage the audience to travel and do winter sport.
Purchasing the Package
Seller can select the package that fit with their purpose. They can post more properties by purchasing a premium package.
Sellers need their account to create their profile, list and collect their property’s ads, and contact with buyers and tenants.
Likewise, buyers and tenants can save the properties that they are interested in, compare them, and contact seller through the website after logging in. Also, it is where all enquiry history kept.
Listing and Collection the Properties
This is the main feature on the website. Sellers can add, edit, preview, and post their property ads. When they publish, others can view the property details.
Buyers and tenants can search for properties and filter them by locations, property types, and prices.
They can click to see the property details. On the detail page, we have devided the information into tabs for easily consuming.
In case that buyers and tenants can't make a decision which chalet they want to buy or rent, they can select favorite chalets and compare them by size, price, number of the room, etc. After that, they can send enquiry later on.
When buyers show interest in a property, they can send enquiry to ask for more information. The seller can find the message in the specific request tab inside their account and make an appointment or answer back.
Having a profile can help to raise awareness for agents and developers. The audience would trust the company who provide proper information. Simultaneously, private sellers are looking for a credible agent to sell their house for them.
The core features rely on the user's interview results. We didn't wait until we meet the right target group to interview. We wanted to push forward our process. It is never too late to test the ideas and get feedback to make changes. It is not easy to find people who went skiing and wanted to buy ski chalet. So we talked with people who enjoy doing outdoor activities and own the property instead. Anyway, they gave useful insights about what kind of information they want to see on the website. Then we could deliver the solutions to kill their pain.
We started with studying the business goals and user pain points. Next, we brainstorm the solutions and turn them into features. It isn't about what we want to give to our users. It's about giving users what they want. Not only users that we try to put ourselves in their shoes, but also we keep the business purpose in mind. We studied the business proposition and found out where our client can make a profit. We only complete our job when business goals meet user needs.
After going over this project again, I found many areas that could be improved. As time is passing by, the user's behaviors are changed. In the platform itself, I created a user satisfaction survey to collect quantitative data. We can use that information combining with the insights from the results of the usability test to guide us in the iteration process.