Researching the people and processes of Property Management.

qualitative researcH & UX - REXLABS

Finding our user in a business problem  

When I joined the Alfred project in mid-2017, the team (Tahnee, a Senior Product Designer and Alex, our CTO) had spent just under a year conceptualising a back office Property Management app—a sister to Rexlabs’ sales CRM that would round out the core app stack for a real estate agency.
I was brought on to do the next phase of research; humanise 300 pages of documentation and wireframes, validate product concepts and uncover opportunities to differentiate our offering.  

Immersing and setting focus

As I quickly gathered, the subject area of Property Management (PM) is vast and differentiated. There are geographic and legal considerations, industry standards and business-specific processes to learn,  analyse and organise before setting out to talk with our users.
I achieved this through a lot of reading, heuristic evaluation of competitor products and briefings with Tahnee and Alex. A solid grounding was a critical springboard to make the most of the time we would spend with users.
With our amateur knowledge in hand, a plan was born. We justified why consultation with users was necessary (most of which were a given), and refined high level areas of investigation that would be presented in a summary of findings alongside user/team profiles
  • How much do users currently personalise their approach to processes, workflows?
  • Are there agency-wide procedures in place?
  • Does this vary depending on the structure, role, etc?
  • Will Alfred be an end-to-end solution for PMs?
  • If not, where will Alfred be positioned?
  • How will we integrate with existing tools?
  • Where can Alfred standout from competitors?
  • What are key downfalls of existing products, from a user’s perspective?
  • What are the major gaps in existing tools?
  • What are the most sought after features or integrations?
  • Are there any key areas that require additional research?
  • Which assumptions haven’t been tested?
  • How and when should we test them?

Watch and learn

We recruited over 15 participants for contextual observation and interviews. Over the course of two weeks, we spent one to two days in the offices of Property Management teams from different brands and organisational structures.
We profiled individuals and teams, learning about their work habits, pet peeves and motivators. It was fascinating to observe the broad cross-section of ages and experiences and compare our assumptions against the reality of a fast-paced, high-stress day-to-day.
A photo from our contextual observation with a user: a long way from paperless

Property managers are people managers

We uncovered much during our time with participants. Not only were they a generous source of knowledge, we formed great rapport and involved them in continual research as the project progressed. We were able to describe a clear picture of how teams worked together, varying structures and responsibilities of people in different roles.
Most of all, we brought to light a strong desire of our users to focus on positive relationships both in their own team and with customers. This is where they found the most fulfilment away from the mundane admin tasks.
User personas developed from our observation and interviews.

Linking insights to a holistic product and delightful experience

Our summary of findings highlighted key areas of interest for differentiation, positioning and feature prioritisation. We spoke to practical application in the product and how concepts did or didn’t fulfil the need we observed. Here are some slides from the presentation.

Delight is diverse

Delight doesn’t only mean snazzy animations and customisable colour schemes. A software that you use for 8 hours a day, doing what you need it to do, taking the pressure off so you can complete your work and be free to go home to your family—that’s delightful design.