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Giving Live Reviews Of Apartments

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Confidence is Key

OrcaChat is an early-stage B2B SaaS startup that connects prospective tenants with current residents to increase apartment complex occupancy. They had an app, but it was visually unappealing. That’s where I stepped in.

While I was brought on solely to help with UI decisions on the app, it’s clear that OrcaChat was missing the necessary UX research to support design decisions. This case study demonstrates my process, design skills, and recommendations I would make if I could go back in time to support the full product design process.

Services Provided      User Research    Interface Design   Web Design & Dev

Industry      Software    Real Estate

I had the pleasure of working with Grace. From the start, she demonstrated a strong understanding of my requirements and was able to translate them into a final product that exceeded my expectations. Her attention to detail and ability to think creatively made the design process a breeze. Her ability to take on product design tasks from start to finish was very much appreciated.
Adam Siepker
Founder & CEO of OrcaChat

The Process

Research Study Competitor Reviews User Interviews*

Findings & Insights
Problem Statement
Use Cases


Experience Mapping
User Flows


Mood Board


Stakeholder Reviews*
Field Testing*
Designer Critiques


Detail Fixing*
Asset Prep*


Research to make informed decisions with confidence

With no budget for research (ah, the startup life), it was time for me to get scrappy!

My first step was to search for relevant studies conducted by established universities and organizations. After analyzing hundreds of pages in documents of previously conducted research studies, I found key insights that could help OrcaChat make the right decisions.

Next, I found the closest thing I could do a user interview: app store reviews from their primary competitor. From these reviews, we discovered what their competitor was doing right and also what they were doing wrong. I used these insights to make recommendations for the company’s trajectory.

Insight 1

There's not enough information about the neighborhood

Prospective renters care about neighborhood safety. A LOT. And what’s more? According to users, there’s not information about neighborhoods available online.


Create a neighborhood safety question prompt inside the chat. Users can simply click once to get the feedback they need. The faster they can get the information they need, the better!

Additionally, link Niche, a neighborhood rating software. That way, people can quickly see how their potential neighborhood ranks.

As a long-term goal, build a neighborhood analyzer and rating system inside the app.

When deciding where to live, what would you have liked to know more about that would have changed your decision?

Key Finding

Most renters care about neighborhood safety but can't find enough information about it online.

I'm always worried about how safe the location is, how the reliable the management staff is and how are the people living at a complex or building...

Insight 2

Transaction costs are the largest pain point

From the research, it’s clear that renters are unhappy with the buying and selling process – and more specifically the cost of transactions. This is for a number of reasons including the cost of credit card fees online, an overall increase in transaction costs, and the general expectation of efficiency associated with more advanced technology.


In the short-term, create copy that sympathizes with the users. This could help them understand that they’re not alone with their frustrations. For example: “We know, we hate this, too! But it’s out of our hands.” Additionally, rather that simple stating what the fee is, provide simple explanations that help the user understand WHY they are paying it.

In the long-term, implement a one-time payment/background check for users to apply to multiple apartments. This should smooth the application process and help applicants avoid paying costly fees more than once.

What were the factors that made you regret your renting decision?



Key Finding

100% of candidates were unhappy with the transaction costs associated with renting from 2015-2019, as opposed to only 47% being unhappy with transaction costs from 2010-2014.

Problem Statement

Renters are not able to make the right choices because of a lack of information, tedious buy/sell processes, and general distrust of apartment communities.


Empathize with users through personas, experience maps, and user flows

I created two personas for each of the user types. This way, I kept both personas at the forefront of the design process. Assigning details like their age, profile photo, and life story helped me stay true to a user-centered design approach.

Once I had a deeper understanding of our users, I moved into an experience map. Here I focused on high-level human behavior which helped create a baseline understanding of our user’s experience when they are not using our product. I chose this form of mapping so we could understand their journey throughout the entire apartment process so we could make better decisions when focusing on the review process.

Finally, I crafted a user flow for the mobile app. Using the research I gathered, I created a simple user flow. This helped me understand how the user will interact with the product. When I created the user flow, I found that the user should be directed to a new screen after they made a purchase in our store. This keeps them engaged in our product and more likely to continue responding to chats. 


Creating User Personas

René Shaffer

René is from a small town in Pennsylvania. She can’t wait to attend DePaul University in Chicago, but she has no idea what to expect! Because she’s the only one in her friend group to attend an out-of-state college, she’s nervous about making friends. She’s always had a tight-knit support group in her small town and is hoping to find something similar in her apartment complex. Her ideal apartment is in a safe part of town and has a relatively active community with people similar to her age.

I am new to Chicago and had no idea where to begin looking for an apartment or what areas fulfilled my daily needs.

  • Live in a safe and active community for her first semester at college
  • Find friends (or at least people she can count on) at her apartment complex
  • Find a quiet part of town so she can study easily
  • She’s so busy at school that she doesn’t have time to properly research apartments
  • She can’t tour the complex in person before she moves in
  • She doesn’t know what to expect from a good apartment complex because it’s her first time renting

Aaron Young

Aaron is an extremely talented barista at a high-end restaurant in Atlanta. He’s very charming but tends to be skeptical of opportunities that are too good to be true because he’s been burned before! He wouldn’t mind some extra cash to spend on dates and other random purchases he can’t justify (yet). Aaron likes his current apartment complex but wishes the management were a little faster at responding to his maintenance requests. 

“I love being a barista because I meet so many interesting people! I just wish the pay was a little better for when I want to go on spontaneous outings or make here-and-there purchases.”

  • Make some extra cash
  • Get more people to come to his restaurant (aka more tips!!)
  • His maintenance requests aren’t taken care of fast enough
  • He doesn’t have enough disposable income to spend on small here-and-there purchases

Experience Mapping

Defining Customer Stages


Crafting the User Flow

Thanks for your interest in my process! I’m currently building out the rest of my case study, so please stay tuned for more 🙂 in the meantime, please enjoy the final product mockups!