Why can't students book accomodation the same way you could a hotel? See how we achieved product market fit and how design helped inform key decisions.

Project summary

Housemates' goal is to make booking student accommodation as simple as booking a hotel stay. The student housing industry as a whole works in a very outdated way. On the building managers side, spreadsheets or hugely overpriced clunky corporate systems are used to manage inventory. On the students side, bookings are made on a lead generation basis - meaning there's a very uncertain period of limbo whilst waiting for a human to check that your desired room is available, followed by a phone call to confirm it. It doesn't utilise modern tech in the slightest.

Housemates, at present, is a close knit team of 8 people. I work as a sole designer, owning everything from user experience analysis to user interface design. Since joining Housemates, I've built out the companies design system, run user testing sessions, facilitated design sprints and redesigned both B2C and B2B platforms. Helping the company discover their brand identity in the meantime, drawing on my experience designing for Gen-Z audiences.

When joining Housemates, I stressed the importance of a design system to the team. The current design was inconsistent and didn't hit a number of user experience markers. This was a huge undertaking that really required an entire redesign from top to bottom. It was a great opportunity to take a step back and look at the product from an outside perspective and the outcome was brilliant. I worked closely with our developers to mirror a design system born in Figma, to work seamlessly with TailwindCSS - this minimises any deviation from the design when built.

On the consumer angle, there was a number of problems our platform aimed to solve. The first being instant booking. At present, the majority of student accomodation booking platforms are built on a lead generation model. Gen Zs are one of the most tech savvy demographics and expect everything instantaneous. We solved this through our instant book solution, with real time allocation and Stripe facilitating payments - we've made real waves in the outdated industry. This solves a huge experience issue of uncertainty. Once you've paid, the room is yours.

On a product front, we understood that our consumer base consisted of first year students, their parents, second and third year students wanting to live with friends and overseas students. We drew up a number of user personas based on each to further our understanding. This was an interesting challenge where guidance throughout the platform played a huge part. There was a balance to be struck here. We wanted the new university students to have as much information as required without encountering information overload. Tenancy agreements, reservation payments, bills etc can be quite daunting and a first real experience of adulthood. Our platform had to hold their hand along the way without deterring any users who already had a deeper understanding and just wanted to book their place.

One way we combatted this was through our overall brand experience, which really was shaped by our product. We understood Gen Z, we understood students and through user experience tools such as HotJar recordings and our live chat support - we knew what exact information a student has to know prior to making a booking. This really was an iterative solution and the platform continues to improve through usage.