That time we went to an Interaction Lab

 Written by Ray from Houzen | May 15, 2017


There are labs, and then there is the Interaction Lab at the Centre for Human Computer Interaction Design at City, University of London! Thanks to the StartUX project, we got the opportunity to spend an amazing day and a bit working with Agnieszka who helped guide us through the experiences of three landlords as they used Houzen’s website and experienced just how simple it is to rent out property faster to high quality tenants.


You might remember we launched back in February and since then have been working with London landlords with everything from a single property to entire blocks full of flats. And as we buzz around the place making sure everything runs smoothly for our users, there was a feeling certain things weren’t working quite as they should, but we just couldn’t put our finger on what they might be. That’s when we heard of the Interaction Labs and their work with startups – talk about a stroke of luck! 

We knew we had some UX concerns to get to grips with, and this might just be the magic wand we needed to wave. Sometimes hopes do come true!

Sourcing the participants

Depending on your product, this might be easy or the hardest part of the process! Fortunately the Lab has an option to help with sourcing users that have never heard of you before they show up in the room to start experiencing your offering. This can be an enlightening experience, and so one of our three candidates was a complete unknown.

Setting the tasks

We met with Agnieszka a day before our test users were scheduled to appear, giving her an overview of how Houzen works and taking her through the process of setting up a property, sharing it with letting experts and getting them started on finding tenants, fast!

She then broke it down into specific tasks that we would drill into, everything from signing up to your first chat with a newly moved in tenant. These would be assigned to our participants to see how easily they were able to grasp different features and monitor the journey they were taking to get there. 

Getting down to business

Each of our three participants went through their series of tasks and happily all of them made it through the other end. Of course, it wasn’t without a few random wanders down paths unrelated and the odd stumping moment that left them scratching their heads and stroking their beards in puzzlement. But then that was always the objective of the day.

Meanwhile Alex and myself were tucked away on the other side of a one-way mirror, taking notes and watching every action play out, while also providing support as a “demo” letting agent and gasping as things didn’t go exactly according to plan. It was a pretty gasp-filled room by the end of the afternoon as each participant spent an hour on a platform that we had designed to be as fast as possible. They really did explore every nook, cranny and click!

The Outcome

At the end of the session, Alex & I sat down with Agnieszka to review our findings and determine what trends had emerged across all three users. That gave us a list of tweaks, fixes and features that needed addressing so we said our thank-yous and went off to make the world (of letting) a better place. So without further ado allow me to present a quick snippet of things that once were, but no longer are, for this is the way the people wanted it and we are listening!

The font size of our sign-up button was considered to be too small in relation to the text around it. Big red buttons stand out, but are scary if you can’t see what they’re about. Increasing the font size makes them far more pleasant and approachable! We also switched out the phrasing of our intro video from Learn More to Explore Features. Why? Well because “Learn More” is vague and means different things to different people. Now everyone knows what they’re getting out of this tin!

This is a small one but a good one – we had noticed that users would often register with us and then start providing details of a new property. Turns out, instead of entering the postcode of the property they want to rent out at the point of registration, they were entering their personal postcode in line with the other personal information that was requested. A simple change of Enter a Postcode to Enter Property Postcode cleared that misunderstanding up in a brief moment. Hallelujah!

Ah, the post-registration request to finish setting up your property. Much hair was pulled as we struggled with finding the best way to communicate to a user that we needed just a little bit more information before our letting experts are able to begin working on their property. This nifty little solution meant we would show a disabled Share Details action button, which would immediately lead the user into the complete setup flow. Simple fix and an overall better experience for the landlord. Win-win!

So you’re all logged in, but some things are still not as clear as they should be. How does one deal with this – well with a bunch of tweaks of course. We added the postcode to the address appearing on the left so the full address is available at a glance. Princess Sofia now has a friendly Chat button under her image so you know we’re always at hand if you need to get in touch about any issue. And each agent now has a clear rating on the visible panel, helping you decide which agent(s) you want to work with. We’d still suggest all three, but now you can make an informed decision. Data data data!

Of course that’s not all we got down to as we ended up with over 200 lines of feedback. Some of these are now in place and shall hopefully delight you as you make your way to let your property, and the others will make their way to you before you notice they’re missing.

Finally, a huge thanks to our three landlord participants who provided us with this invaluable feedback, and of course to Agnieszka and the City Interaction Lab for their work helping us uncover the wonders of building out a sweet and helpful user experience.

If you have any feedback on how we can improve and make things better, faster, cheaper, funner – shout out to us here!

Zen Out,