CoLife is a Charleston based company that connects people with extra space in their homes to people who need a safe, affordable place to live. As an early stage startup, their website had been quickly put together and did not inspire trust in the company. As a result, the website was not successfully generating leads and converting customers.
Our two week website redesign project included the following phases: research, synthesis, design, and delivery.
Teammates: Lauren Hanson and Kirya Goldfeder
- Stakeholder Interview
- User Interviews
- Screener Survey
- Competitive Feature Analysis
- Heuristic Evaluation
- Usability Testing
As a home sharing matchmaker, CoLife needed to establish trust – in it as a company, in its website, and between its customers. CoLife’s website, while functional, left much room for improvement in both usability and visual appeal. The amateurish website did not inspire trust, and often left users confused, frustrated, and even suspicious.
Stakeholder/ Founder Interview
To begin, we interviewed CoLife’s founder, Derek Snook, to learn more about his business goals, and his vision for the company. We sought to understand the service model of the company and mapped out the process to understand all the moving parts.
Understanding the Users
Home Sharing is a complicated process, and fraught with worry: users need to trust CoLife to find them someone safe to share their home with, and many have had bad experiences with other matching services. To complicate matters further, CoLife serves two distinct user types: The homeowner, or “Host”, who is seeking a tenant, and the renter or “Guest”, who is seeking a safe and affordable place to live.
We interviewed three guests and four hosts who had signed up with the website. We also sent out a screener survey to find users who were not familiar with the site and interviewed four of them.
As we suspected, trust was the common thread, for all user groups. Hosts needed to feel comfortable that they could trust their potential tenants, and Guests needed to have trust in their potential landlords. Moreover, all users needed to have trust in CoLife as the screener and matchmaker.
I have pretty high standards… if someone’s living in my home I want the same.
– Brenda, Host
The difficult part was finding somebody who I would want in my home and somebody who was trustworthy. And not crazy.
– Steve, Host
[CoLife] saved me the time of calling all these possible Craigslist listings…
– James, Guest
Website Evaluation & Heuristics
We evaluated the current website using Abby Covert’s Heuristics. To validate our findings we also tested the website with users. We identified the following key problem areas with the site:
• Under-designed website did not inspire confidence
• Navigation was overcrowded and confusing
• Homepage lacked supporting imagery and content
• Calls to Action were too wordy
• Sign up form redirected users to a different website, causing a high drop-off rate.
• Sign Up process relied too heavily on the Owner’s intervention
Competitive Feature Analysis
To find where CoLife stood in the competitive landscape, we compared its website features with four competitors.
While the more established competitors had many features and resources that CoLife was not able to implement as an early stage start-up, we found several improvements that could be made with minimal effort, such as separating out the pages for hosts and guests.
We also found that CoLife was uniquely positioned because it added a human element, which was missing from the larger, more automated competitors. We found that this human element, and the ability to immediately reach the company by phone or email made for a personal and more trusting connection for users.
While both user groups we interviewed emphasized trust, the concerns of the Hosts were quite different than those of the Guests. We had to create two unique personas: one for the Host and one for the Guest. Based on our insights from the interviews, we developed the personas of Susan and Jeff.
People are interested in using CoLife to find potential home-sharers, but the website leaves them confused and hesitant to commit to the service without personal intervention from the founder.
Susan and Jeff love the idea of having a service that will save them time with their process while still conducting thorough research into compatibility of prospective home-sharers, but are not entirely clear on why they should trust CoLife.
How might we help them evaluate whether CoLife’s mission and process are a good fit for their needs?
Ideation & Design
CoLife’s founder was thrilled with the website redesign and is eager to implement the changes. We will continue to iterate the design and functionality as the business matures.