Assess+RE hired me to help realize a vision: to build a modern, user-friendly alternative to the legacy industry-standard software used in real estate underwriting.
I came to this project with one major advantage and disadvantage: I knew nothing about the domain. So my first job was to get a crash course in Real Estate Investment 101. I began by interviewing the founder, a high-level domain expert, to gain a better understanding of industry terms and concepts.
Next, I reviewed recordings of user tests conducted previously on an initial prototype. This gave me a more detailed understanding of the existing product and how it performed.
Based on these interviews, I identified a few immediate UX improvements we could make, which led to a much simpler, more streamlined interface. To test how these changes performed, I ran five on-site contextual inquiries.
These studies yielded a lot of data, which I compiled into a readable summary and presented it to the team:
The report identified several usability defects that could be implemented immediately, as well as longer-term product improvements and competitive strategies.
One surprising finding was that the product had overshot its goal of having a simple, approachable interface. The audience was so used to a complex-looking software system that this now seemed like child's play.
“This is too cute... it's like the Duplo version of [major competitor].”
Another finding was that the product's current feature set appealed especially to a particular market sub-niche. This informed not only what features were prioritized next, but also how communications, marketing, and sales strategy developed in the ensuing months.
Based on these user tests, I worked with the team to implement UX improvements and scope out new features down the line. The product transformed from early prototype to a polished beta offering in a matter of months.
At the conclusion of my engagement, Assess+RE was well-positioned to become a serious competitor in the marketplace. The industry incumbent has duly taken notice.