Establishing trust between users to increase number of home swaps

As a startup without established brand equity, Mi Casa needed to build trust among users so they’d feel comfortable swapping homes. The brief: build a video feature with limited resources to connect users virtually.

Mi Casa, which launched in July 2023, is an online marketplace that connects people interested in swapping homes. I was the primary designer leading user research, scoping MVP requirements, mapping out the user flow, and creating the designs and prototype.

Mi Casa, which launched in July 2023, is an online marketplace that connects people interested in swapping homes. I was the primary designer leading user research, scoping MVP requirements, mapping out the user flow, and creating the designs and prototype.

Mi Casa, which launched in July 2023, is an online marketplace that connects people interested in swapping homes. I was the primary designer leading user research, scoping MVP requirements, mapping out the user flow, and creating the designs and prototype.

PROBLEM SPACE

Prior research found that users needed to trust the other party before committing to a home swap

While Mi Casa recommends that users conduct video calls with potential swappers, the platform didn't support this capability. Users needed to share emails or phone numbers to set up calls externally. There are security concerns with sharing personal information, and having to rely on external tools can lead to a frustrating user experience, as participants would then need to track conversations in more than one place.

USER RESEARCH

What do users want in a video feature?

I conducted six user interviews with people in Mi Casa’s target audience, which I defined as previous survey participants who indicated interest in using Mi Casa to travel for 4 - 8 weeks or more.

Key research objectives:

  1. Identify the jobs to be done and primary concerns that users would want to address when video chatting with potential home swappers.

  1. Understand the pain points that people face with video calls generally.

Findings

Building trust is critical

Typically unrelated to the video call, e.g., having a legal doc or platform guarantee.

Videos are for sense checks

If other safety measures are in place, people use video calls mainly as a vibe check.

Phone > laptop

It's easier to move around with a phone, and users can flip the camera to show the space.

Basic functionality is fine

Simplicity is key; call quality is the most important aspect of the video call.

COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS

Prioritizing the feature set based on user feedback

Given Mi Casa's limited resources as a startup, I focused on scoping an MVP.

Step 1: Competitive analysis

To determine the initial feature set, I looked at other video conferencing tools to determine which offerings were common across platforms.

Step 2: Prioritization

From there, I prioritized features based on utility, focusing on the primary scenario: a two-person video call during which users would get to know each other and show off their homes. We also made note of "nice-to-have" features for future iterations.

Defining MVP requirements

💻 Technical constraints and supported formats

💻 Technical constraints and supported formats

Supporting desktop-only for MVP: Given the lack of an existing mobile app and resource constraints, we decided to support calls on desktop only for now, despite user preference for mobile video.

🗓️ Scheduled meetings or instant video?

🗓️ Scheduled meetings or instant video?

Preference for scheduled meetings but too time-consuming: I initially explored the option for users to schedule and view upcoming meetings on the Mi Casa website for a more seamless video experience. But because there isn't an existing calendar feature, this option would expand the scope beyond what my time constraints allowed for.

Design tradeoff: After discussing with the founder, I decided to create an instant video feature with no scheduling capabilities for the MVP. Users could agree on times using the messaging platform and add reminders to external calendars.

🤔 Other considerations

🗓️ Scheduled meetings or instant video?

Mobile responsiveness: Even though Mi Casa doesn't have a mobile app, we wanted to ensure that the video feature was responsive so users could still join on calls on mobile web if they preferred.

Working with an existing design system while not being constrained: As a startup, Mi Casa's design system wasn't mature, so I utilized existing components when it made sense but also had the flexibility to create my own for unaccounted scenarios.

MID FIDELITY WIREFRAMES

Exploring entry points

After coming to a consensus with the team on MVP requirements, I created initial explorations using Mi Casa's existing design components and patterns.

Start video call

OPTION 1

Pros: Button location matches user expectations, as it’s located in the Conversation Tips section

Cons: Users may skip the section completely since it’s text-heavy. If accordion menu is expanded, button would be below the fold

OPTION 2

Pros: Users probably wouldn’t miss it, since it’s located next to the send button; minimal design

Cons: Users might start video on accident when trying to send a message. Icon-only button may be too discreet for desktop

OPTION 3

Pros: Recognizable design pattern—similar location to other messaging apps like Instagram

Cons: A bit cramped in the title. May take users some time to find if they’re coming from Conversation Tips

OPTION 4 — WINNER

Pros: Prompting users to start video may increase calls; located in message body where users will look

Cons: Users may skim over the message since it looks like other alerts. No permanent location for the button

A user has started a video call — join?

OPTION 1

Pros: Design is consistent — it matches other alerts in the message body

Cons: Person receiving the call would already have to be on the message page to see the alert

OPTION 2 — WINNER

Pros: Can’t miss it, even if user is on a different page

Cons: Modals can be frustrating; user may not have sufficient context for who “Emma” is if they are on another page

The challenge: Ensuring users remember to join

Users are less likely to see real-time notifications on their computer versus their phone. So to reduce the likelihood that users forget to join at the agreed upon time, I made the following design decisions:

Modal prompting user to join

When a user starts the call, the other person will be prompted to join if they're online.

Allow user to send reminder

When a user is waiting for the other person to join, they can send them a text reminder.

Iterations

I conducted six moderated usability tests to understand how users felt about the user experience and identify any points of confusion or friction.

Text > email reminders

6/6 users said that they were more likely to see a text reminder versus an email one, so I changed the format accordingly. I also removed the “copy link” feature for now after getting feedback from the founder that users probably wouldn’t have access to others’ email addresses (the primary use case).

BEFORE

AFTER

Added a rejoin meeting option

This allows users to easily rejoin if they accidentally exit the chat.

Added image preview to modal

3/6 participants wanted to be able to see a preview of their background before joining the call.

BEFORE

AFTER

Closing thoughts

⚖️ Balancing user feedback with business priorities

I learned how to make design tradeoffs when business and user needs didn't align. Given our lack of a mobile app, we had to optimize the video feature for desktop despite users' preference for mobile. Instead, I worked to keep my designs responsive and mobile-friendly so users could still have a positive mobile web experience. I learned that there were a lot of differences between designing a sleek video experience on desktop versus mobile, where there was a lot less detail given the limited space.

🎨 Working with an existing design system

Because Mi Casa was a small team, their design system wasn't as mature. This meant that I often relied on existing components when working on the entry point screens but created my own when working on the actual video designs.

👩🏻‍💻 Working with stakeholders

Working on this project taught me how to be a better design partner. I created multiple explorations of key screens, with pros and cons listed so the founder could quickly see the differences in designs, and I learned to defend my designs with user and secondary research. I also had to make design tradeoffs given time and resource constraints.