EXOS Valuation Redesign: Optimized Order Management
9 MIN READ
First launched in 2017, EXOS Valuation enables real-estate appraisers to manage their work schedules, establish their own fees, and automate administrative tasks. In 2020, a refresh project was kicked off, which included redesigning the app UI to align with the updated branding guidelines, and further improving the vendor experience by fixing existing usability issues and introducing new enhancements to the workflow.
Jul 2020 – Feb 2021
Raghavendra K.(Graphic Designer), Rocky W.(UX Designer), Jinyi Y. (UX Designer)
Adobe XD, Whimsical.io, Miro
The company’s current Appraiser Application required improvements in visual style, accessibility flaws, and user engagement.
Refresh the application UI to align with the company’s updated branding style. Improve the vendor experience by fixing accessibility and usability issues, and introducing new features.
Partnered with 2 other designers, developers, and product managers, I was responsible for designing the new order management UI for the app.
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1.1 EXOS Valuation App (2017)
EXOS Valuation was first launched in 2017 and had been broadly used by real-estate appraisers across the United States. Along with the growth in scale and functionality, the need for usability improvement and visual refreshment had become more and more compelling.
According to zippia.com, the average age of an employed real-estate appraiser in the United States is 50 years old. 32.0% of all appraisers are women, while 62.9% are men.
Such data, on one hand, required us to be mindful of the demographic’s needs and wants. On the other hand, we would want to welcome more women and young professionals to enter the industry. Equity is one of the company’s long-term commitments which requires joint efforts. As designers, we do our part by creating an inclusive, easy-to-use experience where everyone can comfortably conduct their business.
63% – Male
32% – Female
In the Field
Although typically based in an office, a real-estate appraiser spends a significant amount of time out in the field driving around and inspecting properties. On a regular work day, an appraiser has 2-4 inspections on average. Sometimes there can be 10+ if only doing exterior inspections. Their diverse, constantly-changing work environment imposes challenges to the application’s robustness and ease of use.
Shifting to Flex Schedule
While many appraisers follow a regular 9-5 work schedule, the nature of the job does not require fixed hours as long as they coordinate with the customer and complete the assignment without delay. With an algorithm-driven order assignment system in place, the company is able to accommodate flexible and customizable work schedules for appraisers.
1.3 UX Audit
After establishing a fundamental understanding of the context: who, where, and when are we redesigning for, we then conducted a UX audit on the current Valuation app regarding the information architecture and user interface.
Major Usability Issues Identified
Accessibility was not taken into consideration in the original design. The color combinations did not provide enough contrast, and some interactive components were too close to each other.
Bottom nav items somewhat overlapped with each other, as 3 of them were just different statuses of orders. Other important features were deeply buried in the hamburger menu.
Hard-to-Use Action Menu
All the order-related actions complied in a long dropdown list. The display was too compact and hard to select on touchscreens. Frequently-selected options were buried together with secondary ones.
2. Identify Goals & Requirements
2.1 Stakeholder & User Journey Mapping
Identified all involved parties and manages their expectations.
User Journey Map
Focus on end-users, and determined their actions, media, related pain points, and opportunities.
While getting excited about reimagining the brand new EXOS Valuation experience, we were also aware of the common pitfall of a redesign project – getting too ambitious and building the experience solely based on what stakeholders want while throwing users off. Therefore, it was crucial for us designers to emphasize with and advocate for the end-users, i.e. individual appraisers, throughout the process. To ensure that, we took a user-centered approach and created two personas reflecting the results of desktop research and user interviews (done by a former coworker).
Paul has been working as a real estate appraiser for over 30 years. As a veteran in the field, he knows every nut and bolt and has established his own work style and routine. Paul is a beloved husband, father, and soon a grandfather – he enjoys spending time with his family as well as on his own hobbies.
Open to Change
For many years, Paul would use paper calendars to manage his work schedule and submit appraisal reports through mail or fax. Now he’s gradually shifting to paperless, digitized solutions which, on one hand, is to accommodate the preferences of today’s young customers. On the other hand, he was pleased to find out that these tools had saved him a huge amount of time on administrative tasks, where he could focus more on the appraisal itself.
After graduating from business school, Hailey decided to enter the field of real estate and become an appraiser. She recently finished her 18-month training program and passed the AQB (Appraiser Qualifications Board) exam. She looks forward to officially working as a certified real estate appraiser.
Hailey is a detail-oriented person. She enjoys analytic thinking and problem solving, which she believes, make her a good suit for the job. As a millennial, she fully embraces digitization and automation enabled by modern technology. She’d leverage them as much as she can in the work to complete orders efficiently. In her spare time, she makes vlogs about her life and work and shares them on social media.
2.3 Goal Alignment
After we gathered and summarized the stakeholder expectations, UX audit result, user context, and potential opportunities/pain points, we evaluated and translated them into prioritized and actionable UX goals.
- Fix major usability issues and meet the WCAG 2.1 AA requirements
- Optimize current user experience and introduce new features
- Refresh the visual to align with the updated branding guidelines
- Define mobile design standards for future projects
- Explore and establish remote collaboration workflow for product design & development
3.1 Design Process
There were 3 major function modules within the Valuation app: Schedule Management, Order Management, and Performance Review. I was responsible for redesigning the Order Management module.
Order Management was the most heavily and frequently used module in the app, where appraisers view, accept, provide updates, report issues, check-in/out, etc. for the order. The efficiency and robustness of these critical features have a direct impact on their productivity.
Comply with Native Guidelines
The development team had decided to rewrite the application as Xamarin Native for near-native performance. Therefore, we referred to Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines and Google’s Material Design, making sure that the design utilizes native components and comply with iOS’s and Android’s guidelines.
Facilitating Remote Collaboration
As the product team shifted to fully remote during the pandemic, we explored different online collaboration and whiteboarding tools, such as Miro, Whimsical, and MURAL, to facilitate brainstorming, visualizing workflows, and communicating the preliminary design with stakeholders.
Working on an agile team, we focused on one to several user stories each sprint and iterated rapidly from low to high fidelity. We also explored various visual directions to make sure we meet the stakeholder expectations.
UI Review & Handoff with Zeplin
The team used Zeplin for design QA and handoff. I was assigned to be the Zeplin administrator of the team. I was responsible for managing access rights and maintaining 6 folders created under the project.
Check out the interactive prototype created in Adobe XD:
Unclear visual hierarchy; Irregular spacing; Header took too much space; Users had to navigate to secondary pages to take further actions.
Adjusted the information hierarchy and highlighted important/time-sensitive information; Added the call-to-action button up to the front to reduce extra clicks.
Users were not able to filter the order list. Order statuses not obvious.
Added search and filtering features for faster and order navigation.
Long scrolling view which we got complaints about (as appraisers were usually multitasking); All the order-related actions crammed into a drop-down list that was hard to reach and tap with fingers.
Redesigned the layout so that users can get a nice overview of the order at a glance, without having to scroll much. Order-related actions are categorized and spread out based on context.
Differentiate Milestones and Statuses
In the existing app, some of the critical order milestones were hidden or not properly emphasized and eventually led to extra phone calls and blockers in the process. The ambiguity between milestones and statuses also caused confusion for both end-users and even within the product team. We reviewed all milestones and statuses and established clear UX specs to make sure they are timely prompted and visually distinguished.
As emphasized earlier, security and robustness were of high importance as the app is used for dynamic business scenarios that involve large amounts of transactions and private property data. For Order Management alone, we determined over 60 possible edge cases. We designed the fail-safe trail for each of them, and make sure when necessary, let the application “fail gracefully”.
Previously, if an appraiser wished to reschedule an order, they needed to email/call their manager for approval, which cost delay in turn time and extra human labor. To address this, we came up with the reschedule workflow that enables users to initiate the request from the app and get auto approval when certain conditions are met.
To get the most out of the optimized experiences, the application requires certain permissions (biometric authentication, location, notifications, calendar, etc.). To make sure users feel comfortable about giving these permissions, we created the onboarding flow with illustrations to demonstrate the values and benefits. We also designed for alternative paths to still provide usabilities when permits are not granted.
Thanks for reading 🙂