Renthost: A Student Housing Platform

Feb 22, 2016 | 4 minutes read
Project Link: http://renthost.ca/

Renthost is a student housing platform that allows students to quickly find off-campus housing and keep track of their inquiries while giving landlords a place to manage their tenants and advertise their properties.

Problem

I joined the Renthost team to lead product development and focus on growth strategies. After learning more about the business, I conducted an analysis to see where improvements could be made. Improving the site structure and landing pages was one of the projects I had completed for the team. The initial user experience for new users was confusing since the landing pages weren’t clear of the site’s purpose and the navigation between all the static pages wasn’t organized.

My goal was to understand and improve the current information architecture (IA) and redesign the landing pages. I wanted visitors to know what the website does and who the intended users are without confusion.

Process

The design for the old landing page looked promising when visitors came to the website but many of the features were not yet developed. ince this was still the early stages of the company, Search Listings was the only feature available. The site was very focused on showcasing its features (every engineer wants to show the world what they built) and not enough on what value it can bring to students and landlords.

The old landing page for students, with a link to the landlord landing page at the top.

I started conducting research on what the student/landlords problems are by interviewing students on campus and calling landlords. Understanding their actual problems rather than the problems the team thought they had was really beneficial to the design process.

I sketched up a pre-launch page that would serve the purpose of collecting emails and decided to do a proper launch when the priority features were built, making it a full experience for the user

Sketch of the prelaunch page with email signup.
Below the fold, Renthost's benefits are presented for both students and landlords

Some initial feedback I got from students was they don’t like websites that over-promise before the product is ready. Also, having a video on the homepage is a lot of information to absorb quickly and it can be overwhelming. From the feedback, I made a few changes and created the live version of the landing page in code.

The live version of the prelaunch campaign.

As the pre-launch website was live and the developers were busy making the rest of the features, I started working on the actual landing pages. Like I previously mentioned, the previous website did not communicate the value Renthost provides effectively. The dual-sided marketplace needed to be clear so both types of users could understand what this website is about. I drew the site tree to clarify the different pages and how they all link together.

Mapping out the different web pages and the link relationship between them.

Using this diagram, I created the designs for the different pages using the information from previous designs and feedback from a group of students we previously engaged with.

Solution

One unified landing page to show the two different users and what they can do on the site.

For students, the primary action they want is to search for a listing. That process has stayed the same from the old design and they will be prompted to sign in if they want to contact the landlord. As the landlord, your primary action is to learn about the platform and post listings so they get taken to the signup form (directly into the app if they are logged in).

In addition to having a clean homepage, the sign up forms also were redesigned to showcase why Renthost is a great platform to find a place/post a listing. Since the features were developed, I added actual screenshots to let potential users visualize the benefits gained from using Renthost.

Old sign up page with cramped layout.
New sign up page designed to showcase the Renthost benefits.

Having this new redesign really helped the Renthost brand become more authentic and increased the clarity of its message. In addition, we had over 100 students sign up on our website with this new design and the bounce rate went down by 30%.