How to spot a well-designed tech tool for your estate agency

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July 22, 2020
4
min read

TL;DR:

  • A product designer is responsible for making sure a tool feels intuitive and meets its users’ needs 
  • A well-designed product is going to streamline your day, making you wonder how you ever lived without it
  • A badly designed system is going to cause you frustration and waste your time – and your team probably won’t use it  

Product Designers, at their core, are problem solvers. They’re the people responsible for making sure the tech tools your estate agency relies on are easy to use, quick to learn and feel good when you’re using them. 

We’re going to be throwing around a fair bit of terminology. So, here are a few definitions you need to know:

  • UX: User Experience (UX for short) is the interaction and experience users have with a company’s products and services. It’s about the usability, look and feel of a product.
  • UI: Short for User Interface, UI is the specific asset users interact with – such as colour and typography. The UX is often confused with the UI, but the UI is part of the UX. To put it simply, the UI is the visually appealing part, while the UX is the interactive part.
  • Product designer: The person in charge of the entire process of creating products and usable experiences, starting with defining the problems of real people and thinking about their possible solutions. The easiest way to explain that is with a short clip from The Founder, when the McDonald brothers explained their “speedy system”.  

The thing about product design is that if it’s good, you won’t even notice it. The product will just be enjoyable and easy to use. But if it’s bad, there’ll be friction...

Ever used a tech tool that makes you want to pull your hair out?

Poorly designed products are easy to spot. The navigation could be off – meaning you won’t be able to find what you’re looking for, or certain actions will require more clicks than necessary. The font could be illegible, or buttons might be hidden or hard to click. 

The problem is, you won’t know these things until you’ve already bought and paid for the product.

What goes into “good” product design 

If I had one hour to solve a problem, I would spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” – Albert Einstein

At Rex, we take design very seriously. After we come up with an idea for the feature (or, as often happens, you come up with an idea) but before our developers start building it, our product designers work their magic.

First, they ask questions like:

  • What problem are we trying to solve?
  • Who has these problems – agents? Admin staff? Agents in open offices, closed offices? Business owners? 
  • What do we want to achieve for our users?
  • How are we going to do it? 

Then, they get to work researching, interviewing, journey mapping, wireframing, prototyping, testing, iterating, testing, iterating, and testing again before it lands on our developers’ desks. 

How to spot a well-designed product

If a tool has been designed well, it will:

1. Solve the problem it is intended to solve

We’ve all fallen for ‘shiny object syndrome’ at some point – only to find out the thing we’ve bought doesn’t actually do what it we think it should. Good product design avoids exactly that.

A big part of user experience design is working out how a user will interact with Rex. Our designers conduct a significant amount of user research (through surveys, interviews and the rest) to understand how real estate agents, admin and business owners would use functionality. It’s about getting inside your head and understanding your processes.

“Focus on the user and all else will follow” – Rule #1, Google’s “Ten Things” Philosophy

In order to truly design a solution, we have to be subject matter experts. We need to understand your motivations, triggers, aspirations, and goals. Armed with this knowledge, our team of designers are able to focus their creative brains on actually solving the problem you have. 

2. Be easy to navigate  

Well-designed products won’t be hard to use. Even something as in-depth as Rex, with its layers upon layers of functionality for everything from marketing, to trust accounting, to performance reporting, will feel familiar if the design team has done their job well. 

Product designers understand that extra clicks = wasted time, so it’s their job to work out how to minimise the time you spend searching for information, buttons and the rest. As we’ve just said, it’s also their job to understand exactly what you’re trying to achieve – so they can put the most used functionality and the information you need to access regularly front and centre. 

There are thousands of deliberate decisions that go into the design of a new piece of Rex functionality. Each decision is designed to smooth out the experience. If these decisions are not made with the intent of making the user experience frictionless, a user will eventually move to a different system to solve their problem.

3. Delight the user

User experience is all about the quality of experience and response a person has as a result of the interaction with a website, app, device or service. In other words, it’s the good/bad feeling you get after using a product. 

Think about your experience with Apple products. They’re nice to use, aren’t they? There’s plenty of other smartphone providers out there, but Apple has invested millions of dollars into UI – with the aim of delighting their users. 

Estate agents and admins jobs are stressful enough as it is. It’s important for us that Rex isn’t another stressful thing in your day. It should be the opposite. It should be delightful. It could be something small, like the progress bar – which steadily becomes more green as you tick off tasks throughout the day. Or it could be large, like automatic image rotation on the portals to generate more interest in a listing. 

If a tool your agency uses doesn’t do those three things, it might be time to look elsewhere. 

Want to get involved in helping to design new Rex functionality? Our product design team is always open to hearing from users! Just email support@rexsoftware.com.

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