PG Room Finder Case Study

Going away from home and staying in a new city, adjusting with its environment, its people, its culture and of course to meet new people and making new friends, is something every student or working professional is wary of.

User Objective (Tenant)

  1. To find the best affordable PG room.
  2. Protect your number from spamming because of fake listings.

User Objective (Owner/Agent)

  1. To close the deal as quickly as possible.
  2. To maintain the uniqueness of the on-field listings (grade 1). This is important to achieve as the claim flow logic is based on the fact that there is no other listing of this type that another owner/agent can claim.

Business Objective

  1. To make MB the number one choice for tenants, owners, and agents for PG.
  2. To create the largest verified, accurately mapped and unique aggregation of PG properties in the country with close to 20,000 active listings from the universe of 35,000 PGs. (10,000 from online while 10,000 from ground).
  3. To showcase the data points that influence the buying decision. The idea is to collect more and detailed information that no other platform has shown to date, leading to greater value for the tenant. Presently we will be collecting 325+ data points.

How much we were expecting- Success Metrics

Process I followed

Survey

To reach out our objectives, we have designed a survey for each target and sent it to our friends and acquaintance matching these profiles. Starting with room seekers, here is what we have learned from the 19 respondents.

Top criteria they are looking for:
1. Budget and location
2. The person they would have to live with
3. Amenities

User Interviews (Primary Research)

I carried out basic user research to get some insight on what information potential members/tenants would like to see when looking for affordable PG. This included asking some questions that gave me insight on acceptance criteria & demographics. In addition to these quantitative data, we have also run some 8 face to face interviews with room seekers and 4 with landlords/Agents to get qualitative data. By mixing these 2 types of data our goal was to create the most accurate user personas possible.

I have chosen the qualitative research method and prepared the questionnaire for the same.

Target Audience (Proto Persona): Target audience will be students and professionals from the age group of 18–32 years.

Questionnaire

User Personas

Based on the interviews I created 2 personas of Student and Professional to imagine how they will look like. What will be their needs and pain points. And I can provide and solve them.

Insights from the Interviews

Why they prefer to live in PG?

As compared to Rented Apartment and Flats, according to many PGs are the most comfortable ones due to many factors as we have mentioned below and in today’s blog we will talk about the benefits of staying in Paying Accommodation.

  • Affordable: Paying Guests are extremely affordable as compared to rental-house in many of the cities like Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai and, etc. Generally, the PGs on rent start approximately from INR 5k/month for the good ones including food.
  • Networks: In PGs mostly you can find the job seekers, job goers and it is very much beneficial for you as they can be a good source of information for walk-ins, openings, etc.
  • Availability: PGs are present at every corner of the cities. But you may not find hostels, flats for rents often and that too of a reasonable price. You don’t have to spend months finding a PG, it is easily available. Even you can even find a PG the day you walk into the place.
  • Amenities: All the world-class amenities that are needed for you to live a comfy life like AC, Refrigerator, washing machine, CCTV camera, 24/7 guard, TV, wifi, purifiers, parking spaces are offered most often by the good PGs.
  • Food: It doesn’t matter if you have money with you or not, you will surely get food if you are staying in a PG. The taste may not be like that of your home or any restaurants but it will satisfy your hunger. Also, there is no hassle of cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning. Eventually, it saves a whole lot of time.
  • Safe & Secure: Paying Guest accommodation ensures 24*7 safety by providing security guards and installing CCTV cameras on the premises. They also don’t allow outsiders to get enter the Paying Guest without permission and in an emergency, there are people who are there to help you out.
  • No Repair & Maintenance Headache: All the repair & maintenance of the building and types of equipment such as electric wiring, plumber work, AC, geyser, and even the cleaning services are taken care of by the Paying guest owner.

Problems with PGs

The reasons are numerous including cleanliness problem, owner of the PG changes without any prior notice, some PG’s are bound by rules like no late night coming home, harassment for deposit money, overcharging for everything, etc.

  • Limited freedom: Some PGs wont allow bringing your friends or them staying over, drinks and cigarettes are not allowed (but every bachelor has this secret power of sneaking things, so this is not much a problem).
  • Hygiene: Not all PG’s are well maintained. Some are moderately clean, some dirty, I have seen filthy ones too. Don’t expect much in terms of food quality, room cleaning etc. That being said, there are PG’s which has daily room cleaning services like mine.
  • Cooking: You cannot cook in PGs. Here again if the warden/owner is chilled out, he may let you cook in his kitchen. I get this benefit!
  • Parties: A strict no no. You can throw a small party for 4–5 people but bringing your office gang and playing loud music while you dance your heart out might let you getting kicked out.
  • Roommates: This can be the worst drawback. You don’t know who your roommate is! If this guy is a troublemaker your stay in PG is ruined.
  • Furniture: You cannot put your own furniture in room. Apart from this there is also not so much security of your personal stuff.

Pain Points and Expectations

Competitive Analysis (Secondary Research)

After I gathered all the information I needed in order to move into the next phase of the process, I came across the number for apps which are already in the market and trying to solve the same problem by their means. Although, I found the experience pretty much the same in all of them. Below are a few examples. Thanks to the interviews and surveys we found out what services our targeted users used. Here is what we have learned.

PG SRP Android App

Findings from Competitive Analysis

  1. Mostly all the competitors are showing similar 6–8 info items
  2. Only Nestaway and Oyolife show amenities on Android App
  3. Other than Housing no competitor is showing multiple occupancy type
  4. Nestaway, 99acres and Roomsoom show Security deposit

Solutions (Features Proposed)

After conducting this research, we had enough insights to move to the planning phase. These data helped us to define the scope of feature we wanted to integrate for building our MVP. To do so we took the user insights we previously discovered and turned them into features.

Affinity Mapping

Then, to help us to prioritize what should be part or not of the MVP, we have looked at our interview transcriptions and surveys. We finally end up with this features list matrix.

Final Designs

M-site Designs

Explaining Designs Elements

Solution 1

Detailed Ad Template: Earlier PG listings fell under “Rent” and we found that users do not know where to find PG listings. So, We created a dedicated tab for PG listings.

Saved Search: To save the user’s time and effort, when a user returns on Magicbricks.com he will land on the PG Home page with his last search saved.

PG Home Page

Solution 2

Schedule Site Visit: Users can use this feature to use a calendar to easily arrange a viewing of PG room.

Verified PG: To increase trust and reduce the fake listing from the platform, Magicbricks will verify each and every grade 1 and 2 PG listing before going live. User can see the Verified tag on every verified listing.

Amenities: We also added the most common amenities users are looking for when selecting a PG room.

Thumbnail: Increased the size of the thumbnail to give a better idea of the PG room. To save the clicks, added slider option in the thumbnail, so that the user can view other images from here itself.

PG Search Result Page

Solution 3

PG Detail Page with 325 Data points: The PDP will focus on the user needs and club the data in such a way that helps the user to get a clear picture of the property leading to an engaged decision making. The PDP will also showcase room wise amenities and images. Other sections will include a special focus on food/kitchen, charges, and restrictions which are an important points of consideration for the tenant.

PG Detail Page

Solution 4

PG Filters: To make the selection process easier for our user, we list down the things our users looking for in finding a PG room. We reconsidered our PG filters and added/subtract a few things from it.

PG Search Filters

Solution 5

Short Form: Agent has to fill a short form to list his PG on Magicbricks. Then for grade 1 and 2 listings our field executive will meet him and gather the other information. The idea is to collect more and detailed information that no other platform has shown to date, leading to greater value for the tenant. Presently we will be collecting 325+ data points. To reduce the cognitive load we will ask one question at a time and we also added help text to make it more easy to understand.

Post PG Flow

New PG packages: Now instead of a package plan, an agent can buy PG points and can post his different listing for different types. For example, an agent can buy 10,000 points and instead of posting 2 ads under Titanium listing for 5,000 points each, he can post one for Titanium and other for Platinum(3,000 points) and can utilize his points as per his needs.

Choose PG Listing Type

Recommendations

  1. Roommate Finder or Know your roommate: Because PGs are cheap and shared rooms are most popular in this segment, tenants are equally concerned about having a nice roommate. Where before moving to a PG a tenant can view the profile of other roommates, and can know about their likes and dislikes.
  2. Online Booking: Nowadays online hotels and rooms booking are very much preferred by users because of multiple reasons like, booking confirmation, hassle free transaction, getting a booking receipt. So, it could be a good idea if we can allow the user to book a PG room online. Suppose I have to appear for my exams in another city and I need to book an accomodation for a month. And it is not possible for me visit the site. Then instead of moving to new city without having a reservation, I can book a PG online.
  3. Online Rent Payment: Online rent payment can save lots of time and effort from both the ends. By paying online tenants and Owner can also track the payments easily.
  4. Online Rent Agreement: Many third-party applications are available who provide rental agreement online. You just need to upload the required documents and fill a short form and its done.
  5. 3d Property View or Virtual tour: Over the past few years, virtual reality (VR) has taken the world by storm. This new technology allows businesses to give customers a glimpse into their products and services. Why spend hours trying to convince buyers when you can offer a virtual tour? Like a virtual house tour, 3D walkthroughs let prospective buyers get a feel for a home without actually visiting the location. A 3D walkthrough is a virtual rendering of the home that allows potential buyers to see what it would look like with different furniture than it currently has or without any furniture at all. It provides a more flexible option than a virtual tour, which only presents what already exists in the home.

Edge Cases

  1. Hidden Charges- There are cases when PG Owners/Agents hide some charges such as Wifi charges, maintenance charge, security deposit, early leaving charge, etc which can be asked after moving to the PG.
  2. Fake Rental Agreement- Some fraud cases have been found where fake rental documents have been made and later on tenants were asked to leave the PG.
  3. Sell me something, give me something- Not all PG rooms are the same. So sometimes PG Owners/Agents post best room images online or those best rooms to the tenants and later on provide the other common room.
  4. Fake PG listings and Spamming- Sometimes Agents post fake listing online to generate leads. After getting those leads they sell other costlier PG rooms or rooms with fewer demands.
  5. Tenant Verification- Most of the PG Owners/Agents are unaware that Magicbricks also provides tenant verification facility. So there should be a way to guide and educate them to verify your tenant before renting a room.
  6. Poor Quality Food: As mentioned earlier food is a major concern for tenants. So through MB they can easily find out PGs providing food. But what they will do if they find the food quality poor.

What Worked

We launched the updated PG feature on 31st Jan 2020 and as per Feb and Mar data, we found an overall 25% increase in footfall on the PG home page and PG Search result page. But lead generation is still around 95–100%. The reasons are given below.

  1. PG Dedicated Tab on Home Page- New users were able to find the PG tab easily on the home page. So it increased our footfall on PG home and SRP page.
  2. More detailed SRP Cards- Now the information which impacts the user’s decision most is available on SRP card only. So it increased the number of users clicking on the “Contact” button on SRP page and hence helps us in generating more leads.
  3. Short Form for Agents- Because of the new short-form we are able to capture more information on the property from the agents.

What Didn’t Worked

  1. Taking out PG from rent section (Home Page)- Magicbricks returning users were used to track PG rooms under the “rent” section and even new users think that PG is a part of it but when we took it out from it and created a new segment, lots of users did not able to locate it because they were trying to reach pg rooms from “rent”.
  2. Taking out PG from rent section (Filters)- The same thing happened here. So, because of this, we lost users on SRP from the home page as well as from filters.
  3. Asking for occupancy type- Because PG rooms have various type of occupancy, and to help users to find the best suitable PG and to make our database more accurate for Agents, we asked for the occupancy type they are looking for from our users every time they click on button “Contact Agent” or “Schedule Site Visit”. This became very frustrating for our users and we found fewer contacts shared.
  4. Facilities not available icons- Because during our research we found that these facilities play a crucial role in finalizing a PG room. We wanted to display these as available and not available in our SRP cards. Because these were 6 amenities and already there were lots of information to display on SRP, to reduce the spending time on one ad, we used icons to demonstrate amenities. We tried lots of options for it and we were able to close it with one option. But we found that the cross icon above the amenity was too small to be understood by our user.

During Phase 2 of PG we have already fixed issues number 1,2 and 3.

Live Link- https://www.magicbricks.com/property-for-sale-rent-in-New-Delhi/pg-hostels-New-Delhi

Takeaways

It has been such an interesting journey to design this feature. Dealing with a short constraint forced us to be extremely organized and efficient to meet our deadlines. In this context, our research phase has been essential to identify user expectations and frustrations. This is how we have discovered two important discoveries. Security and character compatibility were also major concerns. In addition to these discoveries, designing the room seeker flows help us to identify pain points.

These insights have been very precious when we have started to sketch our solution. Magicbricks gave us the freedom to explore different approaches as well as identifying missing screens in the room search flow. Then, digitalizing our ideas into wireframes and building a prototype allowed us to verify or not our assumptions. This is how we found out that offering a review system to evaluate shared accommodation was not the right approach to building security and trust.

Thanks again to our users, who came for the interview sessions. Gathering their insights helped us to translate their mixed feelings into a design conveying calm and friendliness.

Even if we are quite satisfied with the end result, we would have liked to have more time to design and test more screens, especially on the room seeker side. Find your own roommate, Letting users pay their rent or organizing house cleaning chores, are some of the ideas we had to make the application evolving.

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Thanks for reading!

User Experience Designer