MetroResidences • December 2019
Being an expat in a foreign country is never easy. The design and marketing team came together to try and figure out how we can improve the lives of the expats living in our apartments.
I was the sole designer working on the app.
One of the most common issues that expats face in a new country is loneliness. Being away from their home country can be daunting and really lonely. Something as simple as buying groceries may be a challenge especially if they do not speak the same language as the people in the country that they are in.
We wanted to come up with something that can make the move to a new country a little easier. We felt that having a strong community of people that are able to rely on one another would be a good solution. However, the company has never had any experience in getting guests together and there were a lot of uncertainties as to whether the community will work out as we intended it to.
Nonetheless, we were determined to give it a shot. With the goal of building a community in mind, we set out to figure out what needs to be done.
After discussions with the marketing team, we decided that the end goal would be to build an app that can support the activities that will help foster a community. We landed on that because we felt that an app would allow people to easily communicate with others on the go. It would also be good for the business as we would be able to allow users to browse and book apartments via the app.
However, the company's bosses wanted to see proof that the community would naturally grow and reap benefits in the long run before investing in the app. We had to prove that our guests were keen on participating in such events. As such, we created a scaled down version of the community for the test.
We Identified the features that we felt were crucial in community building and that were definitely going to be in the app in some form and tested them out via different methods. The three main features that we focused on were:
3) Useful information
We handpicked a pool of guests who were living at our apartments for a minimum of a year and asked if they’d like to be added into a community Whatsapp chat. The chat was used as a platform for anyone to ask questions and for us to broadcast any events that we were hosting.
The chat was a little quiet at first so our team decided to plant 'fake guests', which were also us, to get conversations going. That idea worked and we managed to get a couple of chats going.
Overall, we received positive feedback from guests regarding the initiatives and had multiple people turn up regularly for the different events. Some guests even ended up hanging out with each other outside of the events that we’re hosting which was great to see.
I created a community board that was set up at three of the buildings which had the highest level of occupancy. The board had various information that a person might need when living abroad. Information such as emergency services or where to buy groceries were specific to each building. Food and activity recommendations were the same at each building and were presented in a card or tear off paper that were free for guests to take with them.
While we did not receive any feedback on the boards, we did notice that people were taking the food cards as well as the tear off paper with the activities.
The overall feedback from guests was that they liked the idea of having a community and events were a good way to bring everyone together especially if they were alone in the country. The positive response toward the test bought us the go ahead to start on the design of the app.
I was the main contributor for the design of the app. Discussions surrounding its features included the company’s bosses, the design lead as well as the marketing team. The first thing we did was to come up with a list of features that had to be in the app and they were:
1) An overview of their existing/upcoming bookings
2) An events page to show events hosted by us and other events happening around Singapore
3) A chat function to allow guests to communicate with us as well as with other guests
4) A community section where guests are allowed to post questions
Before I started to actually design anything, I created a navigation schema for the app so as to prevent any confusion for the navigation later on in the process.
After the navigation schema was established, I created wireframes to figure out what the hierarchy of the content that will be as well as explore possible functions that can be included. The wireframes were also used to communicate to the rest of the team our goal and as a reference for our bosses on what can be expected from this project.
After various revisions of the wireframes based on feedback from all the people involved, I started to work on the hi-fidelity prototype.
The app was broken down into different releases. The first release consists of the live chat, guest profile and a simple booking view. The features were chosen based on the business needs as well as what would be most beneficial for the guest.
The project is placed on hold at the moment due to a shift in priority due to the COIVD19 situation. However, the next step we’d take for this project is to conduct usability testing. I will update this project with more details as it goes along.