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New features for Countrywide's listing software

This software was developed for a specific client. Its users are estate agents (The employees of our client), and they list properties for sale on the market with it.

The product launch was happening as I joined the company, and there had been no dedicated designer on staff during the development of this launch version.

The project had some interesting, and often frustrating, challenges:

  1. The visual style and back end architecture had been set in stone before I joined. All changes were signed off by the client, since they paid for development. This meant major changes to style or the back-end were hard to push through since they seem like the opposite of progress.
  2. There was a constant stream of requests from the client to address potential legal compliance issues. Since these were important business needs, usability improvements were even less likely to get done, as there was no "down time" and our developers were constantly busy.
  3. Our client had captive users: The software was mandatory for all estate agents they employed. This meant that usability improvements didn't have a clear business case (Such as increasing adoption and earning more revenue).
  4. Of course, employees can always choose to leave and work for another company, and turnover could be a clear business case for usability improvements. However, there was a high turnover rate already, so any dissatisfaction because of our software was hard to identify.

With the above in mind, the following screens are presented as examples of small changes I could make to improve usability.

Sending out the property pack

This screen allowed the estate agent to send the property pack (A ZIP file with the property photos, brochures, etc.) to the property seller, so they'd have copies for their records. It supports both saving directly to the computer, if the estate agent is handing a USB stick over, or over email.

Single-use passwords

We decided to introduce single-use passwords so that users could get into their account by contacting support, if they had forgot their password. This chart outlined the back-end processes needed to handle the single-use password feature.

Conveyancing fees entry

Estate agency is a great industry if you like complex legal requirements. I designed this screen so that administrators could enter various types of conveyancing fees on the admin website. This information would be fed into screens that the estate agent would show to the seller. Those screens, of course, woudl be much simpler.

Legal compliance

As part of a feature to help show that our client was legally compliant, this screen was added. It let the user record evidence of the right steps being taken during the sale process.

Communicating text limits

The software generates PDFs which include text written elsewhere in the software, in fields like the above. There were many different brochure types, and each had a length limit for text. Because of the way the brochures used text, we couldn't rely on character count as a limit, so percentages were chosen since users could understand those almost as instinctively. If a certain field went over the limit for some brochures, the relevant brochures would go above 100%, and turn red.

Synchronisation modal resdesign

Users synchronise in the software to upload their changes. Originally this screen showed a tall stack of progress bars - quite confusing. I designed this screen, which instead only shows a percetange for each type of synchronisation (Download, upload, and settings). All of them happen at the same time, and can take different amounts of time.

There is a "See Details" button if the user wants to see "behind the scenes", or if a support agent is trying to diagnose a problem. The space saved by this redesign is given to a "Tip of the day" area, which lets us or our client communicate important information or hints to the users.

Letting users reassign their own work

Users need to contact us to have their properties assigned to other people (If they're going on holiday and need someone else to take over, for example). This form was designed so that users could send us those requests without calling us, freeing up the support desk for problems, rather than administrative tasks. An interface on the admin website would let someone see the requests and approve or deny them.

Collecting the necessary identification

Estate agents need to make sure they have all of the necessary identification from the people selling a house. This screen was designed to consolidate many screens into one. It's more cluttered, but it gives the user an overview of everything they have collected, and lets them establish links between people and companies they've added, which is also required for legal reasons.

Progressive disclosure

Complexity can hide behind simplicity. The user will need to provide different information depending on their answer to the "Does the property have a current EPC?" question, at the top. This diagram shows the flow from state to state.

Referring to document images

The user is required to capture photos of some documents. These documents are represented in the interface, but are too small to read if some of the information on the document needs to be entered in another field (There is a field elsewhere for "Company Number", in this case). In this screen, the user can tap on the embedded document, and see a magnified view which is displayed alongside the screen where they fill in the information.

Date validation

This screen was designed to cover all possible date requirements when collecting information about identification documents. This is necessary for validation, because the user is not allowed to use identification that is expired or was issued too long ago.

Better photo handling

Originally, users deleted photos by tapping a cross symbol, and confirming the deletion. However, this meant that they could not delete many photos at once. On top of this, new features meant that people could make changes to photos elsewhere in the system and the user would need to be made aware of those changes so they could approve them. New photos (That the user did not add themselves) are marked, and deleting a photo now moves it to the "Deleted Photos" screen with no confirmation, removing unecessary dialogue boxes.

From the "Deleted Photos" screen, users can restore photos they did not mean to delete, delete individual photos, or delete every photo. If a photo is deleted from elsewhere in the system, it is also moved here so that the user knows that someone else intends to delete it.

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