Modernizing the Design Selection Process for a Custom Home Builder
Design of Customer-Facing Platform Enables Seamless Online Experience
A premier custom home builder serving over 10,000 homeowners in 100 communities across Alabama and Tennessee wanted to streamline the pre-build design decision-making process by providing their customers with a seamless online to in-person experience. They first needed to digitize their hardcover design catalog—customers used it to select everything from paint color to wall finishings, appliances, and hardware. Outdated almost as soon as it was delivered, the catalog was costing them $70K a year in printing costs and $150K+ a year in price adjustments, not to mention thousands of hours of lost productivity due to delays during the design process.
“Other companies we work with are one size fits all. We’re not one size fits all. That’s what I really like about Praxent. They’ve been very specific on where we want to go and what we’ve done. As long as they keep doing what they’re doing, we could have a long-term partnership with them. That’s what we’re looking for in the next year or two or three, because there’s still a lot more we want to accomplish, and I think they can help us get there.”– Carol Lange – Chief Customer Officer, Signature Homes
10 weeks Praxent was able to pair down the MVP to a 10-week development project
20 days for a customer to go from contract to design (down from 30-60 days)
$220K+ in cost savings from digitizing design selection process
The client unanimously chose Praxent to provide UX research and custom software architecture services that would inform the design and development of their minimum viable product (MVP). Their challenge was to get the product in front of their customers as soon as possible so they could address a growing design backlog and decrease the time between when customers sign a contract to when they finalize their design decisions from 30–60 days down to 20.
Their home designers were overwhelmed, most juggling multiple responsibilities for as many as 30 clients at once on top of facilitating the design process. In addition, the client was hoping to address several customer pain points around the design process, including:
- Choice overload
- Permanence of decisions
- Inability to see items in person
- Inability to remember design choices
- Regret over design choices
Finally, the client was seeking to design an MVP that appealed to Millennial home buyers, which are increasingly entering the market.
The client considered an out-of-the box solution from another provider but decided to go the custom route because the aesthetic of the application was very important to them. They pride themselves on not being a “cookie-cutter,” one-size-fits-all builder and wanted a partner who understood this and could deliver a custom solution. Finally, they did not have an internal technical team and relied heavily on Praxent’s designers and engineers.
How We Helped
Praxent’s mission was to design and develop the MVP quickly while delivering an outstanding UX for customers and keeping it as lean as possible to ensure faster development. In addition, Praxent sought to:
1.) leverage existing data structures within the client’s enterprise resource planning system (ERP) to streamline development of the MVP and
2.) ensure integration with the client’s ERP software to enable seamless data transfer between the ERP and the customer portal.
The approach included:
- Conducting user research through interviews of just 5–7 employees and customers and delivering a report of key insights
- Creating a user journey focused on the pre-build phase
- Conducting a technical design review
- Developing user workflows and sitemap documentation of how users will complete design selections
- Producing detailed wireframes of the design selection workflow
- Conducting usability testing of wireframes with customers
- Iterating on wireframes based on customer feedback
- Designing user interface of key screens to establish visual style based on brand guidelines
- Developing a clickable prototype of key screens
- Creating a style guide for development including user interface components and usage of fonts, colors, and graphics
- Analyzing and documenting for integration with client ERP, hosting, architecture, and authentication
- Refining development estimate and timeline plan: Defining first-release epics and key user stories to drive engineering estimates, capture solution requirements, and prepare for development
- Weekly status reporting of budget, scope, and timeline
- Creating a middleware solution to read data from the client’s ERP software without writing data back to it
- Developing MVP using React and .NET Core/C#
What We Delivered
Praxent was able to validate the UX/UI design direction based on key insights and feedback from interviewing just 5-7 current employees and homeowners.
Design of MVP
The Praxent team designed the client’s MVP as well as enabled an accelerated development time of just 10 weeks, which allowed the client to release their new product to their customers much quicker.
Clickable prototypes of key screens
Using ClickModel, Praxent created a clickable prototype of the platform’s key screens, incorporating the UI and UX design and establishing a roadmap for development based on the results of usability testing and direct stakeholder feedback.
Integrated with clients existing ERP, enabling real-time updates of platform
Praxent created a solution that enables the client to store the data in their own system while still reading the data directly from their ERP. The product catalog can be updated in real time (thus preventing out-of-stock products from being displayed to the customer) and reducing the time designers spend with customers making selections.
Praxent will continue to partner with Signature Homes to help them provide a streamlined online customer experience for their customers so they can reach a larger target audience of prospective home buyers and confidently compete with more modern real estate providers.