The demand for off-campus housing for college students across the country is large, guaranteed, and continuous. Despite those characteristics, there are very few resources available to college students to help them find and secure off-campus housing. Most schools don’t offer students any support for the transition from on-campus to off-campus housing and the few apartment locator websites that include a section for off-campus housing often focus on apartment complexes, totally ignoring independent landlords. Similarly, there are a handful of small scale operations geared towards the college market that include a combination of apartments and homes for rent, but they concentrate on limited geographies—and only one has a mobile app…
…Until HouzeMe, a web and iPhone app that connects college students looking to rent houses and apartments off campus to landlords seeking college student tenants.
A small team of first-time entrepreneurs, HouzeMe turned to Arcweb Technologies not just for product design and development but also for collaborative mentorship and guidance. By uncovering critical user demographic and behavioral learnings and maintaining an iterative design and development process, Arcweb Technologies delivered to HouzeMe the right product for the right customers.
Adhering to our belief in building the right product for the right problem, the Arcweb team, led a thorough Discovery & Design period to both qualitatively and quantitatively define the users and their desired behaviors, map out the user flows, sketch, develop wireframes and mocked up views. In close collaboration with the HouzeMe Cofounders, each element of the build was explored before a single line of code was written. So while speed-to-market was the name of the game, the HouzeMe team valued our perspective that said speed must be counterweighted by thoughtful research and planning.
Discovery & Design
Perhaps one of the most crucial moments of the project came after the Discovery and Design phase and occurred during implementation when the Arcweb and HouzeMe teams collectively came to the conclusion that the supply side user of the app was slightly different than originally defined. Extensive research and testing showed that the target user was, in fact, not the single property “mom and pop” landlord as originally assumed, but instead, the multi-unit, multi-building property management company.
Because we were adhering to agile methodologies and diligent product management practices, we were able to lead a production-stage pivot that would develop the right product for the right—and newly defined—user type. Not only did that save HouzeMe time, money and frustration, but it also saved them from selling the wrong product to the wrong customer. With a roadmap in place, we didn’t just give the HouzeMe a team a date when they’d hear from us or see the final product. Instead, we maintained our iterative collaboration, transparency, as we do with all projects.
Arcweb project management provided the HouzeMe team with complete insight into progress and sprints. Perhaps most importantly, we also identified and navigated potential pitfalls before they could ever become problematic. We did this as a true team—from CEO to designer; developer to PM. Project Manager, Joy Barnosky notes: “An invaluable piece during development is communication and client collaboration. Incorporating our clients into our process and allowing them to actively participate in the creation of their product through the use of weekly demos and hands on interaction via the staging environment.”
Final Product & Results
After rigorous testing and documentation, HouzeMe had the right product, custom built for its specific users: students had their preferred iPhone app and property managers were equipped with a robust web app. Those use cases covered, both the iPhone app and web app were built for future cross-use feature development as property managers increasingly migrate to mobile and students take advantage of web-based features such as lease signing. Not only was the “quick to market” goal achieved, but it was done thoughtfully, thoroughly, transparently, and collaboratively.
Since launch of the web app at the end of 2014, HouzeMe has seen triple digit month-over-month growth amongst its user base. And since the launch of the HouzeMe iPhone app in early 2015, user growth has increased at a four digit rate. In addition to getting the product to market, Arcweb Technologies mentorship has helped HouzeMe build not just their product but their business as the team has since expanded to include five campus reps, an applications and software engineering lead, a business development lead, a marketing lead and three interns.
An invaluable piece during development is communication and client collaboration. Incorporating our clients into our process and allowing them to actively participate in the creation of their product through the use of weekly demos and hands on interaction via the staging environment.
Joy Barnosky, Project Manager, Arcweb Technologies
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