In 2015, Rent.com began a dual initiative to refresh its brand identity and invest in lean product development teams. Conceived as a small, cross-company team of designers and software engineers, Rent LA led development efforts on new product features with the goal of boosting rental inventory, increasing the number of rentals leased, and improving the renter search experience overall.
During the initial planning phase, I was put on a team tasked with exploring and defining the visual language and of Rent.com’s digital products.
Later, I led interface and interaction design across iOS and Android platforms, where I worked closely with the project manager over mobile, and a Lovely UX designer. The Rent LA web and mobile teams worked in an agile scrum environment and design teams met weekly to present work and offer critique.
Defining The Product Identity
The team spent a weekend offsite in Santa Barbara to kickoff the project, outline goals, create a roadmap, and spend time together as a group. The design team spent the weekend defining the culture and identity of the new Rent LA product brand through words and moodboards, eventually refining those high-level ideas into distinct visual directions. I was tasked with designing a series of layouts that would capture Rent.com’s ‘easy-to-use’ motto, while standing out from its more conservative competitors.
By the end of the retreat, we had a roadmap for a Rent “2.0” MVP on web and mobile and a direction for the look and feel of the product identity.
Mobile User Flows
Because of my experience on the Lovely iOS and Android apps, I was assigned to the mobile team, where I worked closely with my project manager and mobile engineers on the base Rent LA apps. To do this, we borrowed the general framework of the Lovely mobile apps, porting essential functionality like search and filters, and replacing unnecessary views with Rent-specific ones, like appointments.
Meanwhile, I was creating user flows for new product features in the pipeline with the UX designer over mobile. These flows helped the team identify and fix points of confusion quickly and garner support from stakeholders.
Visual Design Refinement
With the go-ahead from stakeholders, I began the process of translating user flows into high-fidelity mockups of the final app views.
Our mobile developers were a fantastic resource to get feedback, ask questions about platform conventions, and coordinate compromises to keep components (the design language) as consistent as possible across iOS and Android.
Prototyping in Flinto and Invision was crucial throughout this stage, and made it easy to show decision-makers in real-time how a new feature was going to work in context.
The biggest challenge was coordination. A change to the layout on mobile would often have a ripple effect on the website team, and vice versa. Fortunately, our commitment to daily stand-ups and regular one-on-one check-ins with the web team helped cut down on inconsistencies.
Our efforts, together with a larger company-wide brand refresh, brought an influx of new listings that more than tripled Rent.com’s inventory of apartment listings.