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Founder & CEO
Inventor, Patent Holder
Chairman of the Board
Head of Product
Head of Design
The Real Estate market is moving away from paper and towards adopting e-signatures. The real estate transaction process is complex, long and involves multiple rounds of input among multiple parties. While several technology companies are digitizing parts of the transaction process, the user still has to juggle and administer each solution separately along the transaction lifecycle. This creates gaps in the experience, long learning curves, high difficulty and ultimately poor adoption of paperless technologies.
The Real Estate Transaction is the spark that creates multiple opportunities for other service providers. From inspection, financing, home renovation and connectivity services, knowing when a pending transaction is in process can be extremely valuable. However this is currently not possible as the disconnected and broken process reverts the transaction back to a manual scan and email process.
Because the current Real Estate transaction process is broken, there is virtually no data or intelligence on live transactions that are in process. This gap between the listing and land registry creates unique opportunities for business models that never existed before. DealTap could offer opportunities for the many service providers who would like to identify consumers during and after the transaction.
Several companies are offering solutions for various aspects of the transaction. The existing product offerings typically provide features around one of the four transaction tasks
The above accumulates into a series of disconnected products and services that each present provide friction during the user journey. The result is a broken transaction experience that results in the majority of transactions ending up on paper only to be scanned and sent back to the negotiating party.
There are several insights based on persona research that can be utilized to provide various opportunities to solve the challenges presented.
This creates opportunities for building a solution that can leverage insights from the above to create meaningful value and differentiation that solves challenges in the path to paperless transaction completion.
DealTap thus emerged as a solution that tackled these key challenges. We focused on a product strategy that would solve fragmentation by creating one seamless platform driving a Real Estate transaction through offer creation, e-signing, negotiation and closing. To do this, we leveraged the standardized nature of real estate contracts, and baked in the legal logic of the transaction process into the product. This allowed for contextual awareness to flow through the various phases on the transaction lifecycle. These strategic decisions in the product definition formed a new type of process which we coined as ‘Transaction on Rails’ that will lead users on the digital path until the transaction is completed. This was the birth of a concept known today as ‘Smart Contracts’. Our goals for the product were as follows
Too often signatures would be missing, forms wouldn’t be included and compliance regulations would not be followed. Because of the use of standardized forms, each transaction type had an opportunity to be automated via step-by-step user experiences that focused each party on their sequential tasks within the transaction. This also eliminated much of the hand holding required from agents as the platform would already be aware of checks and balances.
By viewing the superprocess of the transaction as a linear track with multiple options, we simplified the users mental model by creating clear visual cues as to where they are within the path. We designed progress bars as central components of the user experience to clearly show the user how many steps were required for their particular tasks within the transaction. This mental model shift greatly eliminated the ‘open-ended’ nature of piles of contracts and created a singular guided path for each party within the transaction.
By taking cues from our journey map, we identified a great opportunity to streamline the messy back and forth nature of negotiations. As users often related to sign-backs as emails, text messages or calls, we uncovered a great insight; a transaction negotiation is like a conversation. Because it shares a similar mental model to a chat, we decided to model signbacks and counteroffers and responses in a user experience mimicking a text conversation. This created greater familiarity within the process and eliminated some of the mess related to negotiations. As each signback would now be carried out through the platform, we identified other opportunities like highlighted changes from previous versions that further enhanced the user experience.
From the insights, we realized that much of the opportunities presented great solutions that were the first of their kind in the industry. Because of this, we were able to generate several utility patents that protected the invention:
“COMPUTER SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR PROVIDING A MULTI-USER TRANSACTION PLATFORM ACCESSIBLE USING A MOBILE DEVICE”
"AUDIT USER INTERFACE"
"DISPLAY SCREEN WITH STACKING USER INTERFACE"
In the future, technology and workflow driven processes will guide Real Estate transactions from start to finish. This is true for several reasons. First all forms are standardized, meaning there is a controlled process that must be followed for all identical transaction types - this can easily be automated in the form of a wizard. Second and most importantly, the current administration heavy process is prone to user error and poses significant risk and liability for parties involved.
The average age of a real estate agent is above 50, making new technology adoption challenging. The majority of Real Estate perform 1 deal or less per year, while a very small minority of Agents handle over 70% of all Real Estate transactions in the market. Real Estate agents are also part of organizations called Real Estate brokerages that handle deal flow and interface with Agents once transactions are complete. Sometimes Agents purchase transaction solutions on their own, while other times Brokerages provide transaction solutions for them as part of an umbrella offering. Agents typically deal with transactions during negotiations, while Brokers handle completed transactions. Therefore both Agents and Brokers are involved in the decision making process when it comes to transaction solutions.
As part of mapping the user journey, we mapped the entire transaction process based on both regional and party workflows. Each transaction type (like a Lease or Offer for Purchase and Sale) had its own unique workflow, and each participant (such as a buying agent, seller, tenant and landlord) in the transaction had their own unique workflow as well. To address this we assembled one of the largest user workshops of their kind in the Real Estate tech industry. Inviting dozens of Agents, Administrators, Brokers and homebuyers with varying degrees of technical aptitude. We dove into mapping user journeys and understanding mental models of the users via various exercises. We started by "Posting the Path" and crowdsourcing a complete series of steps that describe real estate transactions, from multiple holistic perspectives. We continued by adding additional information and deeper context within each step of the path, paving the way to an experience map.
In addition to the first four workshops. we performed additional workshops aimed at generating new ideas and functionalitv, and uncovering unmet needs, desires and annoyances regarding their roles. The goal was to identify exactly how agents and their clients think at each critical phase of the transaction while allowing them to openly identify pain points and ideal scenarios for solutions. We then synthesized this information and continued down the path to standardize our learnings for generating user stories in the system. The various roles performed activities relating to one of the four main tasks with the transaction experience:
We combined all the steps neceessary to create a "superprocess" with more detail and refinement. We would layer all parties involved along the super process including their specific thoughts, feelings, tools and locations at each step in the journey. Once the mapping is complete, we would continue synthesizing to make sense of the process, making connections and find opportunities for improvement of the transaction process for all parties involved. The last step would involve focusing on specific opportunities and generating priorities.
As a result of journey mapping and user testing, we realized that too often various parties participating in transactions need access from multiple devices. Users would be presented with offers via email and open them on their phone, agents would sometimes be using iPads or on their laptops. Administrators would often be using workstations as well - so the logical solution was to focus on a responsive web application that removed the friction of downloaded software and enable all devices to participate with an internet connection.
Setting the visual language for the product interface started with identifying the brand and letting all aspects of the product reflect the positioning of DealTap.The goal of the visual language was to start mobile-first while enabling larger proportions of critical UI to maximum space on the screen and eliminate as many non-critical components as possible. I lead the visual language from brand to user interface throughout the evolution of DealTap from version 1 to 3. The result was a simple and clean user interface that followed the design guidelines of the brand.
DealTap was the most feature-rich transaction platform available at the time of its second v2 release. DealTap was the only platform that had intelligent transaction workflows baked into the experience, we had the most modern interface and the most complete multi-device support in the industry. We needed to communicate this in a fresh and interesting way to differentiate from competitors and stand out to early adopters. Our strategy was to appeal to a small, yet influence a subset of Realtors within Canada and trickle our way down to the common Realtor over time - we simply could not appeal to everyone from the beginning.
Because the Realtor market is so diverse, we decided very early that we were not going to appeal to every Realtor. The technical competency, needs for technology, and style of business varied so much between the new generation of Realtor and the traditional Realtor that it would be difficult to appeal to everyone. Our target persona was the Realtor from the Facebook generation, between 20-40 that also had more than 6 completed deals per year. As deal volume was a key metric in determining sophistication, we needed to appeal to Realtors that had an active roster of clients and juggled several transactions at the same time. DealTap would not be as useful for part-time Realtors that wouldn’t benefit from accelerated transaction workflow.
The name ‘DealTap’ was derived during the inception of the company, signifying the importance of the transaction or ‘Deal’ and combined with iPad / iPhone multitouch lingo in ‘Tapping’. I felt the word choice and their combination spoke to the simplicity of getting to the desired outcome that every Realtor was looking for, and that was closing the deal. From a visual perspective, we wanted to acknowledge our key workflow management differentiator dubbed the “Transaction on Rails”. The rails was signified with a simple path and downward arrow showing movement in a ‘zigzag’ manner referencing the ever changing nature of transaction negotiations. The choice of color was critical and from our internal workshops we determined that blue was the most widely used color in signifying security and safety. Because Realtors would need to be trusting our new company in handling sensitive transactions, we decided to follow a similar path but with a more modern twist and moving the color palette towards red and landing in the middle - purple. We felt purple was a good compromise between the trusted blue with a modern twist. It also helped that no other competitor was using purple as well.
The DealTap message was positioned as a tool of the future for serious Realtors that needed to get work done in a fast and efficient manner. Our slogan became “The Ultimate Deal-Making Machine” as we want to appeal to our target audience of young Realtors who were looking for differentiation from the traditional market. We wanted to be aggressive, yet approachable - modern, yet comfortable. This was a challenge to convey both from a visual and messaging perspective.
I led creative and design teams to execute a modern, and futuristic web presence that continued where the brand left off. Again we realized we were only going to appeal to a small subset of Realtors that were young, ambitious and driven to differentiate themselves and provide the best possible experience for their clients.
The video series was critical for us to get the message across as quickly and succinctly as possible. We focused on creating a series of both long and short form videos that spoke to our target audience, but also an additional video series that would talk to our target audience’s boss - the Broker of Record. The videos were meant to create a sense of understanding by first identifying the key challenges our audience was facing, while showcasing our product features to solve those challenges in simple and engaging animations. Because of the seriousness of the video series, we wanted to soften the message by adding comic relief in closing scenes to create a sense of comfort and approachability.
The DealTap launch was captivated in our appearance at Canada’s largest Real Estate conference called RealtorQuest. My goal with the booth design was to create a digital experience that highlighted our user interface first and foremost, but also enabled visitors to openly interact in private sessions with team members who directly worked on the product. The result was a combination of large format televisions, oriented vertically and embellished in iPad style visuals while connected to actual iPads that were running live demos of the application and attracted large audiences. This in combination with our brand identity created a unique digital experience that highlighted our product, how it works, and its value.