UX Lead
Unite Students

Creating a new e-commerce website for the UK's largest student accommodation provider, Unite Students. The aim was to improve the website's user experience to stand out in the competitive market. 
The solution involved creating a "matchmaking" quiz to guide users to relevant accommodation options and redesigning the listings page and booking flow to enhance the user experience. The new website was rated 8.7/10 by beta users and is due to launch in Autumn 2024.

Unite Students' website was not performing well, with too many drop-offs on key pages hurting conversion rates. They needed a new website to put the user experience front and centre and help them stand out from competitors in a crowded market.
DiscoveryWe started by reviewing the existing website with a heuristic evaluation, indicating that the main issues were recognition, consistency and efficiency. The filtering system lacked useful configuration tools to assist users in their search.
The old site scored relatively poorly in a heuristic evaluation 

The analytics reports revealed that almost half of users dropped off before the first interaction, indicating a need for better incentives to encourage conversion. Based on these findings, we formed initial recommendations focusing on three main themes: search and configuration, exploration and comparison, and inspiration and selection.

Analysis and high level recommendations

User research
Quantitative research: We surveyed around a hundred students using SurveyMonkey to understand their accommodation preferences and general digital behaviours. The results highlighted some predicted sentiments, such as price and location being the top factors in selecting accommodation. Some data surprised us—for example, 36% of preferred phone customer support over online chat!

Qualitative research: We interviewed eight students and two parents. The interviews, which were 1-hour video conversations, aimed to delve deeper into the participants' motivations and understand their decision-making context, concerns, and attitudes towards student accommodation and Unite Student.

The research findings were instrumental in shaping the design strategy. We already knew that price and location were the top factors, but what surprised us was how overwhelmed students felt when deciding where to live.

Leaving home for the first time, combined with time pressure and the abundance of options, created choice paralysis in all of our personas.

It was clear they needed guidance in selecting the right place to live.

The research insights were presented in a series of co-design workshops with the client, where we explored possible solutions.

Personalised search experience 
Our main goal was to lower the drop off rates and help users find suitable accommodation quickly. To achieve this, we developed a quiz that acts like a matchmaking tool. Users are presented with the most appropriate accommodation options after answering a few fun and quick questions. They can then use this information to filter and refine their search further.

Early quiz concept sketches

The new homepage offers two main paths for users based on their preferences. Those who need guidance can take the quiz to get started, while those who are more confident can skip the quiz and go straight to the listings after selecting their city.

Regardless of the entry point, users end up on a new listings page with a redesigned filter system and map view, enabling better exploration and comparison. For users who choose the quiz path, the results are pre-filtered based on their answers, with quiz-related tags highlighted and the top of the page to create a sense of continuity.

Users told us location and price are deciding factors, so we put them front and centre

If a user answers the quiz, results are pre-filtered to best match their preferences

The property pages provide all the essential information without overwhelming users, focusing on what truly matters to them.

Finally, the booking flow seamlessly integrates into the search experience via a sidebar wizard, enabling students to choose on the same page and only go to another page when ready to book.

After defining the core journeys, we redesigned the main navigation and completed the site information architecture to support a more intuitive and seamless experience. We clearly highlighted the sections that are most important to users.

Usability testing
Once the client approved the wireframes, the UI team began creating prototypes and mockups that were tested with users in three rounds of moderated and unmoderated testing using clickable prototypes.

Moderated usability test

The tests helped us go from good to great. For example, feedback on the property page was “it looks like a magazine… lovely, but I can’t make a decision based on photos. where is the information I need?” So we increased the information density and restructured the page to align with users' expectations.

We improved the property page hierarchy by placing important info on top and adding internal navigation

The final design was rated highly by test users, receiving an overall score of 8.7/10. In preference tests, critical pages scored, on average, 80% better compared to their previous versions in unmoderated preference tests. The new website is due to launch in autumn 2024.

Agency: Landor
Producer: Marion Ratie
Strategist: Lingzi Zhang
UX Lead: Yarden Gur
UX Designers: Marianne Delasalle, , Dan Baczynski
UI Lead: Robin Gardeur
UI Designers: Ewan Evans, Himus Hung