As part of an initiative to upgrade their digital Real Estate tools, this financial company wanted to upgrade their digital mortgage pre-approval application to cut back on user calls and better empower their members to get the home they wanted more quickly.


  • Outdated, legacy front- and back-end systems

  • Lack of any viable usability data or feedback

  • Partner team’s inexperience with the process of usability testing and Design Thinking processes


I led a small, partly remote team responsible for the development of usability testing, research and design synthesis, ideation, presentation to our team and final documentation.

The usability prototype

Click to see a sample of the entire ‘Happy Path’ flow employed for usability testing

click the image above to sample the DPA ‘happy-path’ usability interactive prototype

example artifacts of initial competitive analysis and business requests

interview guide and moments from our member usability interviews

one of the final iterations of our member-interview synthesis board, showing the universal concepts drawn from initial insights

one of the final iterations of our member-interview synthesis board, showing the universal concepts drawn from initial insights

samples of the final research readout delivered to partners

examples from final DPA Wiki documentation, with process maps, annotated mockups, content matrices, and accessibility guidance

The project began with investigating our Business Partner’s ask. They provided us with what scant background research and data there was, along with screenshots and business data to help us understand what was required.

From there we began performing competitive analysis into a number of competitors including Navy Federal, Quicken Loans and Better.com, to name just a few. This helped us to build a more formal heuristic evaluation to help inform our understandings of what’s possible, and preferable as far as digital pre-applications go.

Upon understanding what our stakeholders needed, I put together a research plan. We used this to both socialize an idea of our process and methodology as well as solidify funding. We agreed usability interviews with the members would be key to understanding the experience and pain-points of current pre-application process.

To make the most of these interviews, I sought to probe 2 main points: how members felt about what we were building relative to their previous pre-approval experience, and their experience with house buying in general.

We picked a representative base of 7-9 members, skewing more millennial. We prepared intensively, and I helped my teammates refine some of their own skills.

The interviews were, as always, incredibly informative and eye-opening. Over a few rounds we began to tease out larger themes, which led us to universal insights, which we compiled into a research readout and socialized with our partners. From there we categorized and prioritized these insights on a spectrum from easy, quick-wins, to hard and complex steps to help us decide what our marching orders would be, and we got to work.

Upon completion of the interviews, my team went to work synthesizing the 1200+ or so notes we’d taken. This was done completely digitally on Mural.co.

Once we had a final design, we ran it by our partners once more, before documenting the entire newly-composed flow in a Wiki, ready to be consumed when ready.


Getting the opportunity to lead a project at this level of sophistication and exacting specifications was such a great opportunity, with ample learning and experience working in dispersed teams.

Upon completion, I had:

  • Led a full design project from initial business ask through research to final design and documentation;

  • Helped socialize and co-create the design with a team of business, digital, content, compliance and tech partners;

  • deepened my experience in a highly-professional design process;

  • developed deeper connection and reliability with partners;

  • helped decrease member call-volume by 12% while increasing form completion by 25%.

With more time, I would:

  • Build out some of the more fundamental functional changes we discovered in the member testing;

  • Sync up more thoroughly with development teams to include their input and more quickly identify issues;

  • Perform a thorough design QA before the final product ships.

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