As part of an initiative to upgrade their digital Real Estate tools, this company wanted to upgrade their digital mortgage pre-approval process to cut back on user calls and better empower their members to purchase a home.


  • Outdated, legacy front- and back-end systems

  • Lack of any viable usability data or feedback

  • Partner’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.

outdated pre qualification flow

outdated pre qualification flow

competitor’s flow analysis

intake artifact with business features and stories, illustrating suppression request

detailed member interview guide

usability interviews

thoroughly iterated member interview synthesis board

thoroughly iterated member interview synthesis board

samples of the final research readout

examples from final Wiki documentation

The project began with getting a sense of what our business partners were asking of us. 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 I began performing analysis of what our competitors were offering their customers. I looked into a number of competitors including Navy Federal, Quicken Loans and Better.com, to name just a few . This research helped us develop a more formal heuristic evaluation to help inform our understandings of what’s possible, and preferable as far as digital preapplications go.

Design for the MVP was relatively easy, as I knew we would be working within the guidelines of our Brand design framework, and luckily were asked to leverage the pre-existing Digital Mortgage Experience that we’d been working on for the previous 8-months.

Armed with the knowledge of our business-partner’s needs and a sense of the industry cutting-edge, I put together a research plan. We used this to both socialize an idea of our process and methodology as well as solidify funding.

With that secured, I began to prepare for member interviews. It was such a great opportunity, and I realized I wanted to understand 2 things, specifically: how members felt about our initial offering relative to their previous experience with the mortgage pre-approval process, especially digital; but just as much, their overall past experience with buying a house, that is, Real Estate in general. So I developed my interview guide to reflect this.

We decided on a representative base of 7-9 members, skewing more millennial, as we figured this to be the more likely end-user. I rehearsed my interview script repeatedly, and practiced with my partners, helping them refine their own process. We did a dry-run with a designer from another team who’d recently bought a house.

The interviews were, as always, incredibly informative and eye-opening. My team went to work synthesizing the 1200+ notes we’d taken. We did this, for the first time, completely digitally using Mural.co. Over a few rounds we began to tease out larger themes, which led us to universal insights, which we compiled in 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.

Once we had a final design, we ran it by our partners once more, before documenting the entire newly-minted flow in a Wiki, ready for developer’s consumption.


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.

With more time, I would:

  • Design some of the more important, bigger-win changes to make a more intuitive final product;

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

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

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