After launching our waitlist, it was time to build the core features and bring our visions to life. Before we jumped into the product design process, we defined three design principles to guide us tackle our main business challenges.
Even though our business model is unique, there were a few businesses tackling the “factional real estate ownership” with different approaches. Even outside of the real estate space, a few startups were indirectly competing with us by offering other alternative assets (wine, art, and collectables). Thus, it was essential for us to effectively communicate with our customers about our key differentiators.
As a FINRA-registered broker-dealer, we operate in a heavily regulated environment. Regulatory requirements means limited choice of copywriting, mandatory information to show, longer review cycles, all potentially resulted in extra frictions in our product.
Due to resource limitations, we simply couldn't afford creating tailor-made products like Coinbase and Coinbase Pro. As a result, our product had to cater to all investors, including retail, experienced, and institutional investors. Striking the right balance was crucial, as the product couldn't be too simplistic or gamified to discourage experienced investors, nor too complicated to overwhelm retail investors. We needed to create a solution that would work seamlessly for all types of investors and make all of them feel welcome.
Understanding a commercial property as an investment requires processing a vast amount of information, ranging from location and facade to asset details, tenants, managers, and financial performance.
Presenting this information in a way that's easy to navigate and comprehend for all investors posed a significant challenge. To address this challenge, we employed a two-fold approach.
We developed a matrix to help us better organize the information based on its necessity and complexity.
Once all information were positioned in the matrix accordingly and divided into three categories, fundamentals, essential and advanced. We wanted to use 🧠 progressive disclosure and introduced each category step-by-step, so that the cognitive load is minimized.
These three categories helped us decide how components are prioritized, and ultimately defined our layout structure.
The research tools is a feature of the PDP that provides advanced information for more experienced investors to understand everything about the investors.
The research tools include advanced information about the operation, management, and financials of the property. It’s sourced and processed from all kinds of documents by our deal team. For the best interest of our investors, it’s our responsibility to make sure that any change of the property details is updated promptly on the platform. However, due to the complex nature of the information, our product team faced challenges in translating the documents into our research tools, requiring involvement from the deal/sales team and adding an additional layer of complexity to the updating process.
We initially relied on the deal team to take the lead. They would handpick the relevant information from the documents and share it with me, who would then design and implement the updates in our research tools.
However, because the deal team couldn’t directly visualize the information they chose, they needed every small change to be visually designed and built for them to visualize, resulting in excessive time spent on the visualizing and reviewing process. As a lean startup, this diversion impacted our ability to achieve other objectives and slowed down our business progress.
Clearly, this problem was rooted in the absence of tools and framework to guide the updating process. There were no guidelines on what information to include or exclude in the research tools, how much information to incorporate, and how to effectively represent each piece of information. Hence, I proposed a different approach.
I thoroughly analyzed the past iterations of research tools and standardized the formats for visualizing information. I then designed a system of four main components (text, card, key stats, tables) with 20+ variations, creating a comprehensive toolkit.
I introduced a new workflow for updating the research tools. Leveraging existing Figma tools, the deal team can now directly visualizes the new information they collect using Figma. Once they are internally satisfied, they pass the final Figma design to me (the design team), and I update the changes in the Webflow components.
With the adoption of this new framework, most updates can now be seamlessly implemented within the pre-built framework, saving substantial time. As a result, our research tools updating timeframe has improved from over one month to just one week, representing a remarkable 75% improvement.
The decision to create a dedicated trading view was an intense debate among our team. Some members advocated for a distinct trading tab, aligning it closely with Masterworks for its simplicity and intuitive appeal. On the contrary, I believed that the rationale behind investing in fine art and real estate is so fundamentally different, that the design must be differed.
In order to validate my assumption and gain a comprehensive understanding of how much overlap between the current Property Detail Page (PDP) and the potential trading view, we decided to take apart the customer journey on the page.
The customer journey for trading a property share on LEX can be divided into three main scenarios:
❶ For customers who haven't invested in the property yet, understanding the property as an investment is crucial for making informed buying decisions.
❷ For customers who already own shares and want to trade, a thorough understanding of the investment is necessary to decide whether to buy or sell.
❸ For customers who have made an open trade offer, tracking the latest status of the open orders is important for making adjustments to their offers accordingly.
Comparing all these scenarios to the IPO process, It's evident that "understanding the investment" plays a vital role in customers' decision-making process. Based on this, we concluded that the trading view would essentially be an IPO view with additional trading functionalities. As a result, we decided to build the trading view based on the existing IPO Property Detail Page (PDP).
To provide visual differentiation between the IPO and trading property, we decided to pin the stock chart, a common element associated with trading stock, to the top tabs in the trading view. We also recognized this as the opportunity to educate customers about our status as a real stock.
The top tabs are thoughtfully designed in a modular manner, allowing for seamless switching between tabs without disrupting the current page layout.
The order book is a crucial tool for customers to understand the supply and demand dynamics and determine appropriate buying or selling prices. In addition to a full order book in the top tabs, we also included a mini order book in the CTA card for quick reference.
To help customers stay informed about their orders, we added an "orders" section. However, to avoid cluttering the user interface, we chose to display only the latest three orders for all categories, considering that trading is not a frequent behavior.
A design pattern we observed in almost all investment or brokerage products is that the whole onboarding is designed in a two-step approach. The first step is a simple sign-up that collects basic information such as email and phone number. The second step is the real investment account creation which collects more sensitive data, such as SSN, income, address, etc.
We viewed this as a strategic design, to first acquire customers through easy signup, then use the product itself to offer incentives to prompt customers to commit to opening a real investment account. We adopted the strategy to our own product and made our onboarding flow into two steps.
Then, we wanted to identify the incentives we could offer. These could range from tangible incentives like cash bonuses, specific offerings, a campaign, to more intangible ones like a sense of ownership or a sense of trust. By understanding our own incentives, we could better align our product design to effectively communicate these incentives to our customers. After several rounds of discussions, we identified several incentive opportunities within our product:
The zero-state dashboard with data visualizations creates a sophisticated impression, building trust with new users. Thus, we decided to land all new signups to the zero-state dashboard.
Keeping the "Invest" button accessible as it is the biggest incentive for customers to open an account.
Carefully designed campaign conditions that offer bonuses to both inviting customers and their friends upon successful referral and deposit, creating more incentives to share and create accounts.
The portfolio serves as a key tool for our investors, providing them with a comprehensive understanding of their investments. To ensure an optimal design, we conducted thorough research on popular brokerage platforms such as ↳Robinhood and ↳Public.com . In addition to incorporating common elements typically found on financial dashboards, we have also decided to include geographic data visualizations, given that our investments are in actual real estate properties.
As part of our product development process, we sought feedback from friends, family, and enthusiastic users who were invited to our beta platform as early adopters. Through numerous usability tests and user interviews, we collected valuable insights and took detailed notes. We then analyzed this feedback, prioritizing issues based on their frequency and severity, to identify the most significant usability and product-related concerns that needed improvement in subsequent iterations.
The sorted notes helped us uncover key findings that guided our product enhancements:
Both beginner and experienced investors expressed discomfort and hesitation when asked about their net worth and annual income, as they were concerned about how their answers might impact their access to the platform. To address this, we revised our copywriting in the sign-up flow, consistently reassuring investors that LEX is open to the public and that their answers only affect their investor profile, without impacting their access to the platform.
Beginner users expressed uncertainty about which step they were in the deposit and IPO process, leading to feelings of insecurity. To address this, we divided the flow into smaller sections and added more educational interstitials between each section, providing users with clearer guidance on their progress in the process.
We also introduced a timeline section in our research tools to offer our customers a clearer understanding of the IPO process. This new feature guides users through the different stages of an IPO and provides them with information about their current position in the process.
Many investors expressed difficulty in finding the entrance to the brokerage account creation process after signing up. To address this, we improved our onboarding experience by adding more visual guides and prompts, including an onboarding checklist on the portfolio page and multiple visual cues that lead to the opening of the brokerage account flow on other pages.
After designing and refining our core product features, we were confident in inviting all users to our platform. In November 2021, we removed the waitlist and launched our product to the general public, making announcements across all customer touchpoints including social media, news coverage, email campaigns, and blog posts.
Thanks to the impactful marketing campaigns and the thoughtfully-designed product, our public launch was quite a success. Here are some highlights from the launch:
Check the ↳news of our 286 Lenox Ave IPO
This is the second case study of the LEX product series. Read more LEX product case studies:
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