Bridging the gap between home searching and financing
Product designer, 2019 - 2021
FinLink started as an online platform for homebuyers in Germany to easily apply for a mortgage, compare offers and upload documents.

As the first designer of the company, I was responsible for the whole end-to-end user experience and the design of the customer-facing platform and the mortgage broker CRM.
Dashboard with list of properties
The problem
One of the biggest struggles of mortgage brokers is that most of the homebuyers who contact them are still searching for a home. This type of client is hard to convert, since the property search can take more than a year, and during that time the buyer may get into contact with other mortgage brokers.

We wanted to find a way to keep these clients more engaged for longer.
The team
I was responsible for the product design and the research. I worked closely with Tanya Höpker, the product manager and design sprint facilitator for this project, and was supported by my design colleague Alexandra Rudneva, who helped with the interviews in German and notetaking. We also involved a few of our developers during the discovery interviews so they could get more direct exposure to the problem space.
Validating our assumptions
At the start of the research, we gathered assumptions throughout our company with the intention of checking the validity of these assumptions during the exploratory interviews with our users. We interviewed 6 mortgage brokers and 5 homebuyers, most of whom were still in the process of searching for a home. Our results suggested that some of our assumptions were completely correct, but for others, we either hadn’t managed to gather relevant data or the answers were not conclusive. This was a good indication that the planned design sprint would be very helpful to test our ideas further.
Sticky notes
Notes from exploratory interviews with mortgage brokers
Key research insights
83% of clients are still looking for a property when they first contact a broker
The real estate market in Germany is very competitive, and most clients end up losing their initial property
All of the brokers in our study find that clients who are still looking for a property are the hardest to convert
Ideation as a team activity
We planned to do a design sprint for this project since we wanted to get more team members involved in the product design process. This was our first design sprint, and it was fully remote. We focused our ideation around the question: “How might we help the advisors keep a client that is still looking for a property?”
User journey map
A map of the journey from the decision of buying a home to getting a mortgage
During the ideation process, we asked everyone on the design sprint team to sketch their solutions separately, and then we voted on the best ideas. For me as a designer, this was very insightful since it was proof that good design ideas can come from anywhere in the team.‍ We then stitched all of the ideas into one complete journey, which made the prototyping process much more manageable.
Solution sketches from all design sprint team members
User testing & final solution
After our group ideation session we came up with the idea to include a property search functionality and property comparison feature directly into our platform.

I prepared a prototype using Figma on the next day which we then tested with 5 users. We wanted to answer the following questions:

• Would our users trust FinLink for their property search?
• Would our service help them to choose the right property?
Initial prototype
Overall, we received really positive feedback about our prototype. In particular, many users really liked these two components:‍

• Access to multiple search platforms
• The comparison table that replaces the need to create Excel spreadsheets

However, there were some usability issues that needed to be addressed, which I’ve highlighted below.
Initial screen for searching properties
Initial screen for comparing properties
Ensuring platform logos are clearly visible
Some users didn’t notice the logos of the different search platforms, since they were placed on top of the property photos. So I decided to move the logos to the white portion of the card and to keep their original colors in order to build more thrust and make them easily recognisable.
Before: Platform logos are not clearly visible
After: Improved visibility of platform logos
Making it easy to view the location of a property on the map
Most of the users mentioned that they always check the location of the property on the map, so I decided to make the property address link to Google Maps.
Before: No link to map
After: Address opens Google maps in a new tab
Making the method of comparing a property more prominent
Some users had a hard time figuring out how to add a new property to the comparison page. To resolve this, I decided to make the button more prominent by adding it right next to the properties list.
Before: Adding a property is not clearly visible
After: Adding a property button more prominent
Simplifying property selection & showing placeholder photos
Some users were a bit confused about the multiple CTAs on the page, so I simplified the process of selecting a property by adding a button just below the property image.

Additionally, I had to think of a way to show an image when there’s a missing property photo, so I came up with two placeholder illustrations - one for an apartment and another for a house.
Before: Too many CTAs
After: Cleaner way to select a property
Tech constraints
We had to make a couple of additional changes after discussing the prototype in detail with our tech team:

We removed the categories for “Highest chance for financing”, “Green neighbourhood” and “Highest rental income” since it was hard to get reliable data for these factors.

We removed the bank valuation since it was not possible to get precise numbers. Because this is often a deciding factor for homebuyers, we didn’t want to potentially mislead them.
Lessons learned and where we go from here
Some ideas will never exist until everyone enters the room. In other words, I discovered how important collaboration on design ideas is and that bringing more people into the process doesn’t undervalue my work, but elevates it.

Not everything can be user tested in advance. As much as we try to simulate a real-world scenario or environment during user testing, the real issues and solutions will always come up when the feature or product is live and people begin using it in the context of their daily lives.

In our case, the next step was to build an MVP of this feature to find out how much people would use it in their daily lives and whether this would allow them to engage more with their mortgage broker.