NYC-Base Product Designer

🙋‍♀️About Me

Yixing Shou

Hi, I’m Yixing. I’m a New York-based Visual Designer.


Let’s start with a story...

During my college years, I often heard my classmates' struggles with renting apartments, echoing stories similar to the one above.

For instance, some discovered that their living room window opened onto their neighbor's balcony, and the window was covered in the video room tour. Others, like a classmate in New Jersey, faced longer commutes to Manhattan due to unexpected subway changes at weekends. These experiences resonate with me, as these students lacked New York rental experience and they face many difficulties in renting an apartment as international students. 

Let's embark on designing a solution to streamline and clarify the rental process for future international students!


Upon conducting secondary research into the challenges confronting non-local students seeking rental accommodations in New York City (NYC), a notable trend emerges: Chinese students represent a significant proportion of those grappling with these obstacles.

This research underscores the unique hurdles that Chinese students encounter while navigating the complexities of the NYC rental market. 

Looking at it from a different angle, there is significant potential for housing rental platforms catering to Chinese international students in New York. Given the considerable population, visa complexities, and regulatory policies, international students constitute a demographic in dire need of agent assistance when it comes to securing accommodation.

Understand the users 

I proceeded by conducting a screener survey among potential users, consisting of ten simple questions with 20 participants. This questionnaire provided valuable quantitative data.

I made a guess based on these number that most of my participants are not in the City while looking for the apartment, they are unfamiliar with the neighborhoods they will be living in. Most information they receive about the unit and the neighborhood is from the agent.

To prove my hypothesis and to find out the reason for the above data, I interviewed three participants about their apartment rental experiences to directly observe and collect relevant information.

Conducting interviews provided me an opportunity to delve deeper, acquire qualitative data, and attain a more comprehensive understanding of user attitudes and experiences.

One question I posed during the interview centered around asking participants if they would be open to offering advice to future international students renting in New York. Surprisingly, each interviewee shared a plethora of insights drawn from their own rental experiences, displaying a genuine willingness to assist. A common sentiment expressed was the desire for guidance from individuals with prior New York rental experience or classmates from the same school when seeking accommodation.

Collect & Observe

Making an affinity map helps me to categorize the commonalities and variations in participants' responses.

I discovered that my interviewees faced challenges in establishing trust with rental agents due to limited options and insufficient information from existing resources. This stemmed from their lack of rental experience and absence of acquaintances in New York who could offer guidance. When inquiring about their actual check-in experiences, each interviewee expressed discrepancies between their real experiences and the descriptions provided by agents regarding the rooms and communities. They believed that some agents deliberately omitted shortcomings and issues with certain properties to expedite the contract process.

Who am I designing for?

Using the information I collected, I developed personas for two main user types. These personas were not direct portrayals of individuals, but rather synthesized amalgamations of the insights and analyses derived from all survey participants and interviewees.

I made these Personas to help me focus on the users’ needs for this specific target user group throughout the design process.

This tool enabled me to see through the eyes of the users, comprehend their needs, and better appreciate their experiences.


After finding the pain points, I started to Identify Opportunities by writing the How Might We questions to help me keep the focus on the needs and experiences of users throughout the whole design process.

  1. How might we enable users to acquire reliable insights about neighborhoods or buildings from trusted sources, enhancing their confidence in selecting an apartment?
  2. How might we empower users to gather and prioritize personalized information, facilitating a comparison of various neighborhoods, to help them identify the most ideal neighborhood or building?
  3. How might we provide users with enhanced support and comprehensive guidance as they navigate the New York rental process, ensuring a better understanding of policies and facilitating a smoother experience for newcomers to renting in New York?

Content Strategy

Based on the "How Might We" questions, I've developed a user story map to organize and prioritize features for our Minimum Viable Product (MVP). By translating the identified challenges into user stories and arranging them in a coherent sequence. This process ensures that the MVP focuses on addressing the most critical user pain points.

To visually represent the user story, clarify interactions, and inform the information architecture of the app, I created a user flow map, which I subsequently transformed into a site map. This site map serves as a comprehensive visualization of the app's structure, organizing its functionalities in a logical hierarchy. Additionally, the site map serves as a valuable reference point for the wireframe design, facilitating a cohesive and intuitive user experience.

Validation & Iteration

While looking at the supporting data, I always ask myself: "What’s the best way to visually communicate these app features?" to test out the thoughts that popped into my mind, I started to create iterations of hand-drawn sketches. These hand-drawn sketches are helpful to keep me from getting too detailed into the visuals. While I showed my sketch to my mentor, we picked the most intuitive designs and made them into wireframes in Figma to connect the screens for the first round of usability testing.

Feedback time! Here's where the real fun kicks in: I get to run two rounds of usability testing with 3 adventurous participants each!

During the first round of usability testing, I aim to observe whether the user can accomplish the goals outlined within the designated scenario.
  • Issues: 1st round Testing
    • Desire for additional filters, such as specifying the presence of a doorman or in-unit laundry, to enhance search options.
    • Users had to fill in all input boxes before search. Participant suggested adding a hint regarding which boxes are required to fill in.
  • Positive Outcomes:
    • All participants have successfully completed the tasks.
    • They found the calculator helpful.

Once I confirmed that all users from the first round of user testing could complete their assigned tasks, I expanded the testing pool by inviting three more participants. 

  • Issues: 2nd round Testing
    • It was overwhelming for participants to fill in all the boxes on the search page after adding more search filters.
    • Some users felt that comments on the detail page were unnecessary since it might be conflicted with the app’s business model.
    • Participants expressed a preference for reduced scrolling during the their experience.
  • Positive Outcomes:
    • Participants found the added information and shortcuts helpful for locating saved units.
    • The "*" symbol effectively communicated the essential input box for the search.
    • Participants like the visual design and the color scheme of the app.

Their feedback provided fresh perspectives that hadn't occurred to me as a designer. For example, if the app generates revenue through listing fees charged to landlords, incorporating a neighborhood comment section on the Unit detail page would contradict that objective.

Note: Click here to see the full test script.

Style Guide & Hi-fi Design

To better maintain consistency, I have created a set of design style guides including system color, typeface, text hierarchy, buttons, and icons. Consistent design helps users navigate the interface more easily and builds trust in the product.

I chose a warm color scheme to deliver a warm and friendly atmosphere to the user when they first enter the app. Then, I selected Poppin, the perfect typeface for the app UI. Poppin ensures clean and inviting designs that resonate with users. Its rounded corners and balanced proportions maintain readability across screens. 

#1 Prototype: Search

#2 Prototype: Mentorship

#3 Prototype: Login

Note: Click here to see the Prototype.