How we built online showings in a week

On Saturday morning, Elin Bjurevall from Skandiamäklarna arranged the first ever live streamed open house showing on Hemnet. A cute little red house outside Tystberga was shown to about 40 potential buyers. As I watched the stream, I became completely warm in my heart, and very proud. Just over a week earlier we had nothing like this. No code, no design.

Hemnet_mobilbilder-5.jpg

This is, of course, a special situation with the corona virus and much of our energy in this work comes from a willingness to help in a time like this - reducing the spread of the virus on open showings and hopefully contributing to the housing market not decreasing too much during the crisis. And we have been working at a high pace, unsustainable in the long run. But it's still fun to reflect on what really happened. How could we be so fast? Is there anything from our ways of working that we can use in normal mode product development?

 

The open Slack channel #hemnet-live was created on 13th of March and communication exploded quickly. Here you can see the activity on Slack in all of our channels:image.png

Since March 13, we have sent twice as many messages as usual. Part of the increase is due to everyone working from home because of the virus, but #hemnet-live accounts for a lot of the increase. There have been 1844 messages in the channel in nine days, which is more than any other channel had in a month.

A few things that characterized the communication around Hemnet Live:

  • Swift answers. No one wants to delay someone else's work, so an answer has been given in no time. This also applies to code reviews (in Github), code has been reviewed and thus shipped faster than normal.
  • Quick decisions. Normally, there can be lengthy discussions about different options. With Hemnet Live, decision making was faster. Someone had an idea, others thought it was good enough and we went for it right away. It helped that it was clearly communicated from management that we had the mandate to make all decisions on our own.
  • Transparency. Transparency and feedback is a strong part of our culture at Hemnet, but with Hemnet Live it was boosted even more. The Slack channel was open for everyone and we were diligent in showing half finished sketches, getting early feedback on copy and sharing improvement ideas. Much of the communication was visual. Visualized flows, screenshots, sketches.
  • Constant discussions about the goal. Our goal was to offer live streamed showings by the weekend of week 12, but nobody knew exactly what it would look like. What had to be in place for us to get it out? What could be added later? What could be done manually? Our goal was not to have a perfect solution from the start, but to get it out to users quickly so we can learn what really works.

The final point, to build a semi-finished product that is good enough to be usable, is something I think we can get even better at when we are back in normal mode. We often talk about working with an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or RAT (Riskiest Assumption Test) - but are we really doing that? Can we cheat more and learn faster?

After this first weekend, about 50 brokers have live streamed their showings. We have gathered a lot of feedback from both brokers and users. We have been able to participate in showings ourselves to get a feel for what the users are experiencing. We can now explain to brokers what they should think about when hosting an online viewing. For example, who could have foreseen that some brokers' shoes with hard soles create a sound that is louder than them talking?

The insights we gained from using the product mean that we now, for week two, can focus on fixing the right things instead of building potentially unnecessary stuff or spending time speculating on potential problems. That is really valuable and something I hope we will continue doing going forward. 

Read more blog posts written by Dan here: https://heltsonika.wordpress.com/

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