The project dashboard app

Managing vacation rentals takes coordination between owners, guests, field specialists, account managers and more - we designed and built an app to faciliate this communication.

CompanyTurnKey Vacation RentalsYear2017Duration12 weeksMy workResearch, interviews, wireframes, high-fidelity mock-ups, design quality assurance


TurnKey clients – owners of vacation rental properties – were frustrated that they couldn’t easily assign maintenance tasks to our team of property care experts. They also couldn’t track progress of tasks without a call to an account manager. This process was costly to TurnKey, frustrating to and owners, and inefficient for field specialists who had little visibility into owner communications.

It was a threat to the business. NPS surveys showed that this was causing owners to look elsewhere for management companies.


The project dashboard is designed to facilitate communications between owners and field operations specialists. The project had 3 main business goals

  1. Improve customer satisfaction scores
  2. Reduce case resolution time
  3. Reduce the cost of support / customer

Our mandate was to give owners an easy way to communicate with the TurnKey maintenance and onboarding team, and to be able to track a given case to resolution.


It’s easy to look back and create a clean narrative of this project – but frankly at first we couldn’t know just how large of an improvement our efforts would make.

TurnKey clients – owners of vacation rental properties – were frustrated that they couldn’t easily assign maintenance tasks to our team of property care experts.

It was a threat to the business. We heard a lot from owners that this was causing them to look elsewhere for management companies.


  • Primacy of user goals – make it easy to complete the most common use cases
  • Visibility of system status – make it easy to see the status of important parts of the system
  • Meet users where they are – make sure to use nomenclature as understood by users, make sure to use paradigms understood by non-experts
  • Create a complete system that supports modest tasks– all users should have all the tools they need to complete their goals without needing to call for outside assistance

Solution overview

Primacy of user goals

Our main user profile for the owner dashboard is an owner of a vacation rental.

Revenue is a big motivation for a large percentage of owners.

Additionally, being able to create a ‘case’ and assign work to TurnKey is another important task.

Visibility of system status

An important part of our research revealed that owners are motivated by change in the status of an item.

Not only did we use a common email paradigm for calling out new or unread messages, we surfaced the type of change in the main list of cases (“New Comment” or “Status Update”).

Meet users where they are

We decided to leverage a common mobile paradigm for the messaging display in the owner dashboard.

Here we can see a conversation between the owner ‘Mark’ and a field operations specialist (Field Ops as they are known to owners) ‘Jennifer’.

The conversation bubble origin to the left or right side of the screen – along with the color, and name – unambiguously shows the author of a given message.

Project outcomes


Improvement in resolution time for cases created on the project board


Increase in five-star ratings, for cases created on the project board

My process


  • Create a problem statement
  • Define the project scope
  • Gather the team
  • Understand the true goals of the project

Research + Definition

  • Speak to end users
  • Map the current state
  • Ideation sessions with users, stakeholders and contributors
  • Initial sketches and paper-style prototypes

Iterate and make

  • Validate initial prototypes with end users and stakeholders
  • Evaluate scope and goals taking into account learning
  • Adjust prototypes
  • Reviews with developers as direction solidifies


  • Design screens with dev specs
  • Create design system
  • Spend time in development environment
  • Design QA as developers complete work
  • Monitor metrics and adjust post launch

How I start to make sense of the mess

(A nod to my favorite IA book of all time. Thank you, Abby Covert)

During formation, we look to create alignment between business goals, user needs, available resources etc.

I’m an obsessive note taker 🙂 Over the years, my note taking style has evolved. As I have meetings with different stakeholders, I use a highly structured format as way of beginning the process of organizing information.

This helps recall, begins the sense-making process, and makes it easy to retrieve information at a later date.

* studies show that taking notes by hand improves recall and using a structure additionally helps.

Research involves lots of conversations with users. We start with the current state - how are things done/goals accomplished right now?

At Turnkey, the onboarding process and maintenance for vacation rentals could be complex and span weeks or months. A customer journey map or service blueprint was an important foundational document to come out of the research phase.

These documents gave us visibility into what people were trying to accomplish, why they wanted it, and how they were achieving it given a resource-constrained environment (IE no app, or poor tooling).

We did some research on existing solutions. To build or buy?

We looked at industry favorites like ZenDesk, Intercom and others to get a sense of best practices for using customer support tickets as a communication tactic.

Interviews and service blueprints yielded enough to start on a basic paper prototype

At this stage in the process, we avoided detailed information hierarchies or nitty-gritty UI.

We showed our prototypes to stakeholders and users to get feedback early. We focused on getting the right information and making case creation easy to complete.

Based on user and stakeholder feedback, we had strong ideas for a viable application

We shifted gears and started refining the design and information architecture of the application.

An overview of all open cases

Case details includes activity, photos, and a summary.

Case details plus photos of the issue

Owners could rate and review the work after completion

Case photo integration

Case creation screen

Zeplin allowed us give developers useful snippets of code that reduced development time and improved overall quality.

A rendering of the customer support app in desktop, laptop, tablet, and mobile views. Three breakpoints were included in the final design spec.

Release day: Would our work solve our clients' biggest issues?

How do you know when to stop? What does success look like? We knew that we had to see a bump in customer satisfaction, and a reduction in the number of calls customer support fielded each week.

It's wining time - we saw a 9% gain in customer satisfaction.

CSAT, after
CSAT, before

This project resulted in a decisive win for TurnKey. It saved over 350 calls and emails to TurnKey account managers. Customer satisfaction is up an average of 9% versus other case origins. And cases created on the customer support app are now resolved in 32% less time—an incredible improvement and surely one of the reasons for the surge in satisfaction for those that use the tool.

The experience design team built a client support app with a high ROI

CompanyTurnKey Vacation RentalsYear2017Duration12 weeksMy workResearch, interviews, wireframes, high-fidelity mock-ups, design quality assurance

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