A new environmental search called Avista just launched…

Ana Ansell, Product and Marketing Director here at Groundsure, was the integral driving force behind the launch of our new flagship product Avista. Here she discusses the Avista journey explaining the whys and the whats that went in to its inception and subsequent development.


A new environmental searches called Avista just launched…

In June, Groundsure launched Avista, its new ‘more searches but in less than 20 pages’ environmental search report to the residential market. We like to think we’ve reimagined what a searches product can be and as a result deliver more content, better.

Below we explain the first half of our journey, some of the key decisions and the facts behind the marketing claims. We hope this convinces you to try it – and if there’s something that could still be better tell us about it at avista@groundsure.com.

The journey begins: As part of a review of our residential search reports, Groundsure looked at the reports currently available on the market and found that the following:

  • Traditionally environmental searches are often too long and dense at over 30 pages long
  • Most properties have limited risks – but these are often very personal in their nature to the homebuyer. For example, being near a station, windfarm or school can be a reason to walk away from the purchase for some or something that is attractive and a key reason for selecting the property for others
  • If a risk is identified the next steps to take are often missing, at the end of several click-throughs or require the purchase of another ‘deep dive’ report – which inherently delays the process of a property purchase

From the content to the styling, the layout and the language used, most reports were optimised for data gorging and not clear and fast access to the risks using clear and easily understood explanations

We started –this process with the customer and began talking to conveyancers, people buying properties and industry bodies such as the Conveyancing Association and the Council of Property Search Organisations. They told us that they were wasting too much time trying to locate the relevant risks and trying to explain / understand what it really meant.

From this emerged an insight that became central to the development of Avista:  question everything. Everything was up for grabs – from the default structure of the reports (search category – map – table – next search category) to each word that went in to each report.

Alongside the conversations we were having, we ran an online survey to help quantify and compare the different aspects and opportunities for improvement. Over 120 residential conveyancers contributed and told us the following:

  • The need for the four core environmental searches (Contaminated Land, Full flood, Ground stability and Radon) was well understood and ingrained in a typical search purchasing process
  • Over 70% were ordering Planning as an additional search for at least some of their transactions and it was the report that they would most like added to the traditional environmental search bundle
  • High quality, reliable data was key – as it should be!
  • Customer service really mattered and over 80% currently received reports as a pdf attachment and identified that as their preferred future method also.

So the challenge was set: On the basis of great data, build a search that included planning and made risks clear, called out next steps, but minimised those that included ordering another report, and support it with great customer service.

Easy? Not really, but we did have the advantage of a great team of people at Groundsure – with many years’ experience from a wide range of disciplines – that we pulled together to create the ‘HERO’ team. Often in life, timing is key and we had the extra benefit of recent additions to our product and technology teams, plus resources within our parent company Ascential to call upon, including UX and design.

The next steps: We began a cross-functional product development process to deconstruct and then create a new kind of residential environmental search report. We had fun, we almost cried and we turned to many work associates, friends and family for end user perspectives and insights. We built prototypes and tested them on our staff – they told us we could do better!

Along the way we had several key breakthroughs:

Groundsure IQ

At Groundsure, we know we have market leading quality of data; our unique historical land use data scanned in at 500 dpi is of the highest level of detail available, and we have the in-house technical expertise and tools to develop a groundbreaking product, not to mention some of the best environmental consultants in the business. Alongside this, we were in the process of transforming our technical systems and in particular our data back end systems in such a way that new ways to analyse and present that data were now possible.

 

Groundsure IQ 1

Groundsure IQ 2

 

So we added new datasets including transportation and energy, but filtered results more aggressively, to remove noise and superfluous pages from the report.

We added Glenigan Planning data, but suddenly there was up to 60 extra pages in our reports. Until some bright spark came up with variable radii for planning results and so the rural, urban and mega-urban classifications were introduced. These vary by size of development category (Large, Small, and House extensions & small new builds) and have ensured that, so importantly in the current post Bird & Bird world, the most relevant and impactful planning applications are more visible and easily identified.

It was shaping up nicely but then when we pushed our ‘no noise’ rationale really hard we found that filtering the data by a point location just wasn’t good enough. The inaccuracy of a point increased the occurrence of false positives for risk and we knew that meant irrelevant or misleading noise would creep in. So we switched to Land Registry polygons and since then we’ve upgraded further to NPS.

We had a new data approach that was going in the right direction; more information, less noise and less time-wasting pages to wade through. But how would this new report look? What could we learn from UX best practise and apply to a PDF report format? And did it go far enough?

This last question led us to consider how we could be a better risk assessment ‘partner’ rather than just an expert data provider and to get creative on the naming front.

Next time: User experience led report design, the creation of the Avista Action Alert and why we called it Avista.

Click here for more information about Avista, including the Avista product card, sample reports and how to order one.

 

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