Last month, home improvement company Houzz won ‘best app’ at the Google Play Awards.
Originally born out of a desire to find ideas while remodelling their home, founders Adi Tatarko and Alon Cohen have gone on to create something far more than just an interior design site.
Now with over 40m homeowners in its community, it has morphed into a resource for both professionals and those merely looking for interior inspiration.
As well as enabling builders, landscapers and the like to advertise services, it allows users to collect ideas and shop items.
It’s obviously an appealing idea, but what makes it the ‘best app’ out there?
I decided to find out.
(FYI: I am an iPhone user, so I downloaded the iOS version… It’s basically the same!)
Login and homepage
Signing up to Houzz is incredibly simple. With the option to use a Facebook login or sign up via email, I chose the latter.
The automatic ‘@hotmail’ or ‘@gmail’ form filler is a handy little feature, and an early indication of the app’s strong focus on UX.
Like most app homepages, Houzz offers an introductory guide when you first sign in.
This is not unusual, but with the brand’s multi-faceted nature potentially resulting in some confusion (Is it like Pinterest – or is it like Gumtree?) – the extra clarification is useful.
On first impressions, the homepage is slick and well-designed.
Mainly showcasing a mix of editorial ‘Stories’ and photos, it is incredibly pleasing to the eye, and a heavy focus on high-quality imagery is immediately obvious.
Its ‘find local professionals’ section at the top is also effective in highlighting the app’s functions (rather than just its attractive photography).
With five separate sections, the various features are fairly straightforward to get to grips with.
Separated into Home, Photos, Products, Find Pros and Latest – each tab has a distinct focus.
Instead of sticking to the homepage, Houzz’s specific verticals might mean that users are likely to navigate straight to the section they are interested in.
Whether scrolling through endless photos or searching for someone to paint the living room, good search and filtering functions means it’s very easy to find your way around.
As someone who enjoys interior design, I found the Photos section the most appealing to browse.
With 24 categories in total, it allowed me to filter by a wide variety of options – ranging from contemporary style to specific wall colour.
The best part is that the majority of the images are shoppable, including clickable links to provide the user with more information on the product as well as the option to buy.
Even if the user is unsure what products to look for (and is less inclined to use the products tab), it will still provide endless amounts of inspiration.
But more than that, it will help them remember, as the additional ‘Ideabooks’ feature enables users to collect and organise the images they want to save.
While this part of the app is very similar to Pinterest, the fact that ideabooks can be linked to profiles means that it takes personalisation one step further – and is very helpful for building trust.
The ‘Stories’ section includes a wealth of articles for design fans to enjoy.
Although some of the links to interior design are a little tenuous (using ‘Devil Wears Prada’ as an example of home design seems a bit random…), the wide range of categories show a large focus on quality content.
This section is basically the same as the main website, but its user-friendly design definitely encourages readers to consume content on-the-go.
Alongside inspirational articles, I was quite impressed to discover the ‘Ask a question’ feature – a discussion section that allows fellow users to offer tips and advice on whatever topic is posed.
While the editorial team certainly provides help and inspiration, this feature is likely to be far more accessible for people in the midst of renovation – and certainly a reason for users to return after an initial browse.
Lastly, the two functions that undoubtedly contributed to Houzz’s win at the Google Play awards – ‘Sketch’ and ‘View in my Room’.
Part of the app’s most recent update, these features allow the user to insert Houzz products into photos as well as annotate them with comments and stickers.
Personally, I found Sketch to be a little fiddly, as it’s not immediately obvious how to use it. (It’s pretty similar to Paint.)
That being said, for people who are serious about interior design, its interactive nature and collaborative potential is unlike anything I’ve seen on an app before.
Likewise, with its VR-style functionality, ‘View in My Room’ is equally impressive.
Products & professional help
The ‘Product’ section of the app is probably the one I would use the least, mainly because it’s probably easier to shop online while hunting for something specific.
However, that’s not to say it isn’t useful – and it’s definitely convenient in terms of collating information.
One thing that sadly lets it down is that it doesn’t appear to be up-to-date. While clicking through to retailer sites, I came across quite a few items that ‘couldn’t be found’ or were seemingly out of stock.
On the other hand, the ‘Find a Pro’ section is incredibly useful on all counts.
It lists multiple categories of industry professionals, including in-depth information such as business descriptions, typical job costs, contact details and reviews.
While some people might be sceptical about finding professional services via an app, the way Houzz promotes each service from an individual perspective – not just a faceless company – naturally promotes authority and encourages trust.
Like anything award winning, I had high expectations for the Houzz app. All in all, it didn’t disappoint.
Anyone who has ever moved house or redecorated knows that it can be an all-consuming experience.
By bridging the gap between industry professionals and homeowners, Houzz cleverly provides a platform for both sides of the coin.
The app’s quality design is certainly part of the reason it has been so well-received (if you only ever use Pinterest to look at houses, it’s well worth making the switch).
However, the app’s functionality and community aspect is what really impresses. Highly interactive and addictive, it is a pleasure to use.