We all know Airbnb. You can book a regular apartment, a castle, a treehouse, even a yourte if you feel like it!
Even with over 150 million users, Airbnb still feels like an inclusive community trying to build a world where anyone can belong anywhere. That philosophy is at the very core of the brand. The platform puts people together.
As a technical test, I was asked to add a special new feature to the app:
Instead of traveling to a place to stay, we want to bring the bed to the travelers. Whenever this is and wherever they are, they can request to have a bed delivered to them.
Not easy, right? Don’t worry, I have a plan.
First things first, I need to know who are Airbnb users and if they are ready to use such a feature.
I interviewed 11 persons, male and female, aged between 23 and 47 y.o. and they were all very positive about Airbnb. They love the human side of it, the fact that they entered in people’s life, they all agreed on the fact that it was a wonderful platform that changed the world of travel.
They also agreed on something : there was no way they could accept nor want to sleep somewhere in the street. They found it:
a) Dirty: “Can you imagine the delivery? And then leave the mattress on the ground? Can you imagine how filthy all this is”
b) Sending the wrong message: “If you sleep in the street, it’s because you’re homeless. I don’t to look like a homeless person! Plus, it’s kind of disrespectful”
c) Unsafe: “All I can think about [when I hear about this feature] is: theft, rape and murder!”
Now I think we can say this feature is literally a dead end.
Needless to say, I struggled on that part. Fortunately, I had the help of two fellow UX designers to help me go through that part. We started with a Worst Ideas session.
Amongst those crazy ideas, two were actually interesting and made me start thinking differently : “Pay on the minute” and “Airbnb puts you in contact with bad hosts and they have to receive you as a punishment”. We followed up with a session of Round Robin. And here it was, the twist I needed to make that brief work:
Connect beds and sleepers for a 30min to 3 hours break. People can rest in the comfort of a bed and the privacy of a room. So we can say: “Wherever you go, we have a bed for you”.
There are a lot of platforms renting hotel room by the hour and also some of them for vacation rentals but none on the short term in-house rental area. That’s where our feature should position.
The user flow stayed pretty much the same as the existing one. I just added a few buttons to integrate the feature.
I did a first round of testing and valuable insights came out:
- The name of the option is confusing: I called it “Find a bed” but when you book a place to stay you ultimately book a bed. It has been changed to “Find a bed for a nap”. Pretty self-explanatory
- The calendar: What if a user wants to book a bed for later instead of now. I added some time slots.
- The hour wheel: The name of the page is confusing (What time?) and so wheel system is not really clear either. I went back on the app and figured out a way to respect Airbnb visual codes when it comes to choice.
I included those changes in the High-Fi wireframe and conduct a usability test.
I submitted my High-Fidelity wireframe to 5 users, used to the Airbnb app. They all agreed on the exact same points:
- Indication of distance: “If I’m tired, I want to know how long I have to walk for.” So the distance in meters and minutes was added.
- Misleading tarification: “Why did I see 4€ and now I end up with paying more than 12€?” This is actually a very common pain-point on Airbnb’s app. The rate showed on the map are most of the time the nightly rate and it can be quite confusing. To avoid that, I put the total (without cleaning and service fees) on the map.
- Time slots when you book in advance: “There were time slots?” Nobody could see them. I just added a little sentence to explain the operation and it somehow enlightened it.
Taking account of that powerful and actionable feedback, I went for another round of iteration. Here’s the result :
If this feature was to be developed, here’s what I’d do:
- Subscription system: I’m thinking about Airbnb for Work here. We could imagine a subscription plan for workers who need a place to rest in between trains when they’re traveling or for those who don’t have a nap area in their building.
- Improve the “in advance” booking process: I couldn’t check if the time slots with the sentence was good enough in terms of usability. It definitely needs more tests.
- “No bed bugs” certificate: This is a very big concern for both hosts and guests, so the question needs to be addressed and be reviewed with further research.
- Hosts and Pro Hosts end: What kind of house rules can be acceptable for both guests and hosts, how would the feature look… This could be a case study on its own.
- OpenHomes program: Open the feature to the Airbnb’s emergency service could be a game changer in terms of charity.
This project taught me that wording is definitely key. You can have the best feature with the best UI, if you don’t call it the right name, nobody’s going to use it.
If it needed to be specified, the Usability tests are critical and can really take your prototype to the next step with things you didn’t even think about.
Thank you for reading. I know it’s not perfect so please leave comments, I’d love some feedback!