At the 2017 MUXL Conference, the London UX community had the pleasure of kicking off our annual gathering with a talk by Vibha Bamba & Sukhada Jog, special guests from Airbnb’s design team in Silicon Valley.
Their talk “Designing for the Alleyway: Addressing the Discomfort of Travel” was an exploration of the advantages and challenges their team encountered throughout the development of the new mobile app for hosts using their holiday rental platform. For those who missed the talk or want to revisit some of the details covered, take a peek at our dedicated blog post below.
As one of the immediate highlights of MUXL2017, the presentation by two of the leading designers at Airbnb set the tone for several crucial topics surrounding design as a vehicle for accessibility and the strengthening of a product’s relationship with its users. Bamba and Jog discussed Airbnb in its context of a robust platform that bridges the needs of important groups in a community. One of those important groups is its hosts (who are significantly different from the company’s other concern, its guests).
In early 2017, Airbnb launched a new mobile app with an interface specifically designed for Airbnb hosts. According to hosts, the previous version of the app meant to help their process was unusable, unreliable and difficult to use. “The only good thing about this app is the push notifications that allow us to know that there is an inquiry for our listing,” was the general consensus about the existing version of the product. That is why the company design team decided to approach the challenge of designing a new, better app for hosts that took into account their busy schedules, multinationality, and need to be on-the-go.
Further, in order to nurture the feeling of community between members of the Airbnb team and hosts, who were, in their own way, a part of the Airbnb team as well, the company launched Airbnb Open. Airbnb Open is an annual host convention that includes workshops, keynote presentations and celebrations. This event made it easy for the community surrounding the service to talk to people who actually work in the company HQ, like engineers and product managers.
Through Airbnb Open and other channels, the Airbnb design team partnered directly with hosts in order to receive feedback about the look and feel of the mobile app they were building for them. What’s even more is that hosts also had ideas about improvements to the interface of the guest-facing side of the Airbnb app as well. For example, Bamba and Jog recall their final choice of size and style of font. “Airbnb had readability issues, we only found this out from hosts, not from the guests,” they recall. In regards to the newly launched mobile app for hosts, the design team once again looked to direct feedback from its potential users in order to flesh out the vision. “For hosts, the mobile app was a functional tool, that is why they needed it even easier. They needed an app that was effective, efficient, easy and mobile-centric because they were always multitasking on the go.”
As the design team discovered more and more that the different features they were crafting were being interpreted differently by the hosts than by the guests, they realized that there was an even greater need to touch base with their hosts…all over the world if they could. That is why Sukhada Jog, as Manager of UX Research, decided to go to the source and chronicle her findings. She travelled to 8 different countries over the course of designing for the app, meeting with hosts, interviewing local Airbnb community members and carrying out research with focus groups in order to determine the best user experience for the new mobile app from Airbnb.
For example, interviews with guests and hosts alike revealed that the check-in process was an unpredictable and daunting endeavour for both sides of the service. As is, users were hacking the available chat in order to send each other screenshots of maps and photos with lengthy explanation about where to find the entrance and gain access to their rentals.
In response to this clear user need, the design team built a custom solution for helping hosts easily and quickly show check-in instructions to their future guests, hassle-free. This not only made it frictionless for the guests to navigate, but it also made it easy and convenient for the hosts to provide explanations.
- Closing the loop with your users is as important as letting your users know their feedback matters.
- Leverage the power of your user community in developing your app.
- Don’t hesitate to include your users in beta-testing, pre-launch qualitative and experiment launch.
- Design the product not just FOR your users, but WITH your users.
- Communication tools don’t get socially interesting before they get technically boring.
- The launch is just a halfway mark, users will inevitably then make it their own.
- Research insights don’t lie in a research method. They lie in unpacking the obvious.