Annika Susan Mammen
UX designer

Airbnb Case Study

A Hypothesis Driven Design Process

Goal and Challenge

Airbnb is an online market for temporary housing. Stays can range from a few days to several months however Airbnb is most typically used for short term housing during vacations. I aim to improve the user experience of selecting an Airbnb by integrating search features that would give the user more information about their Airbnb. Having more versatility in choosing the best Airbnb for each user's itinerary and criteria would increase customer satisfaction.

Scope: Passion Project          Tools: Adobe XD          Duration: February-March 2020

Discovery Phase
Airbnb Case Study

Questions and Assumptions

In order to create a solution for this case study, I wanted to make sure that I solved the right problems. So, I decided to make a list of things on the Airbnb website that I wanted to find out more about. I talked with 13 users to understand why they would choose Airbnb over a hotel. Afterwards, I prioritized these questions.

Airbnb Case Study

Personas: Understanding Target Group

I identified 2 target groups and created a persona for each group in order to empathize with the user and better understand their goals and frustrations. These personas are based on assumptions and past experiences. Since this is a practice project, the assumptions are based on students and students' parents that I interviewed.

The first group is low income: typically college students. The second group is middle-aged individuals with a higher income. As Airbnb has become progressively more expensive in recent years with products like Airbnb Luxe and Airbnb Plus, I would assume that the second group is a higher priority for Airbnb.

Hypothesis

1. We believe that allowing users more flexibility in the filters that they choose for Sam and Allison will help them feel more confident with the Airbnb that they chose. 

2. We believe that expanding the amount of basic information that hosts have to fill out when registering their house for Sam and Allison will help with having more consistency in information.

3. We believe that more transparency with items like amenities and location for Sam and Allison will help in aligning the goals of the company and customer.

Airbnb Case Study

User Research

I interviewed 13 individuals for this case study. 7 out of the 13 are college students and 6 are middle-aged individuals from a higher income bracket. The following graphs show the summarized version of key information gathered.

Airbnb Case Study

Key Takeaways from Interviews

1. Many users already have an itinerary in mind when they go on a trip. So, they would like to stay in an optimal location near those places.

2. Airbnb does allow you to search location by neighbourhoods but users are unfamiliar with the names of these locations if they are not from the region. Further research and effort are required on the users' side to figure it out.

3. Users want to know how far the Airbnb is from the locations that they want to visit. Finding this information is a tedious process as Airbnb does not disclose the location of the house until it is booked. Users have to look at nearby locations like parks from the Airbnb website then go to a third-party site like Google maps and find the distance to where they want to go.

4. College students are more concerned with the cost of Airbnb than the location. Based on how good public transport is in the city that they are travelling to, students would rather stay next to public transport or use ride-hailing services. Note that college students are too young to rent a car as most areas require the individual to be 25+ years to rent a car. 

5. Middle-aged individuals care more about the location and amenities offered. Especially if they have kids, they want to stay near fun activities for the family as travelling long distances with children is challenging. 

Design Phase
Airbnb Case Study

Site Map and Sketches

I created a site map based on the pain points that I observed during user research. The aim was to provide a booking process that would make the experience of booking an Airbnb more efficient and streamlined for the user. Afterwards, I sketched out low fidelity wireframes.

Airbnb Case Study

Wireframes

I made a few wireframes in order to get a visual on how to execute my solutions. In order to make these wireframes, I  used the Airbnb website as a reference and used Adobe XD.

Airbnb Case Study

UI Design

Once I had an idea on how I was going to tackle the problems, I started designing the final screens on Adobe XD. All design choices from the color of the buttons to the shape of boxes are mimicked from the original Airbnb website, in order to create a believable, seamless prototype. 

Results

Overall the design targeted critical pain points of both user groups. Searching for the distance was successful as it meant that users no longer had to go to third party sites. The design could have been improved by having features such as allowing users to search specific distances earlier on in the selection process, instead of manually going in each housing option. People would also like information like the time it would take to travel by walk, car, bus, etc. Integrating features that are on google maps would greatly increase the ease at which users pick a place to stay. Integrating Airbnb Experiences in the itinerary search filter might beneficial. More research would have to be done in that regard as only one user in the survey had used Airbnb Experiences.

Learning 

Looking back, I could have made more personas. I picked these two personas since I had more exposure to these two demographics being in college. The personas that I could have included could be from a different age group like retirees and from other socio-economic backgrounds. The current personas are also American centric so a little diversity in that regard would be insightful.

Creating the sitemap and web design was a big learning curve for me. During the first draft of my site map, I had too many functions since I tried to fix all the user's problems at once in different ways. I had to go over all my new functions and make a solution that required as few clicks as possible and try to fix as many problems in a single solution. The next problem that I incurred was that some of my solutions and designs did not have the current theme and layout as the Airbnb website. I learned that making the solutions, designs, and keeping true to the theme of the website in mind is a recursive process. I was able to use Agile to achieve this and make the design process more streamlined and structured.