1. Who is the key user?
Airbnb’s key user is a traveler looking for a place to stay at or near their planned destination.
2. What is that user’s number one critical goal when using the site?
The user wants to find a place to stay that meets their criteria, including price, location, schedule, and accommodation options.
3. What is likely to make that user’s experience particularly positive?
A satisfying experience should include a fast and efficient way to search for specific places to stay, filtered by selections made by the user.
4. What is the approximate information architecture of the site?
5. What is the flow through that architecture for the user who is accomplishing the critical goal you identified above?
6. What style(s) of navigation is/are used? Do they answer the key questions (Where am I and how did I get here? Where should I go next and how do I get there?)?
Navigation is rather straightforward and simple. As soon as a user arrives at the homepage, the central search bar invites you to find a place to stay with a clear call to action. Once a search is made, series of filters can be accessed at the top, making it easy to narrow the results. The results themselves appear as visually appealing boxes with the key price and location information that matters most to the average user. The accompanying map to the side allows for the user to clearly see where each rental is located. Overall, it is very easy for the user to determine where they are and where they should go next. In addition to the search functions, the navigation bar at the top features a home button (the Airbnb logo) on the left that can always be used to reorient the user. Options to sign up, log in, become a host, search for a co-host, or seek help are also provided. Most of these options are for more advanced users and the search bar does a good job visually as being center stage.
7. What key interactions does the user have? Are they clear and usable?
The user can take several, but simple interactions with the search and results interface to describe exactly what features they want in rentals they are hoping to find. The sign up, set up and verification process, log in, and listing options are have clearly defined instructions that reduce friction to the user, despite the considerable number of steps it takes to verify one’s information completely (e-mail, phone number, government ID, profile, etc.).
8. What did the site do well to allow the user to accomplish his goal effectively, efficiently and with good satisfaction?
Airbnb provides a simple and effective way to find places to stay for anyone with specific needs in mind, from price to accommodation features. The layout of the search results in a simple visual grid with the vital information displayed is especially well done. The map and several filters provide a very tailored experience to each user’s various needs, which is one of the strongest assets of the site compared to similar booking websites. There is even an option to switch not only language, but currency, which is useful not only for international visitors to the site, but users who are traveling between countries and need to take foreign currency conversions into account.
I have used Airbnb in the past to look for travel accommodations, but was not aware until visiting the site for this assignment that they had added “experiences” as an option recently. Experiences add a new dimension and function to the Airbnb platform, allowing individuals to host unique travel experiences for visitors to book. It appears this feature is only a few months old and that listings are still sparse, especially outside major cities, but this does show promise in being a successful and easy way for Airbnb to expand its platform and appeal to more users.
One of the big differences between using Airbnb and a booking through a regular a hotel is that a potential guest is staying at a complete stranger’s rental property. An equal concern is that the host is trusting their property with a complete stranger as a guest. Airbnb has done an excellent job over its lifetime to improve the verification features and review process for not only guests to evaluate their stays at a property, but for hosts to evaluate their guests. The features for this are integrated well into the UX and design of the website once you are signed into an account.
9. What did the site do poorly when allowing the user to accomplish his goal effectively, efficiently and with good satisfaction?
Airbnb’s UX is primarily very well done, but I do have to point out three important omissions that lowered the quality of the experience. One of the great things about Airbnb is the numerous search filters that can be used to find the exact type of property you’d like to book. Despite all of these filters though, it still appears there is no option to sort the many results by a certain qualifier such as low to high price, distance, etc. This is a feature that I feel could easily be added to the search functions and would greatly improve the UX of the site. I know it is something that I have looked for in the past, but was disappointed to find it was not an option.
Another critique of the search is that unless a user is signed in and can add a rental property they are interested in to their wish list, it can be difficult to keep track of multiple listings. The listings change with movement on the map or as you are scrolling. In my own experience, I usually open each listing I read in a separate tab, then keep that tab open to save it to go back to, as going back to previous locations within a single tab can be difficult. Related to this, it would be nice to have a feature to compare bookings once a user has narrowed down their selections and need to make a decision between them.
The last criticism I have of the UX has to do with first time visitors to Airbnb, especially those that may have never heard of the service or who have, but are unfamiliar with how it works. As mentioned above, one the major concerns new users have with the site is the safety and reliability of booking a rental or hosting a guest who are complete strangers. There is no explanation or reassurance on the homepage that immediately alleviates this concern. Users must dig deeper into the site architecture or even sign up for an account before they can fully appreciate how the verification process works to ensure a safe and secure transaction and stay.