The following project was built for Productdesign.tips’ PD Challenge, an event which brings UX/UI designers together to build solutions to help people adopt more sustainable lifestyles.
While there were a number of problems to solve for across commuting, diet, shopping, etc., we chose to focus on travel because we found it extremely relevant during COVID-19. Since March 2020, people have turned to discovering locations instead.
Keeping in mind that flying contributes to about 2.5% of our global CO2 emissions, we hope our solution will transcend beyond the pandemic to help people to find new adventures closer to home. Airbnb's 150M user base and our alignment with user-focused design as their company mission helped us better accomplish this.
How might we create a space to help users
discover local travel destinations that are exciting to them?
Airbnb has an existing space for discovery, but it’s impersonal and inconvenient in function: an endless feed of suggested stays (which may or may not be what you’re looking for). Users are typically taken through a location-first, dates-first search experience where they can toggle through filters and Airbnb will suggest homes or experiences they might be interested in. Users can select location, stay type, dates, and their group size to better inform the algorithm of the accommodations needed.
Consumers struggle with a fragmented travel ecosystem. On average they reach 56+ touch points across various sources (Search, Social, Travel information sites, OTAs etc.) and spend 15+ hours planning a trip. Only 37% of travelers report that they enjoy this planning process.
For this challenge, we focused on 18–29 year olds (young professionals and college students) and those who appreciate products that can help them save time and money. Not only did this group represent the majority of Airbnb’s users, but they are also the largest group of consumers and the most likely to be open to exploring new destinations.
Our research indicated that users don’t always know where they want to go, nor have a specific date in mind when they want to travel. During the planning phase, users referenced using Tripadvisor, Google, asking friends and family, etc. Yet, most of these interactions and the curation of their recommendations is not personalized — resulting in a lengthy and tedious experience with consequently less bookings.
Users usually weigh a combination of factors when deciding where to travel next. In addition, they are simultaneously considering what destinations are the most convenient on their bucket list. We discovered that the most important factor when deciding on location was how far a destination was from their home (followed by budget constraints, companionship, and activities offered).
1. “Planners” reported spending countless hours browsing locations on Airbnb, sometimes sharing homes later found out to be unavailable (because they were curious to find other options)
2. In group planning, it was difficult to gain consensus as many links and screenshots are shared in iMessage group chats. This leads confusion (esp. in large groups) when there are diverse needs and no centralized system to track what people liked, or didn’t like about one stay vs. another.
3. Airbnb doesn’t have a way to suggest locations by distance, and the map feature is difficult to use (esp. on mobile)
4. Pricing was a source of frustration. When traveling local, users had budgets they wanted to maintain and felt mislead when the total stay cost was significantly higher than the [nightly cost] x [# of days].
We looked closely at several websites that offered travel information, experience booking, stay booking, and travel planning. Our goal was to understand how companies, both small and large, craft user experiences and how they adapted to the change in customers’ attitude to travel caused by COVID-19. Instead of creating a new product, we aimed to integrate our feature into an existing and established product in order to maximize reach and impact.
Below is an analysis of a select few companies we researched that were most relevant to the feature we decided to design:
We decided to focus on Airbnb, since it’s considered one of the most innovative companies in travel and has a large user base. Airbnb also expanded to include experiences in 2016, and we believe experience-first trip planning is key. Additionally, Airbnb’s mission is people-focused which relates to our team’s design principles:
We believe Airbnb has the opportunity to position itself as a trusted partner in end-to-end travel planning, like a travel agent in your pocket. By expanding trip planning functionality, the company can be the #1 destination for leisure travelers to be inspired, plan, book, and share their trips.
We ideated dozens of ideas; these are our top ideas:
Idea A: Provide a platform for small businesses to publish a mini-site that will be part of a directory users can search to discover local destinations.
User benefit: Have easy access to many small business’ websites that otherwise would not have a website or easy-to-find online information.
Company benefit: Supporting small businesses and access to data on what experiences and products users are interested in.
Idea B: Visual-based search. Scrape Instagram and travel blogs for images and videos. Use AI to sort content by location.
User benefit: Easy-to-use visual search to find easily discover places. Users can find by crowd-sourced recommended destinations and experiences.
Company benefit: Revenue from sponsoring travel blogs, data on travel patterns, and can upsell stays and other experiences on the platform.
Idea C: Quiz to determine traveler archetype. Website will suggest results based on each person in the travel group’s preferences.
User benefit: Results are filtered by a fun-to-use tool that considers every travel member’s preferences, easing the travel planning load.
Company benefit: More data on travel preferences, can target content better to increase engagement, retention, and revenue.
Idea D: Provide group trip planning functionality to encourage spontaneous local trips. Include group voting, group messaging, and split payments helper.
User benefit: Easier group planning that doesn’t become the sole responsibility of one person.
Company benefit: Encouraging larger group trips increases user base, reach, and brand loyalty. Airbnb can become a trusted partner in trip planning.
Idea E: Help people decide and find where to go within Airbnb by creating an end-to-end destination discovery and planning experience.
User benefit: Users currently have to research outside of Airbnb or get recommendations by word of mouth. This features consolidates and streamlines trip planning by bringinig city guides and the discovery of destinations within Airbnb.
Company benefit: More data to target content to users, establish trust with user as a trip planning partner, and make it easier to sell Airbnb stays and experiences by trip.
We mapped out the high-level user flow to brainstorm jobs-to-be-done and feature chunks below each of the steps in the journey. As we prototyped, more feature chunk ideas came to mind and were incorporated in our final design.
Below are a sample of mid-fidelity prototypes created to optimize content placement and the user experience.
User A: I loved the quiz. It made me feel as if I was booking with a travel agent who cares about my vacationing style.
User B: I can see how the group planning feature can help with group trips. I’m always the one who has to plan trips and it can be a lot of responsibility.
User A: Sometimes I like taking it slow when traveling and sometimes I like doing many things in one day. It would be cool to have a quiz question that helps me narrow it down to differently paced activities.
User B: Is it possible to skip questions in the quiz? Sometimes I’d rather see my options before I answer any questions.
Other facets of our Solution: Split payments, local city guide maps, messaging your travel group
If you have any questions, comments, or just want to connect, feel free to reach out! We’re open to chatting.