Steph Tekano, Airbnb
Airbnb iPhone App
Airbnb iPhone App
Unlock the doors to inspiring and unique accommodations around the world with the Airbnb app.
"Steph Tekano, Airbnb, Lead Designer Andrew Vilcsak, Airbnb, Mobile Developer Lead Joe Gebbia, Airbnb, Chief Product Officer"
Todd Wilkens: ""This is, simply, a well designed iphone app. They packed a lot of functionality into something small, without making it feel overwhelming."" Jan Moorman: ""I appreciated their description of process - they talked about methods and showed a process for finding holes in their design.""
Airbnb iPhone App
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
With a growing percentage of Airbnb users accessing our service from the iPhone, we were challenged with redesigning the Airbnb experience into a mobile device. Working within the constraints of the iPhone, and pushing the limits of the iOS allowed us to create a one-of-a-kind app. We got to start from a blank slate - this was exciting! Imagine taking the best of the Airbnb web site and cutting the fat? Our final features and capabilities included:
• Book space directly from your iPhone in a few simple clicks
• Find out what your place is worth, and start earning cash renting out your space
• Select “Find a place, tonight!” for last minute availability
• Browse amazing Collections to see our most distinctive properties
• Instantly access your upcoming itinerary, complete with directions to your destination
• Message guests and hosts directly from your phone
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
Our point of view was very personal to us - each member of the team uses Airbnb to travel and host. The app developed around our knowledge of existing Airbnb travel behavior, and the pain points we personally experienced. Often, we'd step into the shoes of a first time user who had no idea what Airbnb was. This informed how we lead new users into the app. One thing not in the original brief that came up in our real world user testing was needing a place last minute. One of us was traveling and the accommodations fell through unexpectedly. So we created a button "Help I need a place tonight" that searches all the available Airbnb's closest to where you are. You can click on a pin, review the details, and book within minutes. This button is used more than you might guess.
Additionally, we discovered an opportunity to help users see the value of renting the extra space in their home or apartment. By using GPS and asking a few simple questions, we can display the value of a private room, or entire apartment, based on what their neighbors are making on Airbnb. The app makes it easy to then list and photograph your space, all from the iPhone.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
There were two audiences to design for: existing users and 'browsers'. We were faced with the challenge of making an app that had the right utilities for existing guests and hosts, and the right amount of fun for anyone who wasn't a registered user (we call them browsers). Airbnb is full of beautiful content and we wanted to make it accessible for consuming, no account required. Each use case was to be supported within one app, without obstructing each other. For existing users, the app could allow faster communication, access to itineraries, and 1-tap calls to customer support. For browsers, they could watch videos to learn what Airbnb is, swipe through beautifully curated collections of properties, and search listings by city.
The final product has two states for those logged out, and those logged in. The menu options adapt to each of these states, offering what's needed to each type of user, only when they need it.
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
We decided early on to formulate a small, nimble team, and the app is a direct reflection of that team. The three of us formed a harmonious triangle of skills: design (Steph Tekano), code (Andrew Vilcsak), and user experience (Joe Gebbia). Decision making became streamlined and allowed us to move at incredible speed. There was, of course, an impending deadline which kept our fire going.
The process began by identifying the needs of our mobile users, and led into a team brainstorm about all the crazy things we could do inside the app. Hundreds of sticky notes later, we began to filter down the features/functions that made the most sense for version 1. After sketching basic flows - and we thought in flows - we began to build a basic prototype. After loading it onto our phones, we would go out into the real world for testing.
Soon we found ourselves bouncing between the lab (office) and the field (real world). Did our hypotheses hold up? Going into the real world would prove them right or wrong. Through constant iteration we laid down the foundational functions of what the app should do. The process played off Joe's experiences from Industrial Design - rapid prototyping and exploration - but applied to the software of a mobile app. Next, we pinned every screen of the app - all 68 of them - on the studio wall. This became our roadmap for design, and is the reason every single flow is thoughtfully considered on the app.
Along the way, Steph designed an elegant menu bar to match the rest of the app's visual aesthetic. Andrew pushed the limits of the iOS by figuring out how to create a custom menu bar, something that is undocumented in the world of iOS development. This exemplifies our rigor - we let the design lead the technology.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
Airbnb facilitates connections between people around the globe. We use the internet to bring people offline face-to-face. We are more than a transactions business. We are a connections business. The more channels we can create for our community to connect with each other the better. This includes the web, meet ups, and in this case, mobile devices.
At Airbnb, we have provide a 6-way win:
1. Guests - gain access to global spaces and neighborhoods, within their price range
2. Hosts - create extra income stream utilizing space they already have
3. Airbnb - earns 10% of each transaction to improve the platform
4. Local economy - money is redirected from tourist zones into the coffee shops, restaurants, and establishments in real neighborhoods
5. Environment - allows people to use existing resources, and reconsider the need to pour more concrete
6. Humans - by connecting people in person around the world, stereotypes can be broken, which improves the state of being for everyone else
Because far off places are now accessible, over 50% of our business is completely international - a guest leaving their country to stay with a host in another country. We've made a highly functional app that is in the hands of 250,000 people internationally, facilitating more connections each day.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
We had to say no to a lot of things along the way. Given the timeline to launch, and the size of our team, we had to be decisive in what was necessary in version 1.0. If I could back, I would have added support for multiple languages and currencies from the beginning. Translating the entire app, along with the complexities around pricing, would've caused us to miss the deadline.