Airbnb: Event Spaces Feature Integration
A new event spaces feature for Airbnb
I worked in a four-member team, with Ania Gall, Rachel Kamelhar, and Sabina Roslyakova. We collaboratively split work so that we each had a chance to test all roles in the UX process from researcher to designer to tester.
The project spanned ten days, from January 23-February 2, 2018.
Limitations, Parameters, Resources, and Materials
Because the project was a simulation and we were not affiliated with Airbnb, our data-gathering and branding were not “official,” but rather, a mock-up of what Airbnb might actually build if they were to pursue a similar project.
We created our initial designs using pen and paper, then moved into Sketch. We then created a prototype in InVision. Over time, we increased the fidelity of the wireframes and edited our links according to user feedback.
Initial Problem Statement
The opportunity outlined in the brief was that Airbnb would like to increase the ability of event hosts and guests to find each other, given that in the current app, guests have no clear way to tell which hosts and accommodations permit event booking without having to read through individual post descriptions and house rules. The assignment was to design a native iPhone or Android app. Our interpretation of the problem put into consideration building paths for both the guest and the host sides.
We began our research with a brief screener survey that asked broad questions about whether responders had experience with booking event space, renting it out, or using Airbnb. We wanted to hone in on a target audience that might use our feature. Out of the 48 responders, about 20 passed the screening.
We then developed a user interview script that asked more pointed questions about their experiences as a guest or host, with special attention to their needs and difficulties:
1. How often do you host events?
2. Tell me about the last time you hosted an event.
3. What kind of event was it?
4. Describe how you found the space. (Using what type of platform)
5. What was that like?
6. What are some details that you’re looking for when booking a venue?
7. What kind of concerns do you have when booking a space?
8. How often do you rent out your space?
9. What does that process look like?
10. When was the last time you rented out your space?
11. What was the event?
12. How long did it last?
13. What are you looking for in a renter?
14. Are you familiar with Airbnb?
15. Have you ever used Airbnb?
16. Tell me about the last time you used Airbnb.
17. What was it like using Airbnb?
We interviewed five people. Three interviewees were event space bookers (which we called guests), one was on the opposite side and rented out event space (which we called a host), and one person did both. Nearly all were familiar with or had used Airbnb, but not for event spaces.
Right away, some significant things jumped out at us: price and amenities were a very important details, looking for event space was time-consuming, and it was difficult for our users to find the right contact person. One said, “my experience depends on the management.”
How did you confirm or refine your initial assumptions?
To synthesize our research, we completed an affinity mapping, putting interview details on Post-Its, color-coding for each interviewee, and moved them around on a whiteboard until they converged into patterns. Our insights fell into two categories, guest and host, and ordered by importance:
Primary User: Guest
-Wants ability to filter venues by type, capacity, location, amenities
-Transparent pricing calculated by length of event
-Available contact person before and during the event
-Catering and other amenities
Secondary User: Host
-Wants ability to decline based on event type and requester
-Host profile that’s easy to fill out
-Better contact with Airbnb support
To our user research, we also added a brief competitor research. This led us to two platforms, Peerspace and Splacer. They both offer services similar to the event space booking we were looking to design for Airbnb. However, they’re not widely used. Our research indicated that most event planners actually use old methods to book spaces, such as relying on word of mouth, or doing online research coupled with email/phone contact with hosts, and site visits.
We decided to synthesize our findings into two personas, one for a guest and one for a host:
Finally, we were able to craft a problem statement that summarized our project: Shylah and Ben are in need of a platform that allows them to navigate and negotiate details involved with renting and booking event spaces easily. Shylah needs to be able to sort through venue options for the ideal space for her events, while Ben needs to feel comfortable renting his space to new clients. How might we bridge the gap between Shylah and Ben?
Our sketching process began with two rounds of Design Studio to quickly generate as many potential solutions to our problem as possible. We sketched ideas, critiqued each other, and collaboratively improved our ideas using time-blocking. We did this for each of our two personas, concentrating on meeting their separate needs and goals.
Once we converged on solutions, we brainstormed potential features for each of our personas, then prioritized them via a MoSCoW mapping, which separates must, should, could, and won’t have features. We focused on building the must have features, and incorporating should have features when possible.
We began the sketching process on paper with low-fidelity wireframes. We sketched a flow chart to map each user’s main navigation: one for Shylah, our primary user, and Ben, our secondary user. Then we joined them with a login screen to toggle between guest and host.
Eventually we moved into Sketch to create mid-fidelity wireframes, and InVision to link them into a prototype.
A key concern while we were designing was both adhering to the Airbnb flow and aesthetic and innovating to accommodate our user needs. It was difficult to know when to do which. In our group discussions, we made sure to deliberate each point of departure from the current platform, and map it to a central user need.
In this first screenshot, we included filters for date, capacity, and price to cater to Shylah’s need to find the right fit venue, however, we hid the variety of amenities offered within the final filter button to maintain the clean design:
For Ben, in our second screenshot, we added an easy way to identify past clients, view bad ratings warnings, and to differentiate potential from current clients, which caters to his needs to vet guests, see feedback, and build a client base. These icons of a check, exclamation point, and book are viewable from his inbox:
Many of the lessons learned from the prioritization exercise coincided with Airbnb’s existing app, such as a booking button and an inbox, so we recreated those. In addition, we learned about features we would have to build exclusively for our event booking platform: for instance, Shylah needed amenities like A/V equipment, so in that case we innovated to add that for her.
Usability Tests and Resulting Iterations
With our mid-fi prototype we conducted 5 usability tests, then with our findings we improved our design and conducted 6 more. For our tests we had 3 tasks each for Shylah and Ben:
You’re Shylah, an event planner, and you were hired to find a space in Brooklyn for a 21st birthday party.
1. Find a space for 50 people for less than $100 per hour.
2. While you’re searching for a space, you remember that your client asked for a projector, tables, and seating for the party. Find a space that offers all three.
3. You decide to choose the loft in Williamsburg. Contact the host and request to book for Feb. 3.
You’re Ben. You live in Long Island but have a loft in Brooklyn next to your favorite pizza spot. You rent it out for events on Airbnb.
1. You just got a new projector for your loft in Brooklyn. Make it available for your guests.
2. You noticed that a woman named Shylah has inquired about your loft. Find out if she is reliable.
3. You like her and know the loft is available on Feb. 3rd. Confirm her booking and respond to her message.
Our key usability testing focused on assessing whether filtering and booking worked smoothly for the guest, and adding amenities, vetting, and confirming for the host.
Our usability increased with each iteration:
Below are some screens that evolved based on our usability feedback:
Here we added scrolling, made the menu bar clearer by highlighting which function the user was on, and emphasized the filters with a reminder.
Here we made the calendar dates more clear.
Here we added a path for the user to confirm booking right away after seeing a message, without having to use the view request button above or the calendar function.
And here we moved the amenities button further up on the page to make it easier to find.
Our final feedback from users centered on features that would fall outside the MVP category, so we noted them for potential future inclusion:
-Add “event spaces” for specific types of events. Ex.:“Great spot for a birthday party” “Perfect space for a meeting”
-Be able to change pricing for a space based on similar places in the same area, with surge pricing if availability is low
-Include an area where companies could look for event spaces, not just individuals. Ex. Paint by Night or Sofar Sounds
-Integrate different features within Airbnb. Ex. Something in experiences could book a space to hold the “experience,” or connect with restaurants willing to cater events
I was very pleased with how this first group project went. My teammates and I truly collaborated on each step, making sure each person was heard and was contributing equally. I deeply valued this opportunity to work with other designers. I found their different ideas and methods stimulating, and on the whole, a great complement to my own. Each of us was able to balance each other out, stay on schedule, and produce high-quality, consistent work. I’m looking forward to future group design work.