Monday, August 22, 2016

AirBnB UX Teardown

 AirBnB, an UX analysis. 

UX, short for User eXperience, is basically, the science and art of designing web pages to best accommodate the users, and by extension, the interest of the business involved. There are a number of principles that go into UX, with the ultimate goal being to leave the user feeling like the website was accessible, useful and informative. The goal, the majority of times, is to leave the user feeling like they wish to return to the site. 

The best way to understand the principles behind UX is to do a thorough examination of a website. If you're not familiar with the basics of UX, I suggest this article. It serves as a pretty thorough introduction, and is probably a better jumping off point than this blog post. Failing that, there's nothing like jumping right in. 

The best way to start is by poking around the website, so I did just that, I spent a solid thirty minutes clicking things, and figuring out how to navigate the site. The key point was to think critically about what, as an user, I'd like to see and do. AirBnB is a website that caters to travelers and people with excess space looking to make money, the goal of AirBnB is to connect these people, basically allowing individuals to work as hotels, and allowing travelers to either get an authentic experience or save money, sometimes both. AirBnB provides both an unique service and an unique idea.

AirBnB successfully catches your attention

Now the core question, who uses this website? The kind of user will determine what priorities the designer has in designing the website. Given the size of AirBnB and the general novelty of the idea, the website can expect to find the following kinds of users:

  1. The authentic traveler: People who wish to travel around and get the most "real" experience. Many of these will be first time users, visiting the website as a result of word of mouth or other advertising techniques. For this type of traveler, its important to convey information about how the arrangement works more than anything. 
  2. The thrifty traveler, looking to save money by exploring alternatives to expensive hotels. For this type of traveler it is important to emphasize the price and the quality relative to hotels. 
  3. The host that wants to put people up and make money on the side. These people will be curious about payouts and the details of arrangements between themselves, BnB and the visitor.
These are three very varied demographics, and attempting to cater to all three is both ambitious and absolutely essential for the product to succeed. At the end of the day, the client wants to walk away with either a stay booked or able to profit from having strangers stay at their house. This means that the presentation of information so that the client can make the most informed decisions is essential, as is not burdening clients with information that isn't relevant to their specific experience (e.g. the host probably doesn't care about how "real" the experience might be if they were to travel). 

The website does this quite effectively, prompting you at first with information on what AirBnB does, in colorful, pastels that are bound to appeal to the whimsy of the more "authentic" traveler, while not discouraging the others. The site is further broken down into easily accessible sub-sites that allow you to find the specifics a client might be interested in. Taglines like "belong anywhere" or "see what you can earn" are designed to separate the users by their specific interests. 

Targeted at specific needs.

Of note too is the subtle use of shading to make the button pop, while appearing almost 2D, and the effective use of whitespace and color to call your attention. The website is extremely aesthetically pleasing. Further, the use of pictures in the areas devoted to travelers serve to further guide the users attention in the desired manner. While the section aimed at hosting seems relatively small, it's very effective, as those seeking to host are likely less interested in being offered a plethora of options. There is room to argue that this plethora of choices may induce a form of click paralysis on users, but the shifting content and gorgeous pictures entice more than discourage. 

For people searching, the information is clearly and prominently displayed, and the search results are concise.  Its relatively easy to do both deep searches, and broad searches. The use of pictures is very effective, although the pop up asking you to log in can be a source of annoyance, especially the lack of a clear escape from it. Most first time users are probably not inclined to log in with facebook or google plus, and the prompt is kind of jarring. 

Overall though, the site is incredibly polished, searches and favoriting things seems very intuitive, and there is a lot of information provided, crucially for travelers, pictures. The addition of a map, showing the exact location of places to stay is a welcome addition. 

Overall, AirBnB is pretty darn effective, its clear a lot of thought and money went into designing the website, and its hard to find much fault without being nitpicky. The site keeps its users in mind, guarantees that they know where they are at all times (and can quickly return to the front page if they desire), and effectively serves their needs. 

If you want to read a better teardown by someone who does this for a living, you can find Jason Shah teardown here. I highly suggest you read it.