Airbnb Itinerary Planning Feature
A few months ago, I took a trip to Seattle. I was too busy to plan my trip, but luckily I had an awesome Airbnb host who sent me recommendations and turned me to her Seattle “Guidebook” for more ideas. I felt I had access to all the best spots, without the hours of sifting through reviews and blogs to get it. I began to wonder - why didn’t Airbnb better leverage their hosts’ insights into their cities?
Airbnb’s “Guidebooks” are guides to cities that are curated by locals (airbnb hosts). After my experience, I can’t praise these enough yet they are practically unannounced by airbnb. I decided to explore how airbnb could better help users plan their trips beyond accommodations.
Project type: Android app, interaction design
Timeline: 5 weeks (80 hours)
My Role: Research, interaction design, testing, prototyping,
Airbnb boasts nearly 5 million lodging options and 3,000 “experiences” in over 81,000 cities in the world. Though travelers have a wealth of access to local gems, there is no feature available to help them plan their trip.
Organizing a trip is stressful and time-consuming. Airbnb could empower users by providing a seamless itinerary builder on the platform: a place where travelers could create, discuss, schedule and otherwise organize an itinerary.
High-Level Design Goals
Design a trip planning feature which includes discovery and organization of activities, transportation, accommodations, restaurants, etc.
Research & Discovery
My research started with an online survey, on a mission to better understanding peoples’ travel habits and travel planning methods.
I got 55 responses and the distinct patterns I noticed are summarized below:
Given that most itinerary planning happens at the destination, and Google research shows that the majority of those traveller research touch points happen on the cell phone - I decided that I was going to purse the feature on the Airbnb Android app, rather than desktop.
I downloaded the top 4 travel planning apps on the Google Play store and used each of them to plan out a hypothetical trip to observe the strengths which could inspire my design strategy, and the weaknesses I would avoid.
A few noteworthy patterns I found:
Importing of reservation details (flights, hotels) from email account to add to itinerary
Culture guides: curated content about the city’s food scene, transportation methods, etc.
Offline download of city guide information
Talking to Potential Users
In order to better understand the problem, I wanted to talk to people with more specificity, so I interviewed 5 people about their most recent travel planning experience.
Making the most of their time: a good vacation means having seen everything they wanted to and feeling like their time was used efficiently
Participants want to live like locals do: they seek activities and restaurants that the city’s locals would recommend
Use WYSIWYG tools like Spreadsheets and Google Docs to keep track of activities and plans, citing they like the simplicity and flexibility
Primarily use chat apps to keep all the details of group travel in one place
The majority of participants cite that they stick with desktop for preliminary planning because there is currently no single tool to supply all their travel needs, and desktop is an easier environment to switch tools on
Keeping track of all group travel details is overwhelming: ⅗ participants mentioned trying spreadsheets before abandoning them, and often feeling lost in all the information within the group chats.
I used the findings to create two provisional personas, Kara and Jake, to better guide the design strategy toward features that would help achieve their goals.
The primary differences between these two personas is when their planning takes place, and to what extent. Those differences seem to come out of a varying attitude: planners feel more anxiety about making the most of their time.
Since secondary research and surveys indicated that the majority of people don’t (or loosely) plan their days ahead of their trip, I decided to focus on Kara’s POV for the remainder of this project.
I used experience mapping to visualize and demonstrate the persona’s end‐to‐end experience across various touch‐points throughout travel planning.
Kara’s itinerary planning mainly happens on location, with some research prior to the trip - so these are the contextual scenarios I chose to focus on.
Using my research findings, I began brainstorming features by creating How Might We and Point of View statements. A couple brainstorming sessions led to the following proposed solutions:
How might we help Kara turn her long lists into an organized itinerary?
Digital itinerary planner tool
Flexibility to sort itinerary items onto set days or to add to a “saved list”
Importing details of external trip reservations from email (e.g. flight information)
How might we reduce the work required to create an itinerary?
Provides destination information that is relevant to travelers that usually requires research
Includes day plans for end-to-end guidance (curated itineraries)
How might we make the local scene more accessible to Kara?
Make host recommendations more accessible with filters allowing users to sort through the type of suggestions they’re seeking
How might we inspire collaboration in the travel planning process?
Ability to add co-travelers to trip planner
Option to add comments or upvote an itinerary item
I identified key paths of the user journey and mapped out the flow of user steps, using a shorthand method for UI flows.
Some of the flows I explored included:
Creating a trip
Adding a single itinerary item
Adding a day plan
Commenting on/Voting for an itinerary item
After reviewing the current screens of the Airbnb app, I realized that a lot of the screens could be altered slightly to represent the interactions I was designing for. Thus, I focused the visual design efforts on just a few key new screens and how to integrate them into the existing design system.
Rather than wireframing, I sketched out the UI of the new key screens, allowing me to iterate rapidly before diving right into high fidelity designs. I presented this document to my colleagues to get some early opinions and votes between the v1 and v2 options.
There is no Airbnb UI kit for Android publicly available, so I used Invision to recreate the existing screens as closely as possible and mimicked the existing design patterns in brand new screens so that the new features could integrate seamlessly.
Testing & Revisions
I created a high fidelity prototype using Invision and tested the following tasks with four participants:
Creating a trip
Adding a restaurant to the itinerary
Adding a comment to an itinerary item
Finding a day plan
All tasks were completed successfully, but the users definitely needed to explore around to understand certain elements of the new trip dashboard. This highlighted the need for some sort of on-boarding demonstration that could familiarize users with the features in future iterations.
In addition, I made revisions to the designs which make private vs shared itinerary items more explicit:
The Finished Product
A couple users who tested the app said they had no idea that Airbnb Guidebooks existed and that they felt my feature was a great way to spotlight such an invaluable resource. However, given more time, I would have like to have better developed the social aspect of the itinerary tool, as well as an instructive on-boarding process.
Airbnb is one of my favorite companies and I really enjoyed theoretically “enhancing” their product. I found it a great lesson to work within an existing and well-established design system.
It was also interesting for me to focus on the subset of travelers who are non-planners, as that’s the opposite of how I travel - this project certainly strengthened my empathy skills!