UX Designer

Solo designer (Designlab bootcamp capstone project)

1 month

Adobe XD
View Prototype
Problem: Airbnb offers the option to buy an Experience, but these experiences can be expensive or not as comprehensive as some people might like. In doing research for this project, a question arose: “How might we expand Airbnb in a way that aligns with the company’s core values while balancing both the needs of the users as well as the business?”

Solution: I designed and prototyped a hypothetical feature addition to Airbnb’s Experiences, called “Scavenger Hunts”. This new feature allows both travelers and locals to share their own curated list of location/activity recommendations for other travelers to follow. Those who might be traveling on a budget, want a different/gamified type of guided experience, or those who want to connect with other travelers can benefit from this feature addition.
As a lover of traveling and a user of Airbnb myself, I resonate with Airbnb’s core values about building a sense of community and belonging around the world – I believe that travel is an amazing way to build more understanding and empathy for oneself as well as other people.

So, it was important that any new feature aligned with these values while still being something that excites the user and also supports Airbnb’s growth as a business.
This new Scavenger Hunt feature is like a self-guided tour with a gamified twist, curated by other Airbnb users.

Lists can be created by anyone, and users can search for and activate a Scavenger Hunt in the area that they’re staying, which then allows the user to follow a list of activities and/or go to various points of interest around their location on their own time.

Optionally, users could upload photos to show themselves participating in the task (e.g. “Take a selfie in front of XYZ location”), which adds to the social aspects of this feature.

In order to support Airbnb’s existing features, relevant paid Experiences would be automatically added as optional tasks to the Scavenger Hunt list. Perhaps users could receive special ‘badges’ on their account for completing certain Scavenger Hunts. Lastly, this feature could also have a social aspect that lets travelers meet up with other travelers in order to complete the Scavenger Hunt together.

This feature could be a fun way to bring people together from around the world, enable people to explore new parts of a city on their trips in a cheaper and fun way, allow users to participate in the global Airbnb community by uploading photos, and be a way for Airbnb users members to contribute back to the community by creating these curated lists of location and activity recommendations.

The scope of this project was kept to the mobile app user flow.
In order to best understand how to approach this feature addition and figure out exactly what the feature should be, I first needed to understand the needs of a traveler who has used Airbnb before and the current travel market landscape.

The initial research phase for this project consisted of:

• Competitive analysis of other travel sites
• Surveys with existing Airbnb users
SURVEYS TO UNDERSTAND PAIN POINTSOnline surveys were conducted with existing Airbnb users to better understand people’s travel habits and preferences, and to gauge a general level of interest in a Scavenger Hunt feature. In order to gain a wide range of data as quickly as possible, surveys were favored over 1:1 interviews for this round of testing.

11 survey participants

6 identified as male;
5 identified as female

Ages ranged from 20-32

91% of participants have previously booked 5+ Airbnbs

27% of participants have previously booked an Airbnb Experience

KEY RESEARCH INSIGHTS“I liked [my Airbnb Experience] a lot! I enjoyed being able to meet someone who knew a lot about their city, but because I knew I was booking from a denizen instead of through a touring company, it felt just a tad more authentic and personable.”

- Survey participant

“I would consider experiences but I think the prices often deter me. You also don't know the quality of the service you're receiving.”

- Survey participant

This initial research phase revealed some key insights:
  • Many of Airbnb’s competitors offered some form of paid guided experience and had a large focus on their community (e.g. letting users leave reviews, host their own experiences, etc.)
  • That being said, many of the survey participants preferred using Airbnb over the competitors because they feel it is cheaper and more trustworthy
  • Of the three participants who had previously booked an Airbnb Experience, they really enjoyed it and booked it ahead of their trip, expressing that they enjoyed it because of how authentic and personable it felt
  • For those who hadn’t booked an Experience before, some were deterred by the price, some weren’t sure exactly what they were getting into, others preferred doing their own thing, and a few participants didn’t even know that Airbnb offered services beyond booking a place to stay
  • Some participants said they enjoy Airbnb because it lets them experience a different sense of culture or way of living than they might normally experience in their day-to-day lives at a more affordable price
  • 100% of survey participants explicitly stated they liked the Scavenger Hunt idea and its gamified style. While there were a few questions about how and would be interested in using this feature if it were safe and the cost was low
This test phase provided some insights into people’s travel habits and preferences, and also validated that users would be open to using the Scavenger Hunt feature. From this research phase, a question arose:
How might we expand Airbnb in a way that aligns with the company’s core values while balancing both the needs of the users as well as the business?
PERSONAThe persona for this project is someone who loves traveling and experiencing new things on her adventures (but doesn’t like doing things that are too touristy), prefers traveling solo or in small groups, and usually learns about new things to do on her trips via suggestions from her friends.
USER FLOWIn order to figure out how to implement this new feature into Airbnb’s existing app, I created the following user flow:
UI Mockups
From here, I looked at the Airbnb mobile app for reference on how elements were laid out before starting the visual design part of this process. Looking at the mobile app allowed me to make sure I’m aligned within Airbnb’s design system.
Airbnb wireframe sketchesAirbnb wireframe sketchesAirbnb wireframe sketchesAirbnb wireframe sketchesAirbnb wireframe sketches
HI-FI UI v1Since Airbnb’s design system (including their fonts) was not publicly available at the time of this project, I had to make some minor changes.
Notably, I am using Montserrat for the font, in place of Airbnb’s custom font Cereal. Doing my best to match the typography, colors, and layout of the mobile app, I created the first draft of the high fidelity UI:
Airbnb high fidelity version 1Airbnb high fidelity version 1Airbnb high fidelity version 1Airbnb high fidelity version 1
Usability tests were then conducted to see how easy and understandable the Scavenger Hunt feature was, and to see if there were any points of friction in the user flow.

Tests were performed either in-person or with video screen sharing. The prototype was created with Adobe XD.
View Prototype

5 test participants

1 participant was Portuguese (the rest were from the US)

2 identified as female;
3 identified as male

  • "Airbnb has just added a new feature called Scavenger Hunts, which allows locals and travelers alike to create lists of suggested tasks for people to do in their area during their travels. Let’s assume you’re currently staying in Tokyo and you’d like to go on a Scavenger Hunt nearby related to owls. Can you walk through the process of how you might try to find an owl-related Scavenger Hunt in Tokyo?"
  • "From this owls Scavenger Hunt page, activate it (if you haven’t done so already). Let’s say you’re following the steps and you arrive at the recommended train station, but from there you go straight to an owl cafe. Can you walk through the process of doing these Scavenger Hunt tasks?"
After these two tasks, test participants were given the opportunity to share any additional thoughts/questions/concerns.
KEY INSIGHTSFrom this round of usability testing on the version 1 of the UI/user flow, everyone was able to make it to the owls Scavenger Hunt page.

Some feedback was given about reducing visual clutter and having only one ‘add media’/’see media’ button be present for the whole Scavenger Hunt, rather than per individual task. That being said, everyone did end up clicking through to add a photo (instructions to do this part were intentionally left out to see whether or not people would add a photo on their own accord).

Some users wanted a ‘learn more’ button for individual tasks in the instance they might want a hint. The biggest point of complaint was about a desire for creating a separate page once the Scavenger Hunt was activated.

Last but not least was a very surprising but important consideration: my Portuguese participant, though fluent in English, did not actually know what a Scavenger Hunt was and I had to explain it to him. When trying to find an appropriate translation, it came up as “treasure hunt” which he found silly and not accurately representing the feature I was trying to create.

Given that Airbnb is focused on building a global community, perhaps a different, more universally-understood and better-translatable term should be used for this feature.
HI-FI UI v2Given the feedback received this round of testing, to fit within the scope and timeline of this project, the priority for creating a version 2 of this prototype was to change the position of a few UI elements for added clarity and creating a streamlined task list page.
Airbnb high fidelity version 2Airbnb high fidelity version 2Airbnb high fidelity version 2Airbnb high fidelity version 2Airbnb high fidelity version 2
Airbnb high fidelity version 2Airbnb high fidelity version 2Airbnb high fidelity version 2Airbnb high fidelity version 2Airbnb high fidelity version 2Airbnb high fidelity version 2
FINAL THOUGHTS AND NEXT STEPSOverall, this feature received a very positive response, and I think there is potential for Scavenger Hunts to evolve into something really fun and be something that supports the Airbnb brand, values, and business model.

Given some of the insights gleaned from the usability testing, and given how Airbnb is a global brand, in the future I would like to perform more tests with more of an international user base to gain a broader range of perspectives.

Future iterations of this design, in addition to continuing to test the usability and understanding of the UI and user flow, would include designing and testing more of the social aspects: photo sharing, teaming up with other travelers, and letting users create their own scavenger hunts.

Additionally, it is important to me that any feature being added to an existing app be one that fully supports the vision of the company and business model, so I would want to run further tests and do more research to discover other ways in which this feature addition could help Airbnb’s business and brand grow.
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