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Innovation By Design

"Lively" Beats "Trendy" And Other Things Airbnb Learned Redesigning Its App

How the company went about remaking the vital link to its customers and hosts.

"Lively" Beats "Trendy" And Other Things Airbnb Learned Redesigning Its App

Travel agent: Airbnb designer Amber Cartwright is building a digital product that better serves both hosts and guests.

[Photo: Noel Spirandelli]

When you rent an Airbnb, there’s no front desk or concierge, so the company’s app is especially important. It guides guests through the entire process: not just selecting a place to stay, but communicating with the host and discovering things to do nearby.

To make that experience as effective and engaging as possible, Airbnb significantly overhauled its app last year, simplifying its interface and introducing thoughtful filters to make it easier to search listings. When it came to creating those filters, "we learned that words like 'trendy' aren’t useful, because they don’t make you think about what you’ll be doing on your trip," says Airbnb design manager Amber Cartwright, who oversaw the process.

"What is useful is a word like 'lively,' which [indicates] what kind of trip you’re making, like whether you’ll be going out at night with friends."

The app also introduced a new algorithm that surfaces the freshest, most popular, and most useful host recommendations for nearby restaurants and activities.

Next, Airbnb plans to revamp the app’s host-focused functionality, which lets listers handle transactions and guest interactions via mobile. The idea, Cartwright says, is to "build out more complex business tools for them to set prices and manage listings and schedule their time. We want to help them to be micro-entrepreneurs."

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