This is an assignment for Viking Code School’s Web design class. I am spending quite a lot of time on this course because web design is challenging and scary for me and they’ve done a great job demystifying the subject. I’d recommend checking it out if you’re interested in web design.
- Who is the key user?
- What is that user’s number one critical goal when using the site?
- What is likely to make that user’s experience particularly positive
- What is the approximate information architecture of the site?
- What is the flow through that architecture for the user who is accomplishing the critical goal you identified above?
- What style(s) of navigation is/are used? Do they answer the two key questions (Where am I and how did I get here? Where should I go next and how do I get there?)?
- What key interactions does the user have? Are they clear and usable?
- What did the site do well to allow the user to accomplish his goal effectively, efficiently and with good satisfaction?
- What did the site do poorly when allowing the user to accomplish his goal effectively, efficiently and with good satisfaction?
A traveler who wants to have a fun, non-business, trip.
Easily find somewhere to stay that is non-standard (not a hotel) and that is in their price range, desired location, and time frame.
The user wants it to be easy to see what the place looks like and know what the experience will be in advance. They also want to quickly narrow offerings down by location, time frame, and price. Finally, it should be simple to pay for and reserve places to stay.
There is a top navbar with a “Home” button (the Airbnb icon) on the left as well as “Log in”, “list your space”, and “Sign Up” links on the right, there’s also a footer on some pages with more information about the Airbnb company and community. What’s nice about all of that navigation is you can totally ignore it as the average user of the site. It’s there for more advanced users. For the average user all the action happens in the main body of the page.
Specifically, the average user will spend most of their time on the “Map/Places to Stay” screen. It’s divided in half and lets you review room locations and pricing easily. When you open a place to stay you get a new window (or it navigates you there). There are only three levels though so you can’t get too lost. One nice navigational touch is when you’re using selecting locations there are breadcrumbs on the bottom of the “Places to Stay” pane on the left. This helps you know “Where you are”.
The navigation is also very clear about “Where am I?” because there are very limited places the average user is going to end up. They’re probably going to be looking at a map of possible places to stay, or a specific place to stay. When looking at a specific place, the browser’s back button will work to go back to the map and this is what most users will expect.
One of the great strengths of the Airbnb site is how few clear key interactions are required for most users. The fact that there are only a few, very clear, interactions to choose from makes the whole site feel more cohesive and easy to use.
It’s very easy for a user to look for a place to stay using the map/places to stay page. The search is very intuitive and easy, they have nice calendars to choose your dates from take all sorts of different input in the location field. It’s also easy to look at and book a place to stay. Airbnb puts everything you’d want to know on one page, the answer to “Did people like it?” is answered by reviews, “How much does it cost?” is answered very obviously on the top right.
Information is presented in an easy to find way with the important parts first and high in the visual hierarchy (colored, large, etc.). The user isn’t required to do any extra thinking or clicking. It’s a very visually prioritized and clear site.
The navigation is also very consistent and shallow, you’re either looking at a map or a place you might want to book. It’s very simple and powerful with just the right blend of information and whitespace. It’s also effective that Airbnb segregates the “find me a place to stay” tasks from the “I want to rent my place” tasks.
There is no “Back to Map” button. This is fine for most, but users who are less comfortable with technology may get frustrated. The site is also extremely “heavy”, the search page is both a google map with many pins AND a huge image gallery with text. This means that there’s a huge amount of data being transferred. I actually found myself on a DSL connection while writing this review and the site was slow enough it was noticeable.