Joe Zadeh is Head of Product & Innovation at Airbnb, a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique spaces around the world. He spoke (video available for Intuit insiders) at Intuit’s CTOF (Create the Offering Forum) 5/2/2012 on their little-known Network Effects (i.e. more than just ‘the more people that host, the more travelers are attracted and the more travelers that come to Airbnb, the more people want to host’). Their entire service helps you get more mobile (via travel) and their iPhone and Android apps are killer in terms of both design and usefulness.
I always wondered why it was called “Airbnb” and just figured it was people that fly to their destination and stay in a BnB (bed and breakfast), but its actually a story about the founders. They lived in San Francisco but they could no longer afford it. To make the next rent payment, they setup an airbed on the floor of their living room and advertised it to designers coming into town for a huge conference. They served breakfast too. So Airbnb really stands for Airbed & Breakfast.
Trust and Safety are A#1 at airbnb - for example: you cannot message someone unless you have a verified phone number. You are not renting a place from an email address, you are renting from a real person.
Joe’s three steps to make a great product:
Users can help break down your mental walls: For Airbnb, that meant changing their view that it was only for use during conferences (when places to stay are scarce), or only for sharing a place (you can now list your entire place while you are out of town).
They were thinking that if only the pictures of each listing looked better, more people would book. So in true Lean Startup fashion, they built a concierge MVP (minimum viable product that uses human effort and little to no code) to test the hypothesis: Will hosts want pro photography?
Sending emails to hosts of listings with regular pics, they found that just about everyone replied with a “Yes, Please!” when Airbnb offered to send a professional photographer to their place.
For their second hypothesis, Will they get more business? they used metrics to track pro-photo listings vs. regular-photo listings. The answer was an astounding YES.
They continued sending emails and offering to pay for pro photography for hosts and business was growing, growing, growing. Then it stalled and went down/flat.
Joe recommends every team build a dashboard! It lets you measure and find out why stuff happens. So they found that the reason for the down/flat trend was because their employee that was in charge of cutting checks to professional photographers was just overwhelmed and getting behind. They thought, instead of cutting checks manually to pro photographers, who do they know that has an automatic payment system? Thats right, they already had it in-house, and just applied it to their photography program.
What started as a bad photo, the resolution wound up fixing many hurdles and encouraging their stratospheric growth.
Try things that don’t scale!
Hurdle: Guests want to see complete guest profiles of the Hosts; Hosts don’t want to fill them out.
Removed this hurdle by auto-connecting with Facebook: Hence was born Airbnb Social Connections. Try it, its quite amazing!
Build dogfooding into your culture.
Eat your own dogfood to the extreme: One of the co-founders went homeless and only sleeps at places he books on Airbnb. He has been doing this since June of 2010!
Airbnb has 3 PM’s, 7 designers, 29 engineers. Very cross-functional and team leads are any role.
Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup, spoke at Intuit at the 1/23/2012 Delight Forum. If you work at Intuit, watch the video replay (sorry, not available outside our firewall). Here are some takeaways. The mobile product team I work on has implemented some already, others are on the docket. All are amazing and the man speaks the truth. Wired also had a recent article on Eric’s talk at Intuit.
Eric defines a startup as “a human institution designed to create something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty.” That’s pretty much everyone out there, not just those small companies so commonly associated with a startup. As he put it, “who feels like the world is getting more and more stable every day!?”
Nowadays, “we can build anything we can imagine. The question of our time is not can it be built, but should it be built?”
Entrepreneurs are typically obsessed with the length of the runway, but in the wrong way: how much time until we run out of money. Instead, we should look at it as how many times we can pivot and learn.
Code not to ship products; code to learn.
A software company is really just about transforming ideas into code. Then measuring data, and learning from it, which influences our next stage of ideas.
Agile and Lean are supposed to drive out the waste from his development process, yet Eric committed the biggest waste of all: building something nobody wants.
3 Learning Milestones:
Case studies / real-time coaching:
Problem 1: After swiping a credit card, it takes 2-3 days for it to show up in your bank account, leading to alot of confusion & wondering.
Leap of Faith: Sign-up rate of merchants will double if they know they will get their money sooner.
There are alot of reasons to NOT do this, but Eric addressed each:
Just do not be deceptive about it. The product team should commit to taking all phone calls, apologizing to any upset customers, etc. Make it right for them.
“If I went to the competitor’s office and I looked at their road map, I bet you a million dollars this is on their roadmap somewhere. They are probably thinking about doing it. They are probably having the same problem that we all have—they’ve got a million good ideas and they can’t figure out how to prioritize them. It’s not like knowing that you are doing it gives them any information.”
“You are in a battle to out-learn your competition. If you go through the Build-Measure-Learn loop faster than them, it doesn’t matter what they know and this is not a big deal. If you are NOT faster than them, you deserve to get beaten.”
Problem 2: More new Mint users than we’d like are not sticking with it.
Measurment of success:
Eric’s take: Just take a small subset of Mint customers, and tell them you can get them a better bank account (even if you can’t). Right in the beginning. I think it will actually cause more users to leave than stay (because I hate when someone tells me to switch bank accounts). But lets see…
Problem 3: Need more invoicers (small businesses that get paid via invoices). When customer gets an invoice, they can click a link and pay with a credit card (3.25%) or bank-to-bank ACH (50cents, yes really its 50cents only).
Measurements of success:
Eric’s take: Value Hypothesis this is not; this is Growth Hypothesis. He believes in the law of sustainable growth (not publicity stunts) New customers come from one of the 3 engines of growth:
Use Google AdWords to find out the lifetime value of each customer.
Exciting: pick one engine of growth, then brainstorm on what experiments could prove that this move is worth it.
Problem 4: Bank Services make offerings that it sells to banks who use it with their customers. But micro-small businesses are the majority and don’t want the normal offerings—too big and complex. Will they abandon Excel and paper and pay for our stripped-down offering?
Measures of success:
Make the product better and make sure its actually getting better using cohort analysis: Did the 100 customers that came to the website after the most recent changes actually use it more (or rate it higher, etc).
Vanity metric: number of users. But if you spend alot of time adding a feature and you just look at your total number of users, sure it went up. But really what happened is you made a change in the code with no customer benefit. Rip it out!
A pivot is a change in strategy without a change in vision.
You cannot “pivot the vision.” That is incoherent. Some Common Myths about The Lean Startup method:
More favorite quotes from Eric Ries and Scott Cook:
Continued from Part 1 of my notes from a BayCHI talk given by Brennan Browne, a UX researcher at AnswerLab. Brennan presented the pros/cons of different techniques used for capturing mobile phone/tablet user research sessions.
Screen Captures (video recording straight off of the device)
Pros: best image quality, portable, cheap
Cons: doesn’t work well with all devices (earlier iPhones can’t use this without jail breaking), doesn’t capture physical interactions w/ device, passwords/sensitive info can’t be hidden
Video (filming the screen)
Pros: works for any mobile device, can capture physical interactions, flexible and portable
Cons: cost (need to bring an extra person to the session), screen may be difficult to see, may have to ask user to move around, lighting
B. Sled - camera structure that attaches to the device (ex: Noldus)
Pros: fixed, hi-res screen, captures physical interactions, no videographer required, very portable
Cons: won’t work with all devices, limits users ability to switch orientations or use slide out key boards, adds weight to the device, hard for participants to hide passwords or sensitive info
C. Document Camera - looks much like an old overhead projector
Pros: can capture device at any orientation, captures physical interactions, high res camera, no videographer needed, camera itself reminds users where to hold the device, can easily enter passwords/sensitive info by removing device from the recording area
Cons: price (>$7K), screen quality isn’t as good as a screen cap, not well suited for field studies
On a personal note, we’ve tried several of these methods in our iPhone usability studies and I very much prefer Screen Cap over Video. When we used a Noldus camera, we found that users were very hesitant to pick up with the device and interact as they normally would in real life. Instead they’d put the device down on the table and poke at it from afar. When we started running tests using Screen Cap (thanks to iPhone 4S/iPad 2 mirroring), we found that users felt more free to bring the device closer to their face, use gestures outside of “tap”, and rotate into landscape mode. Although we aren’t able to capture the user’s gestures on film, we take notes about interesting/surprising gestures to augment our notes.
(This post originally appeared on blog.alissadesigns.com on 03/30/12)
Trend 1 - Trading computer time for tablet time
Trend 2: The tablet and shared experiences
Trend 3: Apps vs Web
Overall Design Recommendations
1. Design for a “small laptop”, not a “big phone”
2. Full web
3. Content over context
4. Shared device
5. Security fears
In part 2 of this post, I’ll summarize Brennan’s recommendations regarding smartphone/tablet usability testing.
(This post originally appeared on blog.alissadesigns.com on 03/28/12)
At SXSW Interactive 2012, I attended the last-minute session with Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, Founders of Instagram.
Takeaways on the Instagram session:
QR (Quick Response) Codes have become the norm for connecting the real, physical world with the virtual. Scan in a code using your smartphone, and it takes you wherever the poster wishes. But they are so ugly and make you feel like you are staring right into a computer’s empty eyes. So here is a collection of the most stunning QR codes I have seen.
They are courtesy of their creators, namely: Angry Birds (Rovio), C21, LA Tourism Bureau, SET/Help Japan, Louis Vuitton, Yellow Pages, and a plain old regular one so you can see how far the beautification has taken the others.
Be careful when getting creative with your QR codes—check that it scans correctly with all the major apps. My favorite barcode reader? Red Laser (owned by eBay) of course. And ensure it actually puts the “quick” in Quick Response codes (optimize the website it takes you to for mobile, and minimize its download footprint).
In honor of the man that changed the face of mobile forever (among other things), who passed away last night Wed 5 October 2011, here are some of the most creative memorials to Steve Jobs:
Images are copyright of their respective creators.
The guy did actually put a dent in the universe, using his natural visionary leadership that he somehow was also able to bring to fruition, in the market, so that we could all enjoy it. He was an inspiration to me and his products continue to inspire my designs each day. He said it best:
“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like….People think it’s this veneer, that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
— Steve Jobs in The Guts of a New Machine, the 2003 New York Times article that profiled Apple just as the iPod was being recognized as a cultural phenomenon