How can Guestbnb stay competitive in the niche space of short-term rental management services?
Solution: Competitive website rebranding for desktop and mobile
Partners: Design Shoppe, Guestbnb’s managing partners
Role: User Experience Design, User Interface Design, Supporting & Advisory
Length: 4–6 weeks
TL;DR: Guestbnb is a short-term rental management company.
Guestbnb is an Airbnb management company for short-term rentals. Based in Toronto, Canada, they have hosted over 10,000 stays through different channels such as Airbnb, Booking.com, and other channels. Guestbnb’s provides a full-service package that essentially optimizes short-term rental listings and handles all components of operations from guest screening all the way through to check-out and housekeeping.
If you’ve travelled to a nearby town for its unique destination and activity, or have travelled for a longer vacation overseas, chances are you’ve tried a cheaper alternative accommodation — Airbnb. For the most part, travelling to another city or country consists of a jam-packed itinerary that begins as early as breakfast and ends at around just after dinner time. Sure, occasionally you’d want to stop and rest at your place of stay to rejuvenate, but sometimes your booked stay is only utilized for sleeping overnight. So, why spend $200–$300 a night in the city when you’re only going to use it to sleep? With that kind of money, you could stay a bit farther from the city at a whole house for yourself and your group! For a fraction of the cost, you can simply stay in a room in the downtown area and extend your trip by a few more days.
So…who’s looking after these units that come cheaper than hotels?
Short-term rental hosts. These are the superstars that let you enjoy your vacation for less than a pair of Lululemon pants per night. They are a different breed from guests but they try their hardest to provide guests with the experience of a 5-star hotel. Hosts commonly rent out their room or a whole unit as a supplement to their income. The things they do involve scheduling a guest’s stay (with Airbnb), providing instructions for getting to the place, guest welcoming (or key exchange), providing basic utilities, linens, towels, internet and/or TV, and of course, the most time consuming and important one, housekeeping. Now, imagine if you have a full-time job with a family to look after. Guestbnb, and other short-term rental management companies, can take care of all that (just the rental part).
- To stand out from competition with a brand that ensures customers satisfaction by conveying trust/reliability, luxury, security, and simplicity
- Modern, lead-generating, responsive web design for desktop/mobile
- Unique and engaging onboarding experience
Competitive & Comparative Analysis
The CCA is a powerful tool that holds common ground together with any marketing planning and strategy. This step helped me not only figure out what Guestbnb’s competitive advantage is, but also understand the industry as a whole and its competitive spaces. The insight I gained from this exercise was the lack of differentiation in products and services offered between the competition. Guestbnb, on the other hand, differentiates in providing a better insurance package for hosts, protecting them from damages and thus, giving them a peace of mind. So security is conveyed, what about reliability, luxury, and simplicity?
Although there is an increasing number of senior hosts, the unit is more commonly rented out as the only source of income and seniors have a lot more ample time to ensure the guests are accommodated fully. The majority of hosts on Airbnb are female at 54%, and in the same age range, these users would be our secondary users. However, the reason to depict our primary users as male is their willingness to take on risks and manage more listings to further supplement their income. As gender isn’t a great determinant of who works more or takes care of the house more in the current social setting, it is important to not design for a specific gender. Rather than designing for a specific purpose, designing to convey feelings is the best route here.
Through discussions, existing data provided by Guestbnb, articles and research findings provided on the web, we have determined our primary user to be a young dad in his early 40’s, married, and has a full-time job in the banking industry. Dylan, our hero, is somewhere between a “Rentrepreneur”, and the “Stable Extra Income Seeker”. His goals are to provide a comfortable lifestyle for his family, retire early, and whilst achieving this, maintain a great relationship with his family. However, being the long-term thinker and calculating risk taker, Dylan often finds it hard to balance his personal and work life. There just isn’t enough time during the week to maintain a full-time job and hustle on the side for extra supplementary income.
Finding the sweet spot when planning the information architecture of Guestbnb’s new website was done by ensuring that users are able to navigate and find the pages they care about while ensuring that the business goals are met along the way. Because the business constraint here is the limitation of 6 pages, I needed to design for a maximum of 6 pages that users care most about and ensure that they can easily inquire about using Guestbnb or proceed with in-person contact with a representative.
The most important pages in the onboarding process are the income generator, products/services, how it works, pricing, testimonials, and getting started.
Pricing was a section that the client did not want to include in the onboarding process. Their reason was that customers don’t need to know about the pricing initially because they have not perceived the value of the services offered yet. If they want to find the pricing, they can find it in the menu and in a child page.
I, on the other hand, advocated the inclusion of service pricing after users go through the different services and how the services work, just before reading about what other customers have to say about Guestbnb. This way, customers don’t perceive the services as prestigious pricing and something they may not be able to afford. It also communicates transparency, something that is essential to gaining users’ trust. Another reason is that by including the pricing in the onboarding process, Guestbnb has now provided enough information for the users to include Guestbnb in their purchase decision, since other competitors are transparent with their pricing models.
In the end, the only way to settle this decision was through user testing.
Through more discussions with Guestbnb, the most important sections were determined to get the users’ eyes earlier, and each section is logically sequenced in a storytelling format. The business goal is to generate leads and follow up through e-mails and phone conversations. Therefore, clear CTA’s were placed in sections that either engage the users the most or have given users adequate information to make a decision.
This path was designed to allow users to take the path of least resistance in order to get started on the onboarding process. The user can get to the fill form straight from the menu. The business goal is to generate leads and this helps achieve this goal.
This path gives the new user the necessary information to confidently move on to the onboarding process. This is also the most logical path for the new user to take. However, if the new user still needs more time and information, he or she can take path #3 for a more personalized experience.
This path is the most interactive path that gives users a more personalized incentive to get started with Guestbnb in short-term rentals. This path also quickly gives Guestbnb a lead that can be converted into a warm lead through email communication and promotion.
I have seen some projects (and worked on some myself), where the mid-fi wireframes were designed before putting in more effort on content selection and copywriting. These decisions did not go very well because the content is so important and we ran into the problem of going back and forth between mid-fi wireframe designs and content writing. I firmly believe now that content should drive design and not the other way around. Having said that, I designed low-fi wireframes on paper snippets based on the each of the contents themselves. This allowed me to rearrange the contents easily if any changes needed to be made in the user flow. Mid-fi wireframes were created digitally to insert more content in placeholders.
I tested the low-fi wireframe snippets with the internal team before turning them into mid-fi digital wireframes. Our low-fi wireframes were tested for the functionality and flow of our MVP, which is the process of the user learning about Guestbnb and its services, and ultimately filling in a contact form to get started in the onboarding process. In this phase, we tried to not include other extraneous features and pages and really focused on ensuring users can easily navigate through the discovery phase and click on that “Get Started” button without fail.
Then, I tested the mid-fi wireframes with 3 random users that hadn’t seen any prior wireframes before in order to test the logical flow for completing certain tasks. After the testings were done and tasks were easily accomplished, we completed a small UI design exercise to determine the overall feel and colors of the brand. The UI design choices and explanations are presented at the end of this project. Hi-Fi wireframes and prototypes were created to test usability and functionality. I conducted 5 user tests with Hi-Fi prototypes using InVision after the UI design process against my following proposed hypotheses:
- Users find Guestbnb to be safe, trustworthy, luxurious, and simple to use.
- Users understand the services Guestbnb provide.
- Users can easily understand Guestbnb’s unique value proposition.
- Users are inclined to get started after learning about Guestbnb.
Testing Results and Feedback
During the Hi-Fi prototype testing, I interviewed 5 users that I found from across a few Facebook groups that consisted of Airbnb hosts in Canada, who requested to remain nameless. By means of remote testing, I used Skype’s screen sharing feature to test my InVision prototype with my 5 users. This allowed me to watch and listen to the testing process and it was extremely helpful to hear each user speak their thoughts and actions.
As of the date of testing, InVision has yet made horizontal scrolling a function in its prototyping features, so while users couldn’t actually scroll horizontally, they mentioned that they intended to scroll sideways in the “Our Services” and “How It Works” sections. Although this is good news, it caused a bit of confusion for the users as they couldn’t find more content they were looking for.
The overall results were quite positive, as users found the branding to be trustworthy, professional, safe, luxurious, and young when asked what they felt about the branding. Users described the core of what service Guestbnb provides, but could not elaborate on due to the limitations of the side-scrolling. The “Bonus” service that Guestbnb provides was especially notable as most users really pointed out that was something they liked. Remember, these are highly targeted users and they are quite knowledgeable in the realm of hosting guests on Airbnb, so getting that extra property insurance at no extra cost was especially important for them because it made them feel safe.
In total, 3/5 users were able to successfully navigate to the income calculation results page and were able to identify the next steps to take to get started. When asked what they thought “Get started” meant, 5/5 users said it meant someone, perhaps a company agent or account manager, would get in touch with them by e-mail.
A final important note that users pointed out when asked about the pricing was very interesting. 4/5 users thought that the pricing didn’t add much value because it’s sort of an industry standard and it’s what they expected anyway. However, 3/5 users pointed out they’d like to see examples of current homes being managed by Guestbnb and how they performed in the past. These were taken into consideration for the next iteration.
In the next iteration, I took out the pricing and replaced it with a sample portfolio of current homes managed by Guestbnb. I told my client that they were right about leaving pricing out as it would be covered in the conversation with the agent and the host. I guess I could’ve just listened to him from the start, but my nature is to test everything out whenever there are opposing ideas.
Some changes also included a few color adjustments as some users pointed out that the first blue landing screen in combination with the orange and white typography was blinding and the message would get lost.
This was a short iteration because the feedback from user testing was quite positive and confirmed all of my hypotheses. I would credit this success to the high level of research and planning before the design phase. That definitely saved a lot of time in the end.
I used a Design Inception exercise to brainstorm the different elements of the brand styles. In short, we believe the users want to feel safe and relaxed through this whole process. Safety will come from a place of trust, cleanliness, reliability, professionalism, efficiency, effectiveness, transparency. Relaxation will come from spaciousness, communication, simplicity, and organization. The polygonal shapes are modern and communicate precision, professionalism, and goal-oriented.
I came up with two different mood boards that would communicate the elements mentioned. We decided to go with the first mood board.
Heading: Playfair Display (serif, professional, luxurious, prestigious, classiness, reliable, bold, edgy & sharp)
Body text: Lato (sans serif, clean, spacious, comfortable, organized, minimalist)