9 Hidden User Experience & Interaction Gems on Airbnb

Part 1 of the Hidden Gems Series by Michael W.

By Michael Wong
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If you’ve ever used Airbnb to book a place, you’d know they’re a top-notch team when it comes to product design. The experience is seamless and they revolutionised an entire industry. That’s why I’m here nerding out on the topic.

As a (product-growth-user-experience-interaction-interface-web-tacos) designer, I enjoy breaking down and finding hidden experience and interaction gems in successful products. Whether they are used to enhance the overall user experience or are powered to stimulate growth, I find them interesting and something worth sharing. Hopefully this post will help you to pick up a few ideas for your own project.

Without further ado, here are the 9 hidden user experience and interaction gems I found on Airbnb:

1. Emotional Contagion (user experience)

As soon as I step onto Airbnb’s homepage, I am instantly greeted by a safe and welcoming vibe. I believe there are many factors that contribute to this but one thing definitely stood out to me. Photos predominantly drive their homepage. If you look closely, most of their portrait shots have either a couple or group of ‘friends’ smiling and enjoying life.

This is a great example of emotional contagion.

According to Wikipedia, “emotional contagion” is the tendency for two individuals to emotionally converge. When people unconsciously mimic expressions of emotion, they come to feel reflections of those companions’ emotions.”

By overwhelming us with photos from the get go, the home page is jolting our minds to trust the Airbnb community and associate its brand with happy travellers.

If you want to see how emotional contagion can be spread online, you’ll find the following article quite interesting: ‘Facebook manipulated user news feeds to create emotional responses’.

2. Emotion driven terminology (user experience)

Airbnb has a very consistent set of terms they use across the site. ‘One less stranger’, ‘A World of Belonging’, ‘Belong Anywhere’, ‘Welcome Home’ etc. This may not seem like much but I believe it’s very well thought out.

They turn what used to be a very static experience of accommodation search to something very emotional and personal.

Never underestimate copy. It frames the context of any experience. For example, you could have 3 photos displaying the best that Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane has to offer. A title such as ‘Ideas for your next trip’ is ok but a title such as ‘This week’s TOP holiday destinations!’ will get people clicking. The context of the second title gets people to get excited and to jump on board because everybody else is doing it!

3. Saved previous search (user interaction)

When my café barista remembers my coffee order, I can’t help but return to soak in the VIP service. It’s pretty swish when service providers remember the individual needs of their customers.

Airbnb takes this service online by remembering all your previous website searches. This means that after you’ve compared quotes and offers from different sites, Airbnb will remember all your favourite stays WITH your travel dates intact!

This is just one simple step to making your experience on their site memorable and seamless.

4. Price range pain points (user interaction)

With the growth of Airbnb and the thousands of listings that pop up in search results, choice paralysis can easily overwhelm a user. I noticed they now have a very discreet bar graph that shows a high level count of listings within a price range. This helps me to quickly understand average prices without having to dig into a hundred listings to gather this information.

5. Image carousel in listings (user interaction)

What’s most important to you when selecting a place to stay at? For me, it’s what the place actually looks like! Airbnb makes it so easy to browse through the listing photos. You don’t need to click through to the next page. You can simply browse the photos on the parent-listing page. If the gallery doesn’t tickle your fancy, move on. #LESSONECLICK

6. Live updating listings (user interaction)

I love that their listings automatically update when you move around on their map. This is another well thought out design that adds extra delight to the experience.

7. Social proof and urgency stimulation

An old trick from the books. Stimulate urgency and create social proof by revealing the number of users you’re competing with.

When I made my first enquiry on Airbnb, I was rejected because I was late to make the booking. I wish they had this implemented earlier! I still look forward to booking the place again, on my next visit to Amsterdam!

8. Staying true to their core values (user experience)

How nice would it be to be greeted by all your new ‘friends’ from all around the world during a special time? This is one of my favourite branding and retention strategies by Airbnb.

I remember in one of Brian Chesky’s interviews he talks about Airbnb being more than an accommodation site. It’s a place to build new friendships.

At the end of last year I received an email, which titled ‘Share season’s greetings with your Airbnb Hosts’. This is a great idea that encourages friendship and community building on their platform. It is also a predominate reason to why I enjoy booking with Airbnb over other accommodation sites.

9. Dynamic homepage (user experience)

A focused, funnel experience on their homepage.

When you first come to Airbnb’s homepage they remove the explore section. The focus is on the first entry point into their funnel.

Now make a search and click around on a few listings and return to the homepage. What do you see? A personalised and tailored experience relevant to your search. A minor gem but it definitely made me go wow, dat personalised experience.

Not only does it add a touch of delight to the experience, the timing is also a lot more relevant. I’ve become more of a warm user after making a search and browsing a couple of pages.


As of 2015, Airbnb is valued at $20 billion. That’s within 7 years. What an inspiring startup story. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you Airbnb — The growth story you didn’t know. There are some great insights into startups, product design and growth strategies.

I hope you’ve picked up a couple of tricks. Be sure to bookmark, share and recommend if you enjoyed this read.

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Twitter: @mizko | Snapchat: @mizkonet | Linkedin: Michael Wong