Designing A Functional Chat Flow to Facilitate Sharing
MyPlace (that's right, MyPLACE) started with a dream and a spare apartment. At least thats how the story goes. The startup was founded by two friends who love sharing their extra homes, but ONLY with the friends. As opposed to AirBNB which helps user make some extra cash from their extra spaces, MyPlace is driven by friends sharing with friends.
Despite our great aspirations of sharing, 2 years into launch, Myplace looked like a sort of under designed AirBNB. We wanted to redesign the app in a way that felt as personal, inviting, and human as our company ethics are.
From our research, we learned that our users were struggling with several primary features of the product, but the most glaringly problematic feature was calendar management.
The calendar had be built based on the classic home sharing model. You could add your place, segment rooms and make the whole place available or multiple rooms. You then could set availability, and if a friend reserved your place via the app, your calendar's availability would update.
There were 3 essential problems with the calendar management system:
Setting availability was unnecessarily complex, and from going through the flow with multiple users, we noticed that users were often confused about what phase of the flow they were in, and what certain parts of the flow should do. The UX was so confusing, that users had extremely low confidence in the calendar its self, as often user errors caused by bad design were interpreted as system errors.
Reviewing, editing, and managing availability once set was even more confusing. Users were creating availability by accident, but becoming so fatigued by the frustrations of managing their calendar, they would not correct their availability, opting to communicate their availability in other ways, or worse yet, abandon the platform without letting us, or their friends know they were no longer using the platform.
Users don't use Myplace the way they expect to use a home sharing app like Airbnb. This was the biggest problem we faced. The system was designed for a paradigm that our users don't align with. MyPlace users want to share their homes with their friends when they can - this is far less rigid than a calendaring system for a home sharing app where people are running a business via their extra space.
And the result was detrimental. Users were attempting to book their friends places that weren't available, or reaching out to inactive friends and getting no response. Other users thought their place was wide open when in fact their calendars were blocked off. It was the biggest source of friction and drop off for us, and we needed to solve it.
Our first step was to rethink the way that people share their homes with one another. We wanted to create a conversation around home sharing. We wanted to create a booking flow that was fluid, flexible, and not reliant on perfect calendar management.
My initial wireframes walk the user through a new flow of booking friends spaces.
The idea was instead of putting the onus on the host to manage a complex calendar, we wanted to give the user more autonomy by creating a chat. If a user wanted to share their place, they could ping their network on MyPlace, and if a friend wanted to stay, they could respond directly to that ping.
From this starting point, we created the new booking flow! A note to the curious, this work is currently in development, and I will update this blog when we get the change to do some rigorous user testing after release to talk about our findings and next iterations.