A Love Letter to airbnb.com: 5 Elements Of a Website That RocksPOSTED ON 10 October 2012
In case you haven’t ever heard of airbnb.com, I'm here to tell you…it’s made of 100% awesome sauce. I don’t often wax rhapsodic about websites, but they know how to do it right. It’s visually appealing, easy to navigate and smartly organized. I have a geeky creative crush on this company, and I use the site for travel on a regular basis. Here’s 5 reasons that airbnb.com rocks, and 5 ways you could be inspired to rock harder.
1. The CTA is up front and personal. When you land on the airbnb home page, BAM. There it is: Find a place to stay. Followed by “Where do you want to go,” the desired dates of travel and the number of guests. Simple. Tailored to your exact needs. Clear language. And despite the shifting background photography, this search module and messaging remains static, making it the CTA hero. Rock It: No matter how many cool secondary and tertiary options you may have, there is always the main event action that you want a customer to take. Focus on that action and make it as simple for them to take as possible. Don’t distract, confuse or annoy your audience by offering a header slide show with a different CTA on each frame. Keep it consistent and direct people where you want them to be.
2. They give eye candy a new level of sweetness. This site doesn’t just function well. It looks AMAZING. They are very effectively selling the romance and adventure of travel using gorgeous photography, slick yet simple design and an easy eye path. This is what gets people to convert. Rock It: Sell to the senses. Do you have an online pie store? Make sure you have the most mouth-watering photography showing every crumb of goodness. Selling the latest hi-tech bike gear? Have an HD video of someone on a hardcore trail ride, showing real-life use of the product. And so on. The idea here is to identify the senses that your customers are using to make a purchase decision, and to then authentically and masterfully draw them in with visuals that tell a story they want to be a part of.
3. The organization is flawless. When you’re representing more than 30,000 cities and 192 countries, there’s a lot of inventory. What airbnb.com does so well is taking these unique homes and creating smart segments. The “Wish List” page has a grid of eye-catching photos, each representing a different category of places to stay—from tree houses to swanky digs. It appeals to both the travel dreamer and the traveler with a purpose. And if you choose to make your own wish list of tree houses around the world, they make that easy, too. Rock It: Having a lot of content requires a lot of responsibility. First, determine if you really need it all. Then, pull back and see how it can be easily organized into logical segments. Not totally certain on what will work? Test it. I guarantee that airbnb watches their data like hawks, and constantly refreshes and rejiggers the content according to their customers’ behavior.
4. Community provides conversion. We all know that social proof can go a long way to making conversions happen (or hurt them, as we showed last week). What the folks at airbnb.com do is provide traveler feedback and host feedback. So if you’re looking to rent a house in Bali for a month, you’ve got the honest opinions of every person that’s stayed there. And if you have been using airbnb as a traveler, then a host can just as easily check on the feedback that other hosts have left about you. Staying in someone else’s home might already be an uncertain experience for some. So seeing a long list of reviews that all say positive things will go a long way to convince a traveler to book the property. Rock It: Your customers are your sweet Greek chorus of proof. Create an environment that is safe, easy and conversational for them to interact with each other. This isn’t a place for the business owner to lurk about or make their presence known. This is all about an organic flow of conversation and getting honest reviews and ratings up on your site. Not only will it help your customers make a buying decision, it will also help you refine and optimize your site, product and messaging.
5. The journey on this conversion is an easy trip. Say you’ve landed on the airbnb.com home page. You want to find an apartment to rent in San Francisco, so you enter the information in the fields, including the length of stay. The search results come up and are uber-intuitive: you can refine your search by “private room,” “entire home/apt,” etc., and then by price, neighborhood, amenities and keywords. You also see how many reviews each property has, and the location is clearly stated along with a decent thumbnail picture. So far, so easy.
Then, you hit a specific property. Again, you’re on easy street. The photo gallery is accessible, the booking CTA is clear and up top, the host is featured along with contact information and (this is super smart) the total cost of your stay is calculated for you. The aforementioned reviews are down below the property information. Truly easy. You’ll make a fast decision based on visuals, cost, reviews or whatever triggers will influence you. Rock It: Make it easy to check out. Take every potential friction point or anxiety inducer and address it as if you were the customer. Make it, essentially, a no-brainer to purchase. This page is addressing all of the points that a traveler wants to feel good about: price, appearance, reviews of other travelers, and who they are going to be renting from. It’s brilliant.
Yes, this is a love letter to airbnb.com. I unabashedly adore the site and most everything about it. Sure, there is always room for improvement, even on the best sites. But it’s obvious that the foundation has been built with care and forethought. And while you may not be in the business of providing travelers with lodging options, there are many good lessons to learn here. For that matter, any site that makes you swoon with geeky admiration or clench with jealousy is a good teacher. Find the sites that knock your socks off. Go through every page—the whole conversion path—and find the elements that make it so great. See how you can use them on your site. Test them. Make them your own. Then become the site that causes creative directors to drool and write worshipful blog posts.
Brooks Bell is the industry's leading online conversion firm. We help large online retailers and subscriber-supported companies maximize their online sales funnel by testing and optimizing all points in the conversion path.