“Ads are the way that many companies can afford to maintain websites. If you don’t like them in your designs, then you need to design a better solution that makes your company money. Until then, ads are it.” I heard the amazing Karen McGrane speak these (paraphrased) words back in 2009 (they are from her 2009 IA Summit talk entitled “Designing For, With, and Around Advertising”). To this day, those words still ring in my ears. I couldn’t agree more with what Karen was saying. And, thankfully, on November 13, 2012, somebody finally did design a better solution. That solution, a more complete user experience.
I was introduced to Ann Montgomery in the Fall of 2010. Her startup, Nabewise, was one of Hubert Experience Design’s very first clients (in fact, my second client… to be exact). At the time, Nabewise was still in the very early stages, so my time with Ann was usually spent in a coffee shop, somewhere in NYC, commenting on and discussing her ideas for how the product should work (a product which I loved from the get go!). Although I wasn’t able to remain a “certified” Nabewise employee for the duration of their growth, I was able watch the product develop from the sidelines. As I did, it was easy (and awesome!) to see that the product decisions that we hammered out in those coffee shops had a great impact on the trajectory it took. I am thrilled to say that yesterday marked the announcement of Nabewise’s acquisition by Airbnb, a tremendous feat indeed. In only two years Nabewise had built a tremendously successful product. Kudos to Ann and the rest of the Nabewise team… you guys are truly amazing and successful to boot!
But what, pre-tell, does this have to do with ads and a better solution? As I was digging through all of the coverage of Neighborhoods, the new Airbnb product from their Nabewise partnership, I found this article from CNNMoney. Here is the relevant quote:
“Unlike the glossy travel magazines and travel review sites it mirrors, Neighborhoods offers no advertising opportunities; Airbnb’s primary revenue stream continues to be the fees that it collects when users book listings on the site. The beautiful images and stories will likely keep potential travelers on the site longer and lead to more bookings. What’s more, Neighborhoods expands Airbnb’s position in travel beyond home-share opportunities alone, making it a go-to platform for dreaming up ideas—and putting it more firmly into competition with sites from TripAdvisor to Frommers, which Google (GOOG) has agreed to acquire. It begins to open up the opportunities for Airbnb to expand into other travel-related services. (Local tour guide, anyone?) And it creates new opportunities for the 21st century travel journalists, a couple dozen of which are still hanging around Airbnb’s offices this week.”
That’s right, Neighborhoods will be ad free. And, the way that Airbnb can afford to do this? They know that the product will not only keep potential travelers on the site longer and lead to more bookings, but it also expands Airbnb’s position in travel and opens up more opportunities for them.
You see, Neighborhoods creates a more holistic user experience for Airbnb users. The product fulfills the user’s mental model of wanting to know about a neighborhood before actually staying there. By closing this gap for the user, right there on the Airbnb site, users don’t have to leave Airbnb to get more information on a neighbordhood before booking. By users not having to leave to find information, it means that they are more likely to book right there on Airbnb. Badda bing… Badda boom!
This is a sure-fire example of a more holistic user experience creating more revenue, and thus more success for a company. When you hear me mention this in any of my talks, posts, meetings, wherever you hear me or others mention it, know it’s true! Once again congrats to Nabewise and Airbnb for getting this right. And thank you both for providing a clear example of how a good UX = a more successful business!