Ensuring Safety for Women Couchsurfers

End-to-end app: HerHost is a marketplace that
connects female hosts and guests for homesharing.

Project Type

  • Contract

  • UX/UI Design

Team

  • Founder

  • Head of Engineering

  • Product Designer

My Role

  • UX/UI Design

  • User Research

  • GTM Strategy

  • Prototyping

  • User Testing

  • Design System

Duration

  • 12 weeks

The Problem

Womxn need an affordable and safe place to find and list short term stays, from spare bedrooms to their living room couch. Airbnb and Couchsurfing have left their needs unmet when it comes to safety and affordability. Instead, womxn are using a combination of Facebook groups and social media networking to accomplish their goals, which provide a clunky, time-consuming, and unmonitizable experience.

The Task

  • Design the user experience for the host, including research, development, wireframing, prototyping, and testing.

  • Set up the design infrastructure by building a design system and component library that can be adapted to future products.

Ensuring Safety for Womxn Couchsurfers

The Solution

HerHost is a web app where hosts and travelers will be able to connect for safe homesharing.

  • Travelers can easily find safe and affordable accommodations.

  • Hosts are able to post their listing and specify who they are comfortable hosting.

  • Hosts are able to earn income for hosting.

My Process

Below I'll walk you through my design process and how I came to the solution.

Overview

As the world continues to shift to more flexible and remote work, women are seeking innovative ways to explore, meet new people, learn about new cultures, all while saving money.

The total accommodation sector in the U.S. generated $319.9 billion revenue in 2021 and will increase by 13% year-over-year in 2022. Among that, short-term rentals (STR) — short-term lodging in private homes or apartments — reached nearly $57.7 billion

Currently, the STR market is not serving the needs of women as evidenced by the social media communities such as Host A Sister, a 300,000+ member Facebook group, where women open their homes for those seeking homestays.

HerHost addresses this problem by providing a safe place for women to connect, share their homes, and earn extra income. I was brought in to help design and develop the MVP in the research phase.

Ensuring Safety for Womxn Couchsurfers

I watched 8 video interviews, gathered over 140 qualitative data points, and used affinity mapping on Figjam to draw key insights.

Research

Since I was brought on during the research phase, my task was to collect, review, and synthesize the findings from interviews into design artifacts. At this stage, my role as a UX Researcher was to learn about our users, understand what motivated them, and what pain points they were experiencing, and translate that into actionable insights for the founder and product team.

Understanding the Players in a Two-Sided Marketplace

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Kenda: The Spontaneous Explorer

Goals

  • Fulfilling curiosity through exploration.

  • Meeting new people.

Pain Points

  • Traveling and accommodations are expensive.

  • Budget accommodations can be unsafe.

  • Finding a safe place to stay is time consuming.

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Diane: The Knowledge Sharer

Goals

  • Meet and connect with people from around the world.

  • Earn extra income.

Pain Points

  • Concerned about safety and guest vetting.

  • Hosting may not be worth the cost/tradeoff.

GTM Strategy: Acquiring the Supply-Side First

With the understanding that HerHost is a two-sided marketplace and what each user type was seeking, I brought my findings to the founder, and I recommended a GTM strategy to acquire users on the supply-side first, which in this case meant the hosts. Today my case study will focus on the host's user experience of creating a listing.

I constructed a user journey map to break down where our host persona, Diane, was experiencing friction with the current STR market to discover opportunities for improvement.

Ensuring Safety for Womxn Couchsurfers

Mapping out the current host experience revealed opportunities at the posting and booking stage of the user's journey.

Ensuring Safety for Womxn Couchsurfers

Feature prioritization helps the team to align on where to focus design and development resources.

Feature Prioritization

I led a workshop where the founder, CTO, and designer came together for a blue sky session on features and then applied the MoSCoW method to determine what features to prioritize for design based on the journey findings.

At the end of the session, we aligned on what features the MVP would include and prioritizing my time on the user task flow of "Creating a Listing."

Ensuring Safety for Womxn Couchsurfers

Peer design feedback improved the date picker design and made it more robust with options that covered three different host scenarios.

Wireframing to Vet Designs

I created a task flow to inform my design and started on wireframing. For the date picker, I started with a date range as is common with booking flights or hotels, but when I checked in with a design peer, I got feedback that this option seemed limiting.

I researched some ideas, and discovered that Calendly offered multiple options, including the ability to post indefinitely. I think the revised version with three options looks pretty good.

Ensuring Safety for Womxn Couchsurfers

Recognizable design patterns simplify UI design and help convey safety and transparency in the listing.

Simplifying UI Design Through Recognizable Design Patterns

I redesigned the "occupant" and "guest" questions to be simpler by requiring less of a cognitive load. Originally it was a list with 8 checkbox choices. A design meeting pushed me to rethink this question as 4 icons with quantity inputs underneath.

I wanted to make sure the design was simple and intuitive for users to complete their task as well as think about how to convey safety and transparency in the listing without it feeling tedious like the U.S. Census questionaire.    

Usability Testing

I created a fully-functional, high-fidelity prototype of the new flow using Figma. At the same time, I started recruiting subjects for the test who fit our criteria. I did 4 usability tests in the first round and 3 after iterating on the two issues that I identified. Here's what I found:

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ISSUE 1: Accordion menu sections are confusing

  1. The complete button wasn't enabled until all the required pieces of information in each section were filled in.

  2. If a user clicks the section closed without completing it, the accordion paradigm doesn't easily identify the missing information.

  3. By compartmentalizing everything within accordions, the page would shift around when the user clicked.

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SOLUTION 1: Multi-step process simplifies the user experience

  1. The multi-step process with a progress bar broke down the sections into digestible steps.

  2. The user was able to see what they had to complete in order to move to the next step.

  3. There is less scrolling and trial and error to enable the next step option.

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ISSUE 2: Total guests and occupants are not reflected

  1. Users wanted to be able to determine the total number of guests they could accommodate irrespective of guest type.

  2. Users want to communicate household occupants that would be present during a stay.

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SOLUTION 2: An input form to communicate count

  1. Adding a separate input field for guest count allows users to specify total count.

  2. Checkbox selection controls for guest type require less cognitive load when creating a listing.

A Design System for the Future

Once the usability issues were resolved, I moved on to design the final screens. I built a Design System that could grow with future projects by referencing public design designs such as Elastic UI. The goal was to have a single source of truth for visual and interaction design enabling a more streamlined workflow for developers and future designs.

Ensuring Safety for Womxn Couchsurfers
Ensuring Safety for Womxn Couchsurfers

The Final Design

Applying the design system to the updated prototype, here is the final design of the host experience of creating a listing for mobile.

Key Takeaways

Overall, testers had a positive emotional reaction to the user interface and visual design. In addition, 100% of users indicated that they would use HerHost over other social media groups to find shared homestays.

What I learned

Be flexible and curious especially in a startup environment. Information is fluid and there are starts and stops.

Design is iterative. The process involves multiple feedback loops. It's better to get something down and seek feedback in stages, than to work in a silo and try to make a perfect product before sharing it.

If I had more time and resources

  • I would track metrics including adoption rate, engagement rate, and time spent on app.

  • I would be very interested to track users' travel progress, including having users answer a survey before using the app and a month after using the the app to see whether users indicated booking more trips and having more experiences from using HerHost.

Next steps

Since this is a contract project, I will be presenting this to company stakeholders. At that point, if there's any revisions needed, we would move forward with another ticket.

Thank you for reading my case study!

Want to work with me? Feel free to contact me!
...or just say hello on my social media.