The coronavirus has decimated the travel industry, and Airbnb, the home rental company that appeared unstoppable not so long ago, has not been spared.
While the headlines have focused on the measures it’s taking to stockpile cash to offset its losses, behind the scenes, the nearly 12-year-old company has been busily redesigning its products. These include rethinking its home screen and app landing pages to reflect a world where short-term stays are out and longer-term stays — including for medical professionals needing to quarantine themselves from their families — are in.
We talked with Airbnb’s chief design officer, Alex Schleifer, to learn more about what’s been changing behind the scenes, and how. Our chat has been edited lightly for length and clarity.
TC: Airbnb’s home page is suddenly very focused on three things — online experiences, monthly stays and what you’re calling “frontline,” which is an area for hosts to offer housing to healthcare staff and first responders. What was that design process like and how long did it take?
AS: Our team mapped it out in under three weeks. There were a couple hundred employees working on the project at any point in time — people from ops, products, localization, design, policy, engineering. It’s a complex operation (here); everything we need to do needs to be done in 60 languages. Because of the scale of everything we do, the idea is often the easiest piece.