Katie Dill in interview: “Every pixel has huge implications in the offline world”

Ola Nilsson

One of the many interesting speakers at From Business to Buttons this year is Katie Dill from Airbnb. We recently had a chat and talked about how to be as successful as Airbnb, about her upcoming talk, where she will be staying when she is in Stockholm and about the online vs. the offline world.
– Everyone on our team has to remember the fact that every pixel has huge implications in the offline world, she says.

All about FBTB17 here!

Airbnb is a worldwide success. And a company on everybody’s mind. We asked Katie Dill, Director of Experience Design, how this was achieved.

– When I’m interviewing candidates, I want people that are going to be passionate about the same things we are. A mutual understanding and appreciation of our core values, of having hustle, having a high level of craft and care for excellence, the host-like qualities – being considerate of our community, putting our users first, being collaborative...

– We are a mission-driven company. Our ambition is to help anyone belong anywhere. And we kind of thread that through our every decision. And so, when we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to prioritize or what we’re going to go work on, it really does come down to what is going to help us achieve those goals. And we look for that same kind of care in everyday activities by every employee. 

– And to do that, we really do need to think about community and we do need to realize that we’re not going to do that just on our own. For designers for example. Designers – they do have a lot of strong superpowers. “We can hope to solve problems, we can shape new futures, we can articulate them and visualize them.” But we know that we’re not going to be as effective if they think that they want to do it alone and don’t appreciate the value of their partners, their engineers, their product managers, their marketing team, et cetera. So we work very collaboratively with multiple disciplines at all stages and our aim is to make sure that we’re not designing for ourselves but designing for a very global audience.

I understand that you put a lot of effort into the offline part. Something maybe many UX people lack...?

– Absolutely. That is, it is a big one, and it is actually something I’ll be talking a lot about in my talk at From Business to Buttons, and one of the reasons why I’m so excited about this conference is that there is such a service design focus.

– Our aim is to not get you to spend all your time in the app but instead spend your time in the real world enjoying it and getting a sense of what it’s like to live in different places. So it’s imperative that we’re thinking that way too, that we are directing our expertise towards the offline world, granted what we control most is, of course, the pixels. Everyone on our team has to remember the fact that every pixel has huge implications in the offline world.

– For us it’s really important that we’re thinking almost like the story of the individuals and where they’re traveling and where they’re going. So we use a lot of storytelling video, almost like comic strip storyboards, to help us remind ourselves of the context in which people are traveling and interacting. 

– The majority of the experience a guest will receive is actually coming most directly from the host. When you arrive at their home, how they greet you at the door, or how clean their home is, or how well they described the situation of the furniture. We are only involved and part of that. It’s really on them to deliver a great experience. But we have to figure out ways to help them do that.

But you have to do that without making them feel caged in?

– We can’t scale if we have to monitor every host and give them one-to-one hands-on training.

– So one of the things that we look at is how we might inspire them, educate them and motivate them to do the right thing without us bearing down on them. And a great analogy for us and what we look at is actually – what we do as employers to our internal employees. If you think about it, that whatever company someone works at there’s usually employee training. There’s performance reviews. A good manager is constantly giving you feedback. So we use that as an analogy and think about how we can do similar things with our hosts. We have a dashboard that tells them how they’re performing and shows them all sorts of data about how good the reviews are. It also informs them about upcoming travel seasons and how to determine what price to put their listing at. This information makes them a stronger host, with hopefully far less dictatorial control from us.

– If a guest has the wrong expectations for where they’re about to go, it’s likely not going to be a very good trip. So that’s where, again, we use the digital platform to influence what will eventually become an offline interaction and make sure that our guests can see large photos of the home and good details of the home. And the more we can inform them of this up front, the better the experience will be when they get there. They know what they’re paying for, they know what they’re getting and they can make the right decision for their their traveling companions.

So, are you looking forward to the FBTB conference?

– Well, I’m very excited and I must admit I have high expectations, but I’m quite positive that they will be reached. Looking at the lineup of the speakers is exciting. Almost every one of them, it’s somebody I’ve been inspired by already through their books or their work.

Will you stay at Airbnb in Stockholm?

– Of course. Of course!

All about FBTB17 here!

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