Site Seeing: Are new kids showing old hands the way?

Peter Matthews is managing director of Nucleus, a leading brand and digital consultancy specialising in the travel, luxury and financial services sectors. nucleus.co.uk | @NucleusLondon

I am currently enjoying the post-Tuscan glow of a couple of weeks of hilltop escapism.

Even in times of austerity-related stress, a break is worth its weight in gold. This is good for the readers of this publication, as our collective need to escape and relax oils the wheels of the industry we work in.

Despite the euro offering unusual value for once, it still cost a small fortune transplanting my large family to Tuscany – this year involving two houses, two hire cars and 18 flight tickets.

Fortunately, the beautiful villas at Al Borgo had Wi-Fi, otherwise the family’s awesome collection of iOS devices would have consumed 3G data in petabytes, downloading films, games, cricket scores, and browsing websites.

Personal experience certainly confirms we now live in the mobile era, while Nucleus’ recent research shows mobile website browsing continued to rise in the first six months of this year, to an average 20.5% of all traffic in the survey – see the report at Nucleus.co.uk/thoughts.aspx

For this column, I’ve brought together the themes of needing to escape for less and the mobile era by investigating the short stay ‘swapsies’ phenomenon (renting rooms, flats and houses for short periods in cool places around the world).

In the mobile era, you would expect these ‘disruptive’ brands to be showing old hands how to deliver a great proposition and a great user experience. Let’s see if they do…


Airbnb – http://www.airbnb.com


Design


A cross between Pinterest and Kayak.com in terms of design. Homepage layout mixes supersize images with retro graphics and mobile-era ‘Find a Place to Stay’ controls. Results pages feel familiar. Generally quite pleasing and works well on an iPad (in landscape mode) and smartphone-friendly, too.


Usability


Easy-to-use homepage search box. Further functionality filters results by price/country/city/neighbourhood/accommodation, etc. Account specific links include ‘Dashboard’ and a ‘Profile’ page. The ‘Trust and Verification’ page connects to social media.

Content


Free ‘professional’ photography for hosts. Plenty of reviews and social media ‘likes’. Site is translated into seven languages. Much of the content is host-generated and includes ‘wish lists’ with some better presented, premium properties.

Business model / Revenue generation


With just 3% commission on successful bookings for hosts, this looks cheap, but Airbnb also charges guests a fee of 6%-12%. With 35,000 users already booking rooms (says Mashable), it will need plenty more to justify its rumoured $1bn valuation…


airbnb


Housetrip – http://www.housetrip.com


Design


Simple, quite unsophisticated design that serves its purpose – allows for easy navigation and usability. Initial scrolling results pages look basic, but property pages offer generously sized, slideshow images for each property, plus text and maps. A decent experience on an iPad, but text illegible on an iPhone.


Usability


Similar to Airbnb in terms of search facility. Easy-to-use (preliminary) search box on the homepage. A direct telephone number is featured, should you have any questions. ‘Add to favourites’ functionality follows Airbnb’s ‘wishlist’ functionality.

Content


Markets itself as ‘free’ to list properties, but adds a caveat that once the host has set its price, it adds ‘flexible’ commission, typically 10%-20%, which guests pay. Clearly in the same space as Airbnb, so it’s also a volume game for Housetrip…

Business model / Revenue generation


With just 3% commission on successful bookings for hosts, this looks cheap, but Airbnb also charges guests a fee of 6%-12%. With 35,000 users already booking rooms (says Mashable), it will need plenty more to justify its rumoured $1bn valuation…


housetrip


Onefinestay – http://www.onefinestay.com


Design


Large, high-quality images used throughout but the weak logo is pure pastiche. Could do with more class. Homepage presents a slideshow of panel images. Template layout designed to scroll, but lacks finesse. Works well on an iPad, but not on a smartphone.

Usability


Easy to use. Bookers can navigate through an extensive list of features and information. I get déjà vu. I’ve seen this twice before and there’s little differentiation. This could be either of the other sites, just with more expensive properties…

Content


Only London and New York. Many properties are priced at £500 per night. Where are the differentiators? Aaah, ‘Our Service’ (Wi-Fi, five-star linen, fancy toiletries) and the fact that OneFineStay employs professional photographers and writers.

Business model / Revenue generation


Same model, but targeting a different, upscale segment where volume will be lower, but average booking values higher. Funding expansion into other cities while maintaining the service and quality to justify £500 a night will be a challenge…


onefinestay

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. Learn more