Zach Boldyga

www.airbnb.com

Airbnb is a pretty neat website that allows users to find a place to stay or offer a place for others to stay. Oftentimes it seems that the places are provided by homeowners with extra space in their house. It is a cool way to meet people and save money while on vacation; or it can simply serve as a backup if hotel plans fall through.

Low-level items (spelling, fonts, colors, layouts, etc.)

Generally speaking, the airbnb pages are all very clean and attractive. There is a very minimal amount of literature to read, yet it is very easy to figure out what the website is used for and how to use it. The background is white, and the fonts and various aspects of the layout are colored in a blue, yellow, and green that match nicely. The layouts through all of the pages are very straightforward and aren't cluttered. More specifically, the main page and the page that follows are designed in a way such that there is no need to traverse to a previous page in order to change the location of the search. The results can also be displayed on a map, with photos, or in a list format - and this can be changed on the spot.

Middle-level aspects (consistency, error handling, writing style, menu design, etc.)

There seems to be a slight bit of inconsistency in the theme after a particular place is selected, and in the checkout phase. It still appears neat and easy to use, but shades of gray dominate where they were previously hidden, and the style of navigation changes from a three button switching system (map, photos, list), to a variety of tabs that show different information about a place. It seems that the same button system could be used, or tabs could be used on the earlier pages.
Error handling is top notch on this website. The first pages only ask for date and location input, neither of which can be messed up easily. The location box makes it very tough to spell something incorrectly by almost demanding that you use the recommendations provided from the drop-down. In the event that you want to spell something differently, you can still do this, and even if you do it incorrectly the results are still pretty accurate. It isn't possible to input invalid dates unless Javascript is disabled, but the system simply returns no results in this scenario. Also, the checkout system is bulletproof with errors as far as I can tell.

High-level concepts (information architecture, navigation, audience appeal, privacy protection, credibility, etc.)

The website is very easily navigated and it isn't possible to step out of the intended path of events. It is easy to accomplish the task of quickly booking a place to stay at a specific location. It is also easy to take time to compare and contrast various locations and find a desirable spot to go without having a plan when arriving at the website. I think it is interesting and useful that both of these tasks can be completed with ease. The website also seems to appeal to just about anyone. The colors are friendly, the fonts are sized well, and the layouts are all relatively simple to figure out. Nearly anyone over the age of 18 could use the website, and I think it works well for this crowd. The site is also credible looking. The quality of web design is among the best, which goes a long way in convincing users that they are at a safe spot on the web. I think that the credibility collides with privacy protection, however. There is a social networking section that suggests the user check out where his/her friends have been and what they thought of the places, which could potentially be relieving if the user has doubts about the website's credibility. I don't know for sure if there are easy ways to go about preventing others from knowing a particular user's business, however. This is certainly alarming to some people, who prefer not to worry about this situation.