Katie Dill on heading up experience design at Airbnb

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: A triforce company structure, the power of storyboards, and designing business strategy.

By Jenn Webb
December 30, 2015
"A View Through Three Arches of the Third Storey of the Colosseum," by C.W. Eckersberg (1815) "A View Through Three Arches of the Third Storey of the Colosseum," by C.W. Eckersberg (1815) (source: The Google Art Project on Wikimedia Commons)

O’Reilly’s Mary Treseler chats with Airbnb’s head of experience design Katie Dill about the values that drive design at Airbnb, the triforce structure of the company, and the process of journey mapping their users’ experience.

Here are a few snippets from their conversation:

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That triforce of product management, engineering, and design, working together from point zero on the process of what problems we are trying to solve, and how we might solve that, and why we might solve it, and what the road map should be in getting there, is a process that is facilitated through design thinking. It’s a process that includes all those voices in a way that we think gets us to some solutions that are a little bit more creative than we otherwise would have gotten to, but also thoughtfully considered in terms of the technology and the business impact.

We literally use that storyboard for everything. Right now, we’re mapping out how we email—how and when we email people. We’ve got the storyboard up on the wall as a reminder of the steps in the journey, and then we’re printing out every single email we send to people and putting it where it happens in the journey. What’s so great is then you take a step back, and it’s almost like a Monet. The impressionistic viewing, oh, my goodness, we’re sending 12 emails to people when they’re booking, but we’re ignoring that opportunity later in the journey.

It comes down to, in some ways, a shift in thinking about when design is a part of the process in creating a product, and the shift is to think of design as a way of also helping to define business strategy.

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