Here’s the strategy behind Airbnb’s mobile web redesign

Airbnb has redesigned its mobile web experience, bringing it into responsive union with its desktop website. The two applications will now work in sync, so changes made and features added to one will also appear on the other.

The shift highlights the growing importance of the mobile web and how to tackle its design structure. Airbnb has taken the stance that the mobile web is a funnel for people who are new to the Airbnb experience. They end up there by clicking links shared by friends or other media. They haven’t yet downloaded the app, but they want to be able to explore what Airbnb is about.

Therefore Airbnb wanted its mobile web homepage, unlike its mobile app, to look more like a landing page for newcomers. The mobile web became its own distinct experience, instead of a copy cat of either the mobile or desktop app.

It entices them with visuals and a search bar. “We needed to create an opportunity to learn about Airbnb without feeling like you’ve got to download the app,” Justin Santamaria, mobile product lead, told me. Like most other web properties, Airbnb has seen a huge shift to usage on mobile. One fifth of its users come through the mobile web specifically.

Because it’s a responsive design, features added to the desktop web will automatically translate to the mobile web too. That shift will also allow Airbnb to do more with its team of engineers, instead of having to devote clusters of people to mobile web changes and others to desktop. The design will allow for screen size flexibility. For example, the number of options shown in the “weekend getaways” feature could be six on mobile and twelve on desktop.

You can see the differences between the two mobile web home screens here (before: left; after: right). Instead of hammering people with listings, they’re prompted as to Airbnb’s purpose and given a search bar to peruse their own interests.

Old Airbnb mobile web home screen (left); New Airbnb mobile web home screen (right)

Old Airbnb mobile web home screen (left), new Airbnb mobile web home screen (right)