Developing new features to help users split the cost of an accommodation when traveling together - (Conceptual project)


In an era where travel often means gathering in larger groups, the demand for seamless and efficient group accommodation booking experiences has become increasingly important. Group trips are all about fun and shared adventures—but the hassle of handling Airbnb payments can turn the excitement into a headache.

Nearly 80% of users surveyed by Airbnb reported going on multiple group trips in the past years, and the study also showed that many of those organizers didn’t get repaid for Airbnb’s cost. For this project, my focus was to delve into the journey of enhancing the user experience, focusing on the challenge of enabling groups to book accommodations without the burden of a single individual covering the entire cost.
Our goal is to enhance the user experience when booking accommodations as a group, making it easier for them to split the cost of an Airbnb when traveling together.
10 weeks
UX Research
Visual Design
Usability Testing
Alejandro Alonso (Me) - Product Designer
ML Howell - Product Designer
Google forms


Airbnb's current booking process places the entire financial burden on one individual, with accommodations only bookable by individuals who then rely on friends or companions to pay them back after the payment is completed, causing inconvenience and financial strain for group travelers.

This along with the need to meet group expectations and the absence of real-time tracking, these factors leads to stress, anxiety, inefficiency, and, consequently, communication issues, delays, strained relationships, and the potential for overlooked final expenses.
How might we make it easier for groups of people to book accommodation on Airbnb without one individual paying the entire fee?


Develop new features within Airbnb's booking process that enable group travelers to seamlessly and transparently split the cost of accommodations.
The ability to split accommodation costs directly through the platform would simplify trip planning, promote fairness and transparency in cost sharing, and contribute to a smoother and more enjoyable overall travel experience—while gaining a competitive advantage by meeting the evolving demands of group travelers.
Friends feature
Allowing users to add and manage a list of friends on the app, making them readily accessible when booking group trips. This feature proves especially handy for recurring trips with the same group of people.
Price filter
By automating cost distribution, travelers can make informed choices about their accommodation, reducing manual effort and empowering group organizers to select budget-friendly options.

- Automating the cost distribution, reducing the manual effort required to calculate expenses for each traveler.

- Empowering travelers to make informed choices about their accommodation and enabling group organizers to select options that align with the group's budget.
Split cost at the time of booking
Our new proposed payment method “Split cost” allows travelers to divide the cost of the accommodation before booking, ensuring that each participant contributes their share in advance, reducing the financial burden on any one person.


Starting my design process with secondary research allowed me to be better informed about the evolving trends in the travel industry and helped me understand user behaviors and preferences when it comes to group travel and accommodation bookings.
79% of American travelers have been on multiple group trips in the last five years.

38% of American travelers have experienced not receiving all the money owed from a group trip.
More than a quarter (29%) of American travelers have fought with a friend over group trip money collections.
Speaking with users
To get a better understanding of how group travelers manage and split the cost of their accommodation, as well as their pain points and needs, we sent a survey to 20 participants, 19 of whom were frequent group travelers. In general, most participants organize group trips with friends, but also significant others and family—creating a dynamic mix of expectations and expenses which could make booking stressful and cumbersome.
Affinity mapping
Speaking to users revealed how booking accommodations for group trips can be stressful as organizers often front a hefty upfront cost, manage diverse participant expectations, handle reservations for large groups, and navigate the awkwardness of collecting payments.
Insight 1
Splitting the bill is straightforward with a small group but turns into a headache as the group size increases.
Travelers noted that handling payments for larger groups can be stressful and often prefer when one person takes the lead.
Insight 2
Leading a group and meeting its expectations can be a demanding task.
While many prefer having one person take charge, they often find it stressful and tend to shy away from the responsibility. Balancing the group's expectations regarding location, cost, and quality can prove challenging.
Insight 2
People often feel uncomfortable when it comes to requesting and waiting for payments.
Those in charge of covering the entire expense often find it awkward to ask for reimbursement, and waiting and following-up becomes a burden, deterring some from taking on leadership roles in group travel planning.
“Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of making the initial large payment and waiting for others to send their share. It could also be awkward reminding them to pay up” - P 1
“I don’t like having to use a calculator and add/divide the total, it's tedious and i feel like it opens the doors for mistakes" - P 13


Designing for users needs
Based on the insights we gathered from our research, we realized that most group travelers rely on a combination of at least three or four separate apps to facilitate the booking and cost-splitting process for Airbnb accommodations:
Airbnb for the reservation itself.
A text messaging app for group communication, cost-sharing, and payment reminders.
A third-party money transfer app to send their shares to the main payer.
A calculator to make sure everyone's paying their fair share!
How might we seamlessly integrate a cost-splitting feature within Airbnb's design to simplify group booking, enhance transparency, and ensure a smooth, user-friendly experience for travelers?
We brainstormed and sketched several different ideas, ranging from in-app chat and a 'Friends' feature to filtering listing prices based on the number of guests. We also explored various methods of dividing accommodation costs among group members, both before and after the booking process (with the goal of creating a comprehensive solution that could cater to a wide range of group travelers and their unique requirements.)
Product strategy
To help filter our ideas, we took into consideration both the business and user goals. Prioritizing the goals that align with the interests of both the business and its users ensured that the ideas we pursued had a meaningful and clear purpose.
Business goals
• Increase revenue
• Gain competitive advantage
• Increase number of users
• Increase user engagement
• Enhance user experience
Selected ideas
• Friends
• Price filter
• Split cost before booking
• Split cost after booking
User goals
Transparency (Equitable cost sharing)
Budget management (finding cost-effective accommodations that suit the groups budget)
Communication and Coordination (seamless communication + coordination)
Quality and Comfort (meeting standard for quality, comfort, etc.)
Make it easier to add guests to a shared group trip.
Price filter per guest
Help users budget their trip by allowing them to see the price of the accommodations divided by guests.
Split cost before booking
New payment method that eliminates the need for a single person to shoulder the full cost upfront.
Split cost after booking
Flexibility to split costs and request contributions from fellow guests after one person has made the full payment.
Updated flows
Drawing inspiration from Airbnb’s existing IA and user flows, we gained insights into how users are currently navigating through the app and some pain points and inefficiencies they encounter.

(Make this into bullet points?)As we aligned our approach with Airbnb's design, our primary focus was on creating a user experience that was both easy and straightforward. We prioritized simplicity, ensuring all essential functions were readily available on a single screen. Transparency was another key focus—ensuring that the cost-sharing process was clear and easily understandable for all group travelers.

We then carefully examined potential entry points for our new features, aiming to seamlessly integrate them in an intuitive manner while minimizing any disruption to Airbnb's existing information architecture.
Guided by the principles of simplicity and transparency, our goal was to make booking and cost-sharing effortless. We explored several ideas early on through different exercises such as group brainstorming, mind mapping, rough sketches, and crazy 8s.


Visual design
At Airbnb's extensive design scale, developing an entirely new design system for this project would have been impractical. We carefully examined and collaborated with the existing design system to ensure the smooth incorporation of new components to our proposed features.
Combining old and new
But there was room for some fun! In our pursuit of seamless integration, we created custom components on a per-need basis, leveraging Airbnb’s design system to accommodate our new features.

The trip card component was essential for the split cost feature, designed to prioritize readability while accounting for the allocation of information needed by guests and the CTA.

We also emphasized the importance of redlining, covering aspects like structure, internal padding, and color tokens, to streamline a possible future design-to-engineering process and further deepened our expertise in Figma's component and auto-layout properties.
Image - Anatomy of trip card component
Image - Specs of trip card component
Another important addition was a new countdown component that we integrated in the sticky footer of the reservation/listing page, to inform guests of the time remaining to pay their part on the reservation process.
Image - Specs of sticky footer component
Designing the features
With a constant focus on enhancing and streamlining the booking experience for group travelers sharing accommodation costs on Airbnb, our primary focus was centered on designing the key feature 'Split Cost' among guests.

We also realized that the inclusion of two supplementary features, 'Friends' and 'Filter Price per Guest,' would greatly complement the main feature, elevating the overall group traveler experience.
Validating and focussing design direction
We considered two approaches for our primary feature of splitting the cost for group bookings: one during booking and another post-payment. After usability testing, users mostly preferred the before-booking option. Although some users found value in having both and, we initially designed from them, considering our time constraints, we decided to prioritize iterating and refining the before-booking feature for maximum user value.
See the initial design of split cost after booking
Friends feature
Making it easier to add friends to a group trip — A “Friends List” feature integrated into your Airbnb app.
The purpose of the "Friends" feature is to simplify the process of adding friends to the guest list when utilizing the new split payment functionality for group trip bookings.

The reasoning behind this was to eliminate the need for email addresses and allow you to add friends by name, with a list of previously added friends readily available. This functionality is ideal for recurring trips with the same group, and even if a friend is new, you can manually add their email/information, after which they're automatically included in your friends’ list
Image - Friends feature flow
Price filter per guest feature
Helping users budget their trips - A toggle that allows you to see the price of the accommodation divided by guests.
We delved into enhancing pricing flexibility by allowing travelers to view listing prices based on their group's size. This feature offers users the choice to see either the total listing price or a per-guest cost—reducing manual cost calculations.

The feature seamlessly integrates into the listings screen post-search, automatically dividing the total cost by the added number of guests. Users get an initial idea of the cost per guest and can personalize it further during payment splitting.

To implement this, we examined the existing toggle, and then refined it to optimize its functionality to display both the existing and new data (price per guest).
Image - Price filter per guest feature flow
Split cost feature
A feature that allows to split the cost of a group booking within Airbnb, ensuring that each participant contributes their share in advance without a single person having to cover the entire cost upfront.
Step 1. The trip organizer finds a listing they like and begins the reservation process. They select the split cost option, add the other paying guests, customize the split amount, pay their portion, and send the request to the other guests.
Image - Split cost before booking flow.
Step 2. The rest of the guests get a notification of split payment request and they pay for their part within 24 hours to secure the group booking.
Image - Other guests pay their part flow.


Usability testing
The design went through multiple iterations, with usability testing playing a crucial role in identifying areas for improvement and potential usability issues. We then continued iterating upon ideas, elevating fidelity, and seeking new solutions to further streamline the process for users.
Split cost configuration and payment screen
In this key screen of our main feature, the usability tests allowed us to identify areas of improvement like the add a guest button, split amount edition and backup payment.
Pending payments screen, remind guests
Another area for improvement was the trips screen, specifically when there are pending payments. An important aspect to refine here was how to provide a reminder to guests who haven't paid yet as the 24-hour timeframe approaches, prompting them to complete their payment.


All coming along together
Our proposed features tackle the hassle of organizing and managing payments for group trips on Airbnb. Streamlining the process from booking to payment, these enhancements make distributing costs among participants effortless. With a focus on simplicity, transparency, and equity, our features empower users to easily split accommodation costs, removing the burden of a single person covering the full cost upfront, and ensuring a seamless and budget-friendly group booking experience that caters to individual financial preferences.


Measuring success
I would measure the success of the proposed features by the following KPIs:
• User adoption rate - Percentage of users who actively engage with the new features.
• Conversion rate
- Number of users who interacted with the new features and successfully completed the group booking.
• User satisfaction
- Measured through surveys, reviews, etc.
• Repeat usage
- Proportion of users who have made group bookings at least twice during a certain time period.
What I've learned
Finding opportunities within constraints
Navigating a complex and robust design system like Airbnb's has its challenges, but even within those confines, there's always room for creativity. Exploring these constraints led to innovative solutions like the countdown and trip card components. Definitely, dissecting Airbnb's design system was a valuable learning experience, providing insights into best practices and decision-making processes.
Simplicity was key for the project
Navigating the complexities of group travel brought challenges as we sought solutions for diverse needs. Emphasizing a seamless user experience, we recognized simplicity as the key to cracking the complex group booking process, streamlining it successfully. The reward came as users could see themselves using the new features, finding real value, and even feeling less stressed about trip planning.
Adapting to changes
For some time on this project, the team worked with an 8h time difference. But despite significant time zone differences, we turned this challenge into an advantage, leveraging our opposite schedules for continuous productivity and progress.
Collaboration and feeding off of each others ideas was also really important. This and the strategic coordination showcased our adaptability in navigating logistic challenges and actually contributed to the project's success.
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