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A case study on how Figma, Google, and Airbnb use UX research


May 6, 2024

How Figma, Google, and Airbnb use UX research

If you've ever gotten notifications at any point of your work on Figma or used the check-in tool on Airbnb immediately you get access to your apartment anywhere in the world or even seamlessly taught your students on Google Meet, then you have surely enjoyed the benefits of the extensive UX research carried out by these top companies.


In this article, we'll look behind the curtain to see how these companies conducted UX research, the results they each obtained, and how it impacted their businesses.

Let's jump right in.

P.S; We wrote this in-depth article for you if you're new to UX research. Read it here 👇


The Background Story/Problem 
Notifications are an important part of the user experience in Figma and FigJam; the activity team understood there was a funnel to how users engaged with notifications, but they were unsure where to focus their efforts to improve engagement with these notifications.

The funnel
Users needed to have notifications enabled →, receive them →, view them →, and interact with them. 

The UX Research Strategy
Data Scientist Caitlin Hudon and Researcher Jennifer Sanders worked on uncovering how their notifications worked and how individual users interacted with them.

Caitlin and Jennifer initiated a teamwide brainstorming session. They presented data on the current notifications state, including metrics like the percentage of users who received, opened, and clicked on them. 

As they dug deeper into their research, they asked more questions. 

Initially, it seemed that only a few users were engaging with email notifications. However, interviews revealed that many users relied heavily on email notifications despite the low engagement numbers seen in the data. This contradiction made her reconsider the significance of the engagement data.

Around the same time, it was discovered that many users weren't receiving email notifications at all, which explained the low engagement rates.

Caitlin suspected the discrepancy might be due to the type of users interviewed. She segmented the data to focus on users on team accounts versus personal accounts.

The new data showed that designers on team accounts had a much higher engagement rate with email notifications than users on personal accounts. This realization highlighted the importance of considering different user populations.

Based on this insight, Caitlin and Jennifer recommended that the team prioritize users on team accounts when creating notifications-related experiments. This is because team account users collaborate more frequently, making their behavior a better indicator of how notifications function.

Another Strategy
They were also curious about the low engagement with the notification bell in Figma's file browser. They wanted to understand whether users knew it and how often they opened it. Caitlin looked at data related to notification bell usage, while Jennifer conducted user interviews to understand user behavior.

Jennifer's research revealed that users primarily checked their email inboxes to see updates across all platforms their team used. They often kept Figma files open in different tabs and missed the notification bell, which was tucked away in the corner of the screen.

With this insight in mind, Caitlin and Jennifer recommended moving the notification bell to a more visible location and improving the content and reach of notifications.

The activity team ran an experiment based on Caitlin and Jennifer's recommendation to send comment notifications to file editors, not just owners. This feature was subsequently released, allowing collaborators to stay informed about files they're invested in.

Caitlin and Jennifer effectively communicated their findings and recommendations to the larger team, influencing the product roadmap. 



The Background Story/Problem
When the wave of COVID-19 swept across the globe, it ushered in a new era of remote collaboration and digital communication. For educators, adapting to this "new normal" meant embracing platforms like Google Meet to conduct virtual classes. However, while Google Meet was originally tailored for businesses, its design and user experience fell short of meeting the unique requirements of teachers and classrooms.


The UX Research Strategy
The Google UX research team decided to start their strategy by speaking directly to teachers in one-on-one sessions to figure out what they needed to make the product work for them.  

“Students are using the tools in a way that makes it hard for teachers to do their job,” a tech admin based in the U.S. told us. “Teachers can’t mute students, or put them in groups, they can’t ask questions easily to take the temperature of the class. Students are also jumping on the video without supervision – and that’s an issue. I wish there was more control.” (from Google)

 To work on this problem, the team incorporated all of this feedback into improving the product, and they were able to incorporate new changes into the design like:

  • Attendance taking

  • Hand raising

  • Waiting rooms

  • Polls


The changes benefitted teachers, educators, businesses, and individuals using Google Meet for personal use.

“With the upgraded Meet experience, I find it very practical and friendly to manage the class and communicate with the students,” a high school teacher in Mexico told us, “obviously improving the overall experience for students.” (from Google)




The Background Story/Problem
When you arrive at your Airbnb apartment, the first thing you have to do is check in with your host. 

 The team at Airbnb noticed the complex and sometimes difficult interactions between hosts and guests. Sometimes, the host shares PDF documents (with photos, screenshots, and arrows to help guests locate keys and doorways).


To address this issue, Airbnb's design team built a global “check-in tool” to simplify and make the check-in process more seamless and predictable. 


According to Vibha Bamba, Design Lead on Airbnb’s Host Success Team:

“The decision to design the tool was informed by an intriguing host behavior. We noticed that about 1.5 million photo messages were being sent from host to guest each week—the majority of them to explain location and entry details. Photos of the home were juxtaposed with maps, lockbox locations were described, and landmarks were called out.” 


The UX Research Strategy
The design team approached their work with empathy at the forefront, immersing themselves in the experiences of both Airbnb hosts and traveling guests who relied on the check-in tool. Recognizing the potential fatigue of guests after long journeys, they understood the importance of providing context beyond mere visuals. Thus, they devised a sequential picture upload feature, allowing hosts to guide guests through the check-in process step by step. Additionally, by encouraging hosts to add captions to each image, they prioritized inclusivity, ensuring that guests with visual impairments were equally considered and accommodated.


Sometimes, just observing how your users use your product in their daily lives can uncover many blindspots and areas for improvement. Just like the Airbnb team, you can easily catch areas for improvements and build delightful product experiences for your users.


Crowd provides you with the tools to understand your users so that you can create meaningful experiences for them and drive growth for your business.

© 2024, All Rights Reserved by Crowd.

Crowd provides you with the tools to understand your users so that you can create meaningful experiences for them and drive growth for your business.

© 2024, All Rights Reserved by Crowd.

Crowd provides you with the tools to understand your users so that you can create meaningful experiences for them and drive growth for your business.

© 2024, All Rights Reserved by Crowd.