Katie Dill on how to deal with digital and analog chaos

inUse Experience

How does Airbnb design their digital platform to adapt to the analog chaos that may emerge outside of it? Pontus Wärnestål, Director of Service Design at InUse, gives his chief impressions of Katie Dill's speech at From Business to Buttons.

Check out our courses at inUse Academy!

At InUse, we often encounter design situations where user experience weaves together the digital within a complex analog context. And as the service platforms we design extend over more and more touch points in multiple channels, the complexity of the service increases. The challenge will be to create an broader perspective and try to anticipate situations that may arise in these complex systems of digital and analog interactions.

It was therefore very interesting to listen to Katie Dill at From Business to Buttons. Katie is the Director of Experience Design on Airbnb. Airbnb is an online marketplace for renting and booking short-term accommodation and is managed through the digital Airbnb platform.

In her presentation, Katie introduced the problem of trying to manage the chaos that can occur when experiencing a service that is largely analog (living for a period in an apartment, house or other accommodation), something set up between two people who do not know each other. In addition, the situation itself is quite delicate: the host gives their private home to a stranger, and the guest must trust that the home they rent during their vacation, or business trip for that matter, meets all their requirements and expectations. To complicate the situation further, there is not infrequently the question of different cultures and languages ​​between guest and host.

How does Airbnb then design their digital platform to create an overview of the potential analog chaos that may occur? Katie introduced five principles that guide design decisions for the Airbnb platform:

  1. See the Big Picture. Visualize and communicate customer travel to all internally within the organization. There should never be any doubt about what the goal is and what experiences should be facilitated through its use.
  2. Get Ahead of It. There are many things that can go wrong, and it's our job as designers to predict as many potential pitfalls as possible. It is also about managing expectations.
  3. Set the Stage. By setting up frames and giving suggestions to hosts on how to present their property accurately (descriptions, photography how-tos, tips on activities in the surrounding area, etc.), you rake away clutter in order to let the content take center stage.
  4. Keep it Real. Katie pointed out that Airbnb realizes that they do not own the accommodations or that the hosts are “employees,” but instead try to build an authentic culture around properties and renting based on guest and host communication. In this way, you reduce the risk of a superficial and artificial experience that other service providers in the  komer  service and tourism sector may occasionally suffer from.
  5. Arm Your Partners. An important part of the Airbnb platform is the analysis tool for the hosts. This part of the platform is not visible to guests, but acts as a data-driven coaching tool for the hosts. This includes analysis and help to interpret guest ratings and property tips such as "photo schools" to continuously enhance the hosts’ offers.


Just a few days before From Business to Buttons in Stockholm, I myself used Airbnb for accommodation for three weeks in Denver in the United States. In many ways, it was a much nicer and more interesting experience than the classic hotel room. The digital platform enabled quick communication between me and my host. And as Katie herself gave as examples in her presentation, Airbnb supports hosts with recommendations on how to write great background information about the area, how to give good suggestions on restaurants and experiences, etc. This was noticed, as my time in Denver was enriched by the many hints of the treasures and gems in the area that I certainly would have missed if I chose to stay in a traditional hotel. In other words, a lot of things happen behind the scenes so that the experience "on stage" between guest and host will be as rich and positive as possible.

Check out our courses at inUse Academy!

Presenting design work like Mike Monteiro

Alexander Skogberg

On April 28th I got a spot at Mike Monteiro’s workshop Presenting Work Like Your Life Depends On It. Presenting design work and holding presentations in general is a crucial overlooked skill they don’t teach you in school. So, let me – with the help of Monteiro – tell you some things that can be really useful.

Get an inspirational lecture – from inUse!

When I started working as a consultant and UX Designer back in 2011, I was just 24 years old and incredibly naive. I expected clients to blindly trust me and take every claim I made for granted. 

”After all, why wouldn’t they?”, I thought. I had studied for five years, gotten a job at a well-known agency and the client had signed a contract agreeing to pay my high hourly fee.

However, too often my design ideas were turned down. Sometimes I knew that they needed more work, but quite often I was flabbergasted and couldn’t figure out why my work was questioned or ignored.

In retrospect, there were at least three reasons for my design work not being accepted.

One, my work probably wasn’t as good as I thought.

Two, there were larger internal political struggles at hand that I had no control over.

Three, I didn’t present my design ideas well enough.

Since I’ve always been data-driven in my design process, I naturally got better at backing up my design choices. Still, I was coming up too short, too often.

A few years ago, I came across Mike Monteiro’s book Design Is A Job when I went through the A Book Apart series. It took my breath away! I recognized so many scenarios and errors I’d made. I took it to my colleagues shouting “This is a manual for working as a consultant!”.

I learned a lot from Mike’s book and even more when I saw his presentation 13 Ways Designers Screw Up Client Presentations at From Business To Buttons in 2015. Therefore, I was delighted to learn that I had gotten a spot at his workshop the day after From Business To Buttons 2017.

I won’t repeat exactly what Mike Monteiro shared with us, but I thought I’d share my experience – with lots of input from Mike – on how to hold a great presentation in general.

Here’s what to think about:

1. You’re more important than your slides

This might seem like a given, but you shouldn’t be dependent on your slides. Make sure you know what you’re going to talk about by heart. Nice slides should just be the icing on the cake. You are the presentation, the slides are secondary.

2. Work the room

Don’t sit down or hide behind your laptop when giving a presentation. Stand up, get your hands out of your pockets and move around. Use your body language for getting attention and showing some attitude.

3. Include the participants

People have chosen – or been forced – to listen to your presentation. Thank them for coming, and explain why they’ve been summoned or why they’ll benefit from listening to you. Encourage them to ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask them questions during the presentation.

4. Be entertaining

Presentations are too often boring. Make sure to be enthusiastic and put on a show. Don’t be afraid to crack a few jokes, include a funny GIF in your slides or tell a relevant anecdote as long as you have enough substance. There’s a fine line between being funny and just being silly.

If you look at presentations and talks from popular conferences such as An Event Apart, you’ll see that most speakers have a great sense of humor. Have a look at them, and watch some stand up comedy on Youtube for inspiration.

5. Keep your slides lean and varied

It’s easy to have too many slides with too much content on each of them. Don’t be afraid to kill your darlings or ask someone else to help you do it. You’d be amazed how much text can be shortened or removed completely without hurting the presentation at all.

Don’t forget that content doesn’t have to be all text. Try conveying your message with charts, photos, illustrations and video clips.

6. Be prepared for technical failure

Internet connections go down, adapters go missing, sound systems malfunction and projectors can be time-consuming to set up.

Always do a soundcheck well before your presentation starts, bring your own adapters and have a backup version of your slides that doesn’t rely on Internet access for its content.

7. People love anecdotes

One thing I’ve noticed when holding presentations throughout the years, is that people love to hear a good relevant anecdote. If you can tie a personal story to something you’re saying, it can bring a lot of credibility to your presentation.

Anyone can find facts and relevant work from other sources, but a personal experience makes you feel even more like the expert you hopefully are.

Get an inspirational lecture – from inUse!

GAAD 2017 – Look for the helpers

Sara Lerén

Thursday the 18th of May is Global Accessibility Awareness Day [GAAD] and my strongest recommendation for creating more accessible products and services is to look for the helpers.

Sara Lerén gives inspirational lectures – read more! 

One of my favorite quotes of all times comes from Fred Rogers, host of the American PBS TV series Mister Rogers´ Neighborhood:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”

Right now we're seeing lots of scary things in the news, and it has become increasingly important to promote and be inspired by the people who are making the world a better place with great design. At this year's From Business to Buttons conference there were loads of great examples of helpers to be inspired by.

In his talk on How to Fight Fascism, Mike Monteiro gave some well earned praise to Dana Chisnell for her work with improving the election process at the Center for Civic Design, as well as Nick O'Neill and Rebecca Kaufman who built 5 calls, a site that makes it super easy to call congress people. I was also very happy that he gave a shout out to Robyn Kanner who has done awesome work with helping trans people get access to quality healthcare through MyTransHealth. Robyn has been a huge inspiration to me, and she was kind enough to give me great feedback that helped me put together my talk on Designing for All Genders.

Thinking outside the idealised use case

Eric Meyer's talk on Engaging with Compassion was all about thinking outside the idealised use case and doing everything we can to anticipate and prevent negative impact. He recommended Inclusive Design at Microsoft which is a great page with helpful resources for getting started with creating more inclusive designs that will benefit everybody.

Eric A. Meyer during the workshop.

The day after the From Business to Buttons conference, I was lucky enough to attend Eric's workshop. He introduced us to some great tools from his book Designing for Real Life that he co-wrote with Sara Wachter-Boettcher, including doing pre-mortems to anticipate things that might go wrong with our design. Like Mike, Eric also talked about Dana Chisnell's work with improving the election process and gave us a quote from Dana that might just become one of my new favorites:

"I came away from that study thinking, why are we testing with anyone with high literacy? Designing for people with low literacy would make it easier for people who are distressed, distracted, sleep-deprived, on medication, whatever. If I could build this into everything, I would."

And if you feel ready to become a helper like Dana, why not start testing your designs on people with permanent disabilities to make them more accessible to everybody? And feel free to contact me if you need any more inspiration or arguments for inclusive design.

Sara Lerén gives inspirational lectures – read more! 


Let’s make space for a new space-making interactive design discipline

Pontus Wärnestål

The sci-fi author William Gibson said that what the coming generations will find quaint about us, is that we somehow distinguish between “the digital” and “the real”. The real-world implications of introducing digital solutions into everyday life have been neglected for too long. Whether it is about work or play, Service Design is about designing culture – the shared stories between people that interact and work with each other.

Read all about inUse in Denver!

Decades ago, the UX field – even though it was mostly known as Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) back then – incorporated graphic design as a core part of the discipline. This helped evolve new graphical 2D user interface paradigms that were a prerequisite for the web as we know it today, and remains a core skill set in UX design practice today.

In the mid 00’s, the field of Service Design picked up pace, and ever since it has been evolving into a UX design sibling – adding temporal, organizational, and spatial dimensions. Often, Service Design merges with strategic UX, rendering the two almost indistinguishable. Now, we are on the brink of the next field fusion: that of Architecture, UX Design, and Service Design. According to academic researcher Benjamin Bratton (2008), these are steps on an evolutionary journey towards a “universal interface design” that fuses space and interaction mediated by both analog and digital technologies.

No fundamental theory

Only two years before Bratton’s paper was published, 2006, researchers Kostakos et al. wrote that “we have no fundamental theory, knowledge base, principled methods, or tools for building pervasive systems as integral elements of the urban landscape”.

This lack of a well-defined and organized discipline that deals with digital interaction and space should not suggest that the Interaction Design community is ignorant of space and architecture, and their connection to digital interaction and user experience. In fact, UX specialists in both industry and academia have always considered (virtual) space as part of their design vocabulary and methods. However, most established models and theories are focused on niche details and not on holistic approaches to architecture and space. For example, Fitts’s Law is centered on the aspects of movement in physical space, but in a very specific setting (predicting the time required to rapidly move to a user interface target area as a function of the ratio between the distance to the target and the width of the target). Other approaches use (virtual) space as a metaphor for navigation in digital media, e.g. “being lost” on a website, creating “sitemaps”, or measuring the “distance” between screens in clicks or taps. But such approaches are more often than not ad hoc, and lack a holistic unified perspective.

Our first Architect

At inUse we think that the city is not merely the static environment it used to be. With digital layers, sensors, and processor power added, the city is an active entity – an entity that interacts with, and adapts to, its citizens and environment. This is where designers of interaction and space meet.

Therefore, we have employed our first Architect – Ellen Stenholmfor urban design projects in Denver, Colorado. We have established a focus area for Sustainable Design and Interactive Spaces, spearheaded by Emma Estborn and Linda Backlund. In addition to my role as Director of Service Design at inUse, I lead a research project at Halmstad University, where Swedish Architect agency Krook & Tjäder and university researchers explore how digital design methods can enhance urban planning. Questions that arise are for example: Given that the Architect's materials used when building town squares, parks or buildings, might be less suitable for rapid prototyping than digital design materials, can Interaction Design methods and insights help in designing more usable landscapes and cities that are easier to navigate? What interaction models can we employ in the design of interaction between adaptive buildings and humans? And can Service Design – when merged with Architecture – help designing better and more sustainable digital services that transcends the physical and digital spaces we live and work in?

Combining client work and academic research allows us to study, create, and use methods from both digital design and architecture so that we can build even better and more resilient digital and physical interactions and experiences for people all over the world. In short, Service Design of the digitally enhanced city is one of the most important areas for us in the years ahead.

Let’s make space!

It seems likely that all these fields will continue to strengthen their connections and overlaps. Nearly ten years have passed since Bratton suggested that UX Design and Architecture are converging. And scholars such as Wiberg (2011), Jäger et al. (2016), Harrison et al. (1996), and others have suggested new subfields such as “architectural informatics”, “adaptive architecture”, and “hybrid architecture” that integrates virtual reality, embodied artificial intelligence, digital communication, and architecture. No matter what this new subfield will be called, the trend is clear: digital interaction and service design will overlap with architecture and urban planning in the coming years.

And now, we are making it happen. Join us. Let’s make space for a new space-making interactive design discipline!

Read all about inUse in Denver!

FBTB17: Donate to the Red Cross – Syria needs you

Ola Nilsson

The speakers at From Business to Buttons got a special gift this year. And we wish that it will inspire more people to finance Red Cross doctors working in Syria.
– We hope that more people will donate money to the Red Cross, says Jane Murray, project manager at FBTB.

Want to contribute? Make a donation to the Red Cross in Syria.

Every year the From Business to Buttons speakers get a gift. A small token of our appreciation. They get one symbolic thing from Sweden, e.g. some salty liquorice or an Astrid Lindgren book. But they also get something that contributes to a better world. This year we chose to focus on the situation in Syria.

– Many of us are sad and frustrated over the conflict in Syria. So it feels good to try and help people in a difficult situation, says Jane Murray, project manager for the conference.

To the left: Marie Johansson, to the right: Jane Murray. 

The gift to the speakers this year is a donation to the Red Cross, to finance a doctor working in a Red Cross hospital for one entire year.

– The conference is about engagement. To help get an engaged doctor where it is really needed feels very good, says Marie Johansson, event coordinator at FBTB.

Want to contribute? Make a donation to the Red Cross in Syria.