Web Worker’s log #5 – Never support more than you can

In April I wrote a post about my social media strategy and this post is about similar topic but it is more general. By the way I changed my approach since then. Today I want to talk about what nomadic life and using AirBnB taught me.Disclaimer: I use AirBnB a lot this year but I didn’t get paid to write this article.

In May, when I didn’t use AirBnB app at all, they changed design. I noticed it when I returned from Canada to Czech republic June 2 because they failed me. Without the internet connection the app crashed, violation #1 – stable offline first. I was able to find a wifi and had bed that night in Prague.

After that AirBnB temporarily rolled back to the previous version. So everything was fine until I had to use it again a month later in Hamburg. This time the new design did not crash without internet connection but the app did not retain data, violation #2 – if you can download data you can save the relevant data temporarily (hint: at least couple of hours).

After talking to @AirBnBHelp on twitter I was told this:

I was speechless. Violation #3 – don’t support unsupported platforms.

Let’s start with violation #1 and #2. First of all when you are designing an app specifically for travelers how can you be sure that they will have internet connection all the time? Roaming in Europe isn’t dead yet and probably won’t be for some time. The notion that users will have always available internet is insanity from Silicon Valley.

AirBnB iPhone and iPad apps on AppStoreIn the context of that tweet it starts to make sense a bit except it does not when you look at the AppStore. What they say is not what they do.

Currently there is no guarantee that if you have enough battery on your iPad left and your host is at home that you can get there without the internet. Unless you write down the contact information on a piece of paper before you go/when you have internet connection.

I can say that currently piece of paper and my Nokia, I use Nokia because of the maps, are much better alternatives to AirBnB app. This fact made me to explore other possibilities when it comes to looking for places to stay for couple of weeks at a time.

The lesson from this rant is that when you plan what you are going to support, you need to commit to it. Putting out there an app, or anything, and then telling your users not to use it is a very bad approach which will lose you money in the long term.

Screenshot from AirBnB app
The absurdity whet you have an option to call your host on a device which does NOT support calls