Stay.com Case Study

Stay.com is a service for the urban traveler – one who values quality over price, charm over fame, and originality over formula. Teaming up with local chefs, baristas, bartenders and artists, Stay.com shows you where the locals go.

I was the lead the product designer, and handled conceptual, functional, and visual design.

Hotspots hand–picked by locals

Collaborating with local insiders, Stay.com features curated quality venues – places you would not easily find on your own.

More than 2,500 local baristas, bartenders, chefs, DJs and other experts have revealed their city's best gems.

Consistently high-quality city guides

An in-house editorial team, combined with a global network of freelance writers, made it possible for Stay.com to create the most highly refined destination content on the market.

The 30,000 hand-picked hotspots follow the same uniform format, and they were all authored in the same tone of voice.

All content is neatly tagged and categorised, making it easy and familiar for travelers to find places to visit – and easy for developers and designers to craft a good product.

Offline maps

Stay.com allowed travelers to download the entire city for offline use. This was not limited to the map – the offline bundle would include all the curated city guides, with images, editorial descriptions, and contact details.

Stay.com had the most sophisticated offline support in the travel space for several years. Changes made to a collaborative city guide while offline, would seamlessly be synced with other travelers when you go back online, including conflict resolution.

2,500 local insiders

The contours of Stay.com's content strategy appeared already in 2011, when we saw that crowd-sourced travel content was headed in the wrong direction. Top travel sites were surfacing marketing-savvy tourist spots, rather than genuinely interesting places.

Involving local experts is an obvious solution to this challenge. There is no better authority on a city's restaurant scene, than an experienced chef living and working in the city.

Stay.com has worked with more than 2,500 local bartenders, baristas, chefs, musicians, stylists, designers, architects, historians – people with a special perspective on their home city. Each of them is curating their own list of top-notch venues, the same places that they themselves frequent.

Tim Wendelboe, world champion barista

Signe Emdal, textile artist

Monica Awe-Etuk, writer

José Avillez, chef

Lindsey Higa, stylist

Emma Ostergren, fashion designer

Presenting city guides

Put simply, a Stay.com city guide is a collection of places, curated by a local with expertise in some area. The guide card represents a guide consistently across all channels and platforms.

A lot of effort and iterations went into these cards, prioritising content, finding a visual balance, and defining rules for how cards adapt to different environments.

The card shape derives its color from the dominant color in the photo, and labels within the card are also variations of colors automatically derived from the photo.

Brand identity

The logotype and app icon was designed by Lars Arve Bratteberg / Minus Minus. From his work I designed a concise 15-page identity manual, covering logo use, typography and colors, as well as photography, language and key visual elements from the UI.

An important part of my role at Stay.com was to work towards strengthening our five core conversion points: app installs, city downloads, guide creation, invites to collaborate, and day 7 retention. Usability testing, UI behavior tracking, and rapid prototyping were key components in this work.

4.5 average rating in the App Store
4.3 average rating in Google Play

Usability testing

The Stay.com UI was routinely tested, both pre-release and in production, in-house and remote, with real users and with people unfamiliar with the service.

I planned and executed most of the usability testing sessions, for both the web and the mobile clients.

Application architecture

I worked closely with the CTO and the developers to design and maintain the application architecture.

Based on user insight, we made a number of deep changes to the core structure of the app.

Ten team members, seven nationalities

I had the pleasure of working with a highly skilled and dedicated team. A not-at-all-awkward group photo for your amusement.

Wei Zhuo, Leah Plotz, Ariana Hendrix, Andrew Gubanov, Lars Bæk, Gurudutt Verma, Claudia Menger, Alex Makarov, and myself. Joachim Paasche was not there for the photo.

Credits

Stay.com was founded by entrepreneur Joachim Paasche, PhD, after a previous successful exit in the travel space. I am hugely grateful to Joachim for the opportunity he offered me with Stay.com.

Unfold played an important role in defining the foundation for Stay.com. They also made sure Stay.com received an award for Design Excellence by the Norwegian Design Council.

Press

We received attention from some of the world's largest publishers, including Forbes, New York Times, and TIME, as well as technology press like Techcrunch and the Next Web.

By late 2016, Stay.com had reached 1,000,000 app installs, and 500,000 signed-up travelers.

Half of the travelers had created personal city guides, with friends or by themselves. Half of them had offlined a city. When traveling, people would use the app on average 11 times daily. Our most enthusiastic travelers had visited 30 cities with the help of Stay.com, and used the app more than 3,000 times.

A lack of business opportunities forced Stay.com to close its doors early 2017. The entire team were offered positions at the world's largest travel companies.

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