Surya Vaidyanathan


Surya Vaidyanathan


Introducing split payments to Airbnb’s booking experience for groups


UX Research


UI/UX Design

Usability Testing

My Role

UX Researcher

UI/UX Designer


Will Rose, UX Researcher


10 weeks


It is common to split expenses when traveling as a group. Currently, Airbnb only allows individuals to book accommodations for themselves and other members of their group. The onus is thus upon that person to encourage their friends or colleagues to pay them back after the payment is made. The goal was to make it easier for groups of people to split the cost of an Airbnb when traveling together.

This feature was aimed at travelers who plan trips in groups of 2 or more, with family, friends, or co-workers. By addressing their specific needs, the aim was to improve their booking experience, boost user satisfaction, and tap into an underexplored market to drive higher revenue and gain a competitive edge.

This project was done as part of my UI/UX design bootcamp at Memorisely.


Given that this was a hypothetical project, there was nothing tangible to measure, but if this were a real project pushed into production, these would be the measures of success:

  • Increase in Group Booking Conversion Rate

  • Increase in Average Booking Value for Group Reservations

  • Increased User Engagement with Group Booking Features

  • Higher Repeat Bookings for Group Travel

How might we make it easier for groups to plan out their trip expenses and split the costs in a way that works for their dynamics?


Split payments that work for your group dynamics

  • Introducing split payments in the booking process to reserve an accommodation

  • Providing multiple options to split payments to benefit every kind of group dynamic

  • Includes the option to pay in full to book the accommodation and request payouts from fellow guests afterwards

Enhanced search options to ease payment splitting for group booking

  • Introducing a new price-per-room filter in home rentals

  • Allows guests to select rooms as a basis to split payments

  • Gives hosts more flexibility in their rental options

Taking the awkwardness out of following up for payments

  • Automated messaging from Airbnb to guests to remind them to complete payments

  • Messages from the business remove the discomfort of asking family, friends, or coworkers for money

  • Option to send personalized messages if desired

Brings more users onto the platform

  • Option to important contacts onto the app or add additional guests manually before trip organizer checks out

  • Guests who are not already Airbnb users would be notified by email to complete their booking, bringing new users onto the app

  • A database called ‘My friends’ on the user profile provides a list of all fellow travelers


  1. User Research Surveys

My research partner and I put together a brief survey and got 47 replies. We gathered data regarding people’s travel habits and the challenges they face when splitting payments when booking with one or more other people.

Several insights from this exercise stood out to us, including the following:

  • A lot of people have trouble tracking individual expenses and the method of splitting the bill is very dependent on their fellow travelers and the group dynamic.

  • Many people struggle to ask for money from fellow travelers, even when they are owed, either due to awkwardness or simply being forgetful.

  1. Synthesis

We analyzed the data on Dovetail and used affinity mapping to gain a picture of what our typical user experiences when traveling in a group and splits their expenses.

This led to us crafting our complete problem statement:

People who travel in groups need an effective system to plan their trips and split their payments. Currently, they have trouble setting expectations, tracking expenses, and following up to ensure fair payment. This leads to frustration and friction in their relationships.

  1. Competitive Analysis

We couldn’t find any services on the market that combined group travel services as well as payment splitting, so we decided to analyze our competitors on each aspect separately. We analyzed Splitwise and Notion for tracking expenses, and Tripadvisor and Vrbo for group travel booking.

  1. Ideation & User Flows

We used mind maps to ideate on possible way to add to or improve upon Airbnb’s existing booking flow to answer two questions:

  • How might we make it easier for groups to plan out their trips within Airbnb?, and

  • How might we make it easier for groups to plan out their trip expenses and split the costs in a way that works for their dynamics?

We compiled and ranked our ideas and used methods like Crazy 8’s to turn these into actionable features. These ideas were implemented into user flows and low-fidelity wireframes. Upon several rounds of iteration, we had our final set of low-fidelity wireframes.


Early explorations considered expanding Airbnb's Wishlist feature to enable group trip planning, incorporating features like itinerary planning, internal chat with polls and linking capabilities, and enhancing the recommendation engine for group accommodations. However, I decided to prioritize adding split payments as the primary new feature to expedite development and production. Based on the response to this enhancement, we would assess whether to invest in further development of these features.

The final design gives trip organizers the means to split their payment before or after reserving the accommodation in whatever way works for their group dynamic.

Multiple Split Methods

Trip organizers can initiate a booking with their group by deciding the split method and paying their share. The default method is an equal split, with options to split by the value of each room or a custom split.

Completing the Booking

Other guests would be notified via their Airbnb app or by email to complete their shares of the payment in order to complete the booking. They would be required to complete this within 48 hours of initiating the booking in order to reserve the accommodation.

Splitting after Reservation

The design also allows trip organizers to book the accommodation by paying in full, and then requesting a split from their fellow travelers. They can also follow up via messaging.

User Testing

I tested three separate prototype flows with users to get their feedback:

  1. Where the user is a trip organizer who initiates a payment split before booking the accommodation

  2. The guest checkout for the above flow

  3. Where the user is a trip organizer who completes a booking and then requests a payment split

The reception was generally positive, with test users calling it intuitive and familiar. There were a couple of takeaways:

  • I had initially provided guests with the ability to split their share of the bill further with an additional friend, but this proved to be confusing to test users. They stated that the bill had already been split and that they would not individually invite more people on the trip as that would complicate both the payment split and the group dynamic when traveling.

  • They wanted the ability to send the bill to multiple friends at a time after booking.

These were implemented in the final design.

We tested an early high-fidelity prototype with a group of users that included both existing customers and prospective ones. The feedback was generally positive, with some minor functional points of confusion, but the most frequent piece of feedback was that the homepage was underwhelming. It was lacking that big "wow factor" that was necessary to hook users into entering the conversion flow.

Using this feedback and other comments from test users, I got buy-in from the founders on some short-term changes, which I proposed to the creative team. We collaborated on the creation of an ambient video background to use in the hero section.


This project taught me how to iterate quickly and effectively at the early low-fidelity stages of design in order to ensure a faster turnaround time with the high fidelity design. This ensured more effective testing and in turn, a better design.

Let's create things together!

Let's create things together!

© Surya Vaidyanathan 2024. All rights reserved. Made with filter coffee and 💛.

© Surya Vaidyanathan 2024. All rights reserved.

Made with filter coffee and 💛.