Piles of Books

PORTFOLIO OF CONTENT DESIGN

Using content to connect business goals with user needs

Erin Kennemer

Trip Boards

What is a Trip Board and how do I make one?

With Trip Boards, you can save, organize, and compare all the properties you love. Every adventure can have its own Trip Board to help you stay organized. Team up with family and friends to find a perfect fit for your next vacation.

Making your first Trip Board


On your desktop

  1. Log in to your traveler account

  2. Click on Trip Boards

  3. Name your Trip Board, then click Create

On your iOS or Android device

  1. Open the Vrbo app

  2. Tap Boards

  3. Name your Trip Board, then tap Create

The Problem

We wrote the original content for Trip Boards before moving to our new brand voice. It was focused on "the how," but it came off as robotic and lacked warmth.

The Process

I used a user journey map created by our UX research team to understand the emotional context of this part of the product. Searching for properties can be overwhelming. Trip Boards are tools to alleviate traveler agony. I identified that it was a place where we could stretch our voice and lean into the joyfulness.

I used a voice and tone guide to make sure I hit the mark on the content changes. I consulted with the project manager to make sure my changes weren't affecting the meaning, but only the feel of the article.

The Results

We measured the resulting content by looking at visits to the article, measuring the duration that users stayed on the page, and considering adoption rates for Trip Boards. The content was successful by all metrics.

Brand Voice 

I used Google Analytics to identify the top fifty articles in our help center, then worked with Brand and Marketing to align on our new voice and tone guidelines. Let's look at some before and afters.

What is the booking update service?

The Booking Update Service alerts Vrbo about updates and cancellations that impact bookings made through our online booking process. It provides us with new bookings that were made outside of our flow (called offline bookings) but were a result of an inquiry made through one of our sites.

While each integrated software varies, most refer to this feature as a Marketing Source or Source of Business.

After a booking is received/accepted, additional situations arise where bookings change and modifications are needed like:

  • Cancellations, reservation and payment confirmations

  • Adjustments to existing Vrbo bookings. For example, the rental amount changes due to stay extensions, value-added services, etc.

  • New offline bookings generated as a result of Vrbo inquiries

 

The Booking Update Service relies on you to attribute reservations to Vrbo if you manually entered those reservations in the software. For example, if a traveler finds your listing on Vrbo then calls you to book, it’s important to attribute that reservation to Vrbo when creating the reservation in your software. By doing so, you are ensuring that we are able to give you credit for these bookings, which will positively affect your conversion ratio.

 

When properties with successful bookings are reported, they are considered higher value properties to travelers and will appear higher in search results based on our ranking system, traveler’s search criteria, and available dates.

How do I get credit for offline bookings?

We use something called the Booking Update Service to let us know about bookings that start as inquiries on one of our sites but are confirmed elsewhere. We call this type of booking "offline" because it was finalized outside of our network of sites. The Booking Update Service even helps your bookings stay current when offline bookings are adjusted or canceled.

 

How it works

While each integrated software varies, most will have a field called Marketing Source or Source of Business. When you enter a booking in your management software, be sure to choose the correct source. For example, if a traveler finds your listing on Vrbo, then calls you to book, be sure to attribute the booking to Vrbo in your software. This ensures we give you credit for the booking. Even if you change details of the booking later using your integrated software, we're informed so we can keep our side up-to-date.

 

Why it's important

Ensuring that bookings originating from Vrbo are correctly attributed can have a big impact on your conversion ratio. Successful bookings build traveler trust, so properties with higher conversion ratios appear higher in search results (based on our ranking system, traveler's search criteria, and available dates).

Thought Process

What types of property can I advertise?

Subject to applicable laws and regulations, acceptable rental properties include traditional rentals such as houses, condos, and villas, as well as barns, bungalows, cabins, castles, chalets, chateaus, cottages, estates, mansions, yurts, and many other structures travelers may want to rent on vacation. HomeAway sites are meant to offer a "Whole Home" experience to travelers.

 

Mobile rentals, such as an RV is allowed but in one base location. Guest can move the RV to different locations but have to return to the base location. Camping sites are allowed but must include a structure in one specific location.

 

Note: We allow one listing subscription per property for each account. We may ask for proof of ownership if we have more than one account advertising a property.

 

Timeshares

Timeshare properties are allowed if they are owned by an individual timeshare owner and are for a single specific location. We currently offer annual subscriptions, but the property does not have to be available the entire year.

What types of property can I advertise?

Thinking of advertising your property on our site? We're excited to have you. The best first step is to research the applicable laws and regulations for your area. Done that already? Here's some of the properties we list: houses, condos, villas, castles, cottages, mansions, yurts, and probably a few we haven't even thought of. 

 

Here's the important thing. Our sites are meant to offer a "Whole Home" experience to travelers. That means that the owner or manager should not be on the property with guests. 

 

Got a property that's a little more unusual?

 

Mobile rental(RVs, Vans)- allowed, but they must have a base location.

Camping sites- allowed but must include a structure in one specific location.


Timeshares- allowed if owned by an individual. The property does not have to be available the entire year.

Thought Process

The Problem

Our legal and policy team crafted the first version of the article. During my audit of voice and tone, I noted that it came off as unwelcoming and unclear. This article discusses what types of properties can be listed on our site, so the audience will be new customers or those considering expanding their business; therefore, we should be putting our best foot forward when it comes to tone.

The Process

After reviewing the policy, I consulted with our legal team about what information was the most critical to include. Not every piece of our policy has to live in this help article, so I find it helpful to check with our customer service team to find out if any information in this article is a historic call-driver. My rewrites removed some info, so I made sure to get final approval of my copy with our legal team before publishing the new version.

The Results

The final copy of the article is significantly easier to scan, giving greater meaning and shorter read time. I also found a way to structure the information more clearly.

 

Vrbo is a two-sided marketplace that connects travelers with property owners and managers.

The Problem

This article is an excellent example of how readability can improve when we elevate voice and tone. The concept of a booking update service may be familiar to some of our property managers, but others may have never heard of it. In the left article, the burden of understanding is on the reader. The language level is too high and assumes too much knowledge on the part of the reader.

The Process

I first research the concept with stakeholders to make sure I understand. I map out what information I need to convey, then begin writing. The goal is to use a conversational tone that feels familiar but not glib. This article speaks to our property managers, so the tone is less informal than when we talk to travelers.

The Results

The article on the right has been in production for half a year, and we have seen an uptick in the number of integrated property managers that correctly label bookings. Because we have in-product messaging supporting this article, it's hard to tell which had the bigger impact. One thing is for sure, though, the tone now matched our brand voice and tone guidelines much better.

 

Emergency Messaging

Creating pull content available to our users that addressed emergencies is a new horizon for Vrbo. Previous to 2019, we didn't have a formal way of hosting emergency content. When the wildfires in Australia raged out of control, burning 12.35 million acres, I was asked to create an article to appear in the global help center to give travelers options. By the time the global pandemic hit, it was clear we had to supply answers and assistance to our travelers and partners. Help content had stepped up before, it was time to do so again.

Australian brushfire article

A historic season of wildfires is affecting every Australian state. While New South Wales has been hit the hardest, Melbourne and Sydney have also felt the effects.

 

If you have booked a holiday rental in Australia, contact the owner or manager of the property immediately for the most up-to-date information about the condition of their property. Response time for owners could be slower than normal as they may have evacuated the area, so patience is appreciated.

 

What you can do

Contact the property owner or manager immediately to discuss their cancellation and refund policies. See the related article on how cancellations work.

If you purchased travel insurance, contact the insurance company directly.

If you booked through a credit card, contact your bank to see if travel insurance is provided.

 

What we are doing

While cancellation policies are set by the owner and agreed upon at the time of booking, we are reaching out to owners and asking that they consider refunds given the circumstances. Additionally, we are fully refunding the service fee on bookings cancelled due to the 2019/2020 Australian wildfires, regardless of the amount refunded by the owner.

 

What we don’t cover

Please be aware that our Book with Confidence Guarantee is designed to protect you from fraudulent listings and misrepresentation. It does not cover natural disasters and does not apply to cancellations due to the wildfires.

COVID-19 Pandemic articles

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) for the current outbreak of the coronavirus, known as COVID-19. We’re closely monitoring official guidance from local government and health authorities as well as listening to feedback from our travelers, property owners, and property managers. We will update this article as more information becomes available.

The Problem:

Without precedent and little time to plan, the content for both COVID-19 and the wildfires was a unique challenge. Content updates had to be rolled out within hours to keep up with the evolving situation during the pandemic. Even where to host the content was a subject of great debate; we needed somewhere with a proven track record of reaching our users. Beyond that, every single word had to be thought through by multiple teams of experts to prevent misinformation or accidental legal implications.

 

The Process:

I manage all kinds of content, but my articles on Australian brushfires and COVID-19 best show my ability to work with multiple stakeholders. I collaborated with our legal team, product marketers, and Expedia leadership to create four articles covering our policies and new programs for emergency relief.

 

The Results:
I use Google Analytics to track how well my content deflects contacts to our customer service team. My deflection rate was extremely high, even during the chaos of April in the face of a global pandemic. With over a million hits to my article that month, crafting effective content saved my company multiple millions of dollars in support costs.

Getting the word out

While our help center is very active, we wanted to make sure that our guidelines and policies were reaching as many people as possible, so we created banner messages for Vrbo.com and help.vrbo.com.

COVID-19 banner message

X

COVID-19 advisory: Visit our Traveler or Owner articles for the most up-to-date information. Need to change or cancel a booking? Log in to your account and go to My Trips.

Natural disaster banner message

X

Safe travels: Know what your options are if your trip is affected by a natural disaster. 

Learn more

Content Optimization

Besides managing the help portal and working on in-product UX content, I like to find side projects to help improve the quality of our site. Here's a couple of the ones with the biggest impact.

Non-US Masters

Finding content that's been overlooked

 

Because a team of English-speakers maintains the content in 19 languages, when an article is in another language, it doesn't always come up during content audits. I reorganized all the articles to be translations of "US Masters" so that content was searchable in English and easier to maintain.

Broken Links

Improving the experience at a basic level

A lot of attention is paid to the user's experience at Vrbo. Sometimes though, the smaller incremental improvements are overlooked. We had a problem with broken links in our content because of the limited size of our team and the abundance of content that we managed. I designed a way to find broken links using SEO tools. Previously we had to wait for someone to report them to fix them.

VERGE

in-product help content

The Product and Users: 

I created the in-product help content for Verge, an enterprise software solution for managing oil rigs. Our users were highly skilled engineers and experienced rig hands. Their focus was on the oil, and ours was on making their tools usable and intuitive.

Challenges:

Our end-user presented a unique writing challenge. The rig workers knew every inch of their wells, but weren’t always computer savvy. Balancing Weatherford's functionality requests with usability meant crafting in-product help that supported the user experience.

Solutions:

Through client phone meetings and research, I learned why the software was so critical and what the common user pain-points were. I used plain language and scannable formatting to facilitate understanding.

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