Invisible Hotel

Jennifer Coyle Palandro


What is an invisible service hotel?

"A new invisible service hotel is opening in Washington D.C. An invisible service hotel provides many of the amenities of a modern luxury hotel, but without a front desk or onsite staff. From check-in to check-out, consider how technologies can provide concierge-level services that are traditionally handled by a hotel staff."

What are the project requirements?

"Provide a high-level overview of the customer experience. Design a native mobile app that visitors use to interface with the hotel. Pull from this list of potential concierge services: room check-in/out, options for local sightseeing, recommendations and reservations for local restaurants, providing fresh towels and toiletries."


The Research



This invisible service hotel in Washington DC is a modern luxury hotel without any front desk or onsite staff. There's a choice of a boutique hotel in one building, and there are also several apartment-style retreats sprinkled throughout the city.

Top Level Goal

We are going to provide an all-inclusive invisible hotel app in order to provide an easy, immersive, and personalized stay in Washington DC for folks who love to travel and prefer unique experiences.


How do users want to feel?

  • Users want to feel empowered, autonomous, and free when it comes to searching for the perfect room that fits their personality.

  • They want to easily find the best excursions for themselves or their group.

  • They want a zero-hassle approach and a seamless experience.


Benefits of The Invisible Hotel

  • The invisible hotel is the answer to users' wishes: to have a personalized, cozy, home-like retreat with all the amenities of a modern luxury hotel.

  • All amenities are standardized so the customer will know exactly what they're getting no matter which room they book.

  • Just like a hotel, all rooms are thoroughly cleaned daily, and a customer can expect to get new towels and sheets daily (if they wish).

  • The Invisible Hotel rooms are more than just a hotel room: they all offer a full kitchen, dining area, washer/dryer, central air/heat, and wifi.


What makes an Invisible Hotel unique is the lack of on-site staff.

The Native App

  • Check-in and check-out.

  • Local recommendations for food, shopping, adventures.

  • Transportation info and booking.

  • Users will have trip-unique barcodes and keypad combinations to access parking, building front doors, and the doors to their rooms.

  • Anything is available at a moment's notice via the app: amenities, maintenance or service requests, or your personal guide.


The App is Great for Any User

  • Travelers who like to plan ahead can book their calendar full of side excursions and restaurant reservations.

  • Travelers who like to fly by the seat of their pants can instantly find activities to do based on their room's location, the time of day, the number of guests, and their budget.

  • Overall, users want to see reviews for everything.

  • All of these options will be filterable for duration, time of day, distance, weather, price, and ratings.

  • Users can place items directly onto their calendar and receive helpful notifications for time- or location-specific events.


UX Research: Personas


"The Planned Adventurer"

Richard travels often, usually on cruises. When planning, he will research on the Visitors Bureau and apps like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Viator to find out all the places to see and things to do. He wants to find out everything in advance so he can make the most of his time. He relies on reviews and always loves to get a good deal. He's never stayed at an AirBNB and probably never will because he doesn't like to feel like he's staying in a stranger's home.

  • Bio: Early-70's, retired executive, married.

  • Traits: Methodical. Likes his vacations to be streamlined.

  • Goals: Finding the most exotic food and sights, and booking the best excursions. Making the most out of his time.

  • Frustrations: If something is broken or awry, he wants the situation remedied immediately.



"The Automator"

Tracy is a social butterfly and will hop on Facebook as soon as she books a trip in order to ask her friends and family for local recommendations. In terms of planning, she likes to make sure she'll have the ability to do a lot of cool things, making sure to hit the top recommendations from loved ones, but she ultimately wants to make decisions in the moment based on her mood. She thrives on automation in her home between her Nest thermostat, Alexa for lighting control, a keypad lock for her front door. When traveling, she gets frustrated when the room descriptions and photos don't live up to her expectations. However, she loves when a booked plan syncs directly with her calendar and other apps.

  • Bio: Tracy, late-30's, QA tester, single.

  • Traits: Social, High-Tech

  • Goals: Doing the top one or two recommended activities in a given place. Having the experience live up to her expectations.

  • Frustrations: Inconsistency in room listings on AirBNB.


"The One on the Fly"

Dylan likes to travel often, preferring short bursts over long trips. The long weekend is his perfect format. He loves to explore new cities or do nature walks. He focuses heavily on cultural aspects of a city and shies away from tourist attractions. He doesn't do much planning for a trip beyond booking the transportation: he will usually rely on Yelp or in-person exploration to find cool things to do. In the past he's stayed at AirBNB's, and while he prefers the idea of an AirBNB situation over a hotel because of the unique experience, he struggles with AirBNB's lack of formality; he never knows what the real situation is going to be. Plus, hosts are inconsistent with their communication preferences and response time.

  • Bio: Dylan, mid-20's, software engineer, engaged.

  • Traits: Methodical yet spontaneous. Loves convenience.

  • Goals: Ease of coordination with the room, and sense of uniqueness. Finding local favorites and having a sense of wandering.

  • Frustrations: Coordinating through AirBNB is difficult because it depends on the communication skills of the host.


"The Local Lover"

Marie travels for two main reasons: to see her family and to explore and research cities that she'd potentially live in for law school. When she visits a new area, she likes to research online and find the midpoint so she can explore the radius of he potential new world. She likes to find the local favorites on Yelp: the greatest tacos in the city, the ultimate coffee shop, the best book shop, etc. She loves the idea of coming back from a day of exploring and being able to sit and relax in a homey environment. She gets easily overwhelmed if she needs to switch back and forth between apps to try to execute plans in-the-moment.

  • Bio: Marie, 30, law student, single.

  • Traits: Researcher, Purpose-driven.

  • Goals: Find the convenient local favorites.

  • Frustrations: App switching to try to coordinate Ubers and a reservation.


Research on Similar Services

InvisibleHotel in Slovakia

  • An invisible hotel experience designed to help the user discover and explore the best of the city in a unique way

  • Four or so uniquely designed rooms

  • "The city is the hotel"

  • Highlighting and promoting local people, values, places, experiences


  • User rents a room based on several personal preferences directly from the property owner.

  • Amenities, check-in, check-out, and service are unique to each property.

  • App provides a myriad of experiences based on a robust and filterable search.

  • Rooms and experiences are largely based on user-submitted ratings.

Lokal Hotel in Philadelphia

  • Both a boutique hotel and an A-frame retreat, both with invisible hotel features.

  • "Brings together the perks of AirBNB and hotel stays into one."

  • Technology friendly: automated coded check-in and in-room iPads with multiple service-driven apps. Real person on call if needed.

  • Upgraded amenities like a large TV, Sonos player, high speed wifi, fully-loaded Apple TV, full kitchen, washer, dryer, etc.


High Level Overview of Customer Experience: Introduction

  1. Customer thinks they want to go on a vacation.

  2. Decide on Washington DC.

  3. Look up unique experiences in DC on Google and AirBNB.

  4. Find Invisible Hotel listings online.

  5. If they don't book right away, they'll be served ads or will have signed up for an email list for a small discount on their first booking.

  6. If they're looking online, they may also find the app when searching to download the AirBNB app.

  7. Decide to go for booking a trip with Invisible Hotel.

  8. Choose dates, choose suite, book online. Creating an account in the meantime.

  9. Receive email confirmation and invitation to download the app, explaining the app will be the way to interact with the invisible hotel. Email provides download and login information.

  10. User downloads the app and logs in. They can view the high level information and begin to favorite and/or book excursions and restaurant reservations.


Overview of Customer Experience: What Makes Invisible Hotel Different

  • Renowned Design Sponge blogger Grace Bonney said, "My dream travel situation is one in which the privacy and cushiness of a hotel room is combined with the laid-back kitchen access of a real home."

  • This Invisible Hotel in Washington DC will allow customers to choose and book a suite decor style that will fit their personality and party size, while being able to rely on amenities that come standard with modern luxury hotels (fresh sheets, towels, meticulous cleaning).

  • In addition, each and every suite will have a washer/dryer, full kitchen, high quality technology, dining area, and workspace. Smart HVAC is included as well.


Overview: Luxury Experience

  • Overall, the customer will have a high luxury experience. They'll receive a welcome basket on the first day of check-in, including tickets and passes to local events, co-working spots, and participating gyms and pools.

  • Before check-in, guests will be asked how they take their coffee and what their favorite cocktail is. Those items will be waiting for them upon arrival.

  • Guests will also be asked to report any special needs or allergies. The hotel will try their best to accommodate those needs.

Overview: Technology-Driven

The experience will be fully technology-driven with the ability to chat with or talk to a reliable and friendly real person at any time. If the customer needs anything before, during, or after their stay, they can reference the app. 

During their trip, customers won't have to worry about whipping out their key card or their credit card. If they choose, they'll have an app full of suggested restaurants, activities, adventures, etc.

  • Front Desk Services: Parking assistance, check-in and check-out, keys (trip-unique door code), amenity requests including fresh linens or equipment like a crib or high chair, service requests

  • Concierge Services: Restaurant reservations and food or grocery delivery; shopping recommendations; searching, booking, reviewing experiences; transportation searching and booking

  • Technology-Heightened Experiences: Options to leave a review options to leave tips for concierge, delivery staff, room service, laundry services;

  • Planning Ahead: Before or during the trip, guests can plan and book dining reservations and excursion reservations through the app. The app will automatically sync with the in-app calendar and other common calendars like Google and Mac. Location- and time- specific reminders will pop up showing details for a reservation, etc.


The Solution - App Overview

Here are some quick overview screenshots of the app design.

Want more? For a clickable, more immersive experience, you can download the .SKETCH file below. (Warning, it's upwards of 500MB.)

app icon.jpg

Programmatic Questions from the Exercise

  • I made an assumption on the format of the rooms: actual hotel versus AirBNB type rooms. I tried to create an app that would cater to both scenarios based on research of what's out there now.

  • In terms of growth, what are the goals of the invisible hotel?

    • City-wide growth? National growth? International growth?

    • A wide range of size of spaces and types of spaces available?

    • Working side-by-side with famed interior decorators?

    • Themed spaces to attract niche clientele?

  • What are the sources of income for the company?

    • Booking?

    • Local partners: Food, experiences, transportation, amenities?

    • Other?


Thank you

Credits: All photos via Unsplash. iPhone mockups and screenshot mockups via Medialoot. App design completed in Sketch App.