Lonely Planet Writer

Thorn Tree: results of the 2016 annual survey

Thorn Tree survey 2016

Lonely Planet’s community team is committed to user-centred design and while we track a lot of data about lots of things to inform our decision making, we think it’s useful to check in once a year to ask for qualitative feedback on how we can improve Thorn Tree. (Here are our report cards from the 2015, 2014 and 2013 surveys.)

The survey helps the community product team (the technical people and developers that work on the forums) to work out the following:

  1. Who are Thorn Tree users? (and how do they like to travel?)
  2. Why do travellers come to our forums? (and when in the travel cycle is Thorn Tree most useful?)
  3. What users would like to be able to do, but can’t currently do on our forums.

Who visits Thorn Tree?

Like our writers and staff, our online community is made up of travel junkies, with close to half of Thorn Tree users identifying themselves as veteran travellers and a healthy 11.7 per cent joining us as travel newbies.

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We’re a bunch of very frequent travellers. A fortunate eight per cent of our users never stop travelling! A quarter take four or more trips each year, half take between two and three adventures and the rest take one trip.

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Why Thorn Tree?

Thorn Tree is designed to be a safe, entertaining and inclusive place and we’re working hard to make the forums a place where more travellers come every day – whether they’re on the road or not.

This year we asked respondents to rank some statements to tell us what it is about Thorn Tree that they value. Here are the results, from most important to least important.

  1. Our online community can help you find answers to questions that aren’t covered in our guidebooks.
  2. Forums cover places that aren’t otherwise covered on our website or by a guidebook.
  3. Forums are a place where curious people can come to get independent travel advice.
  4. Forums are a place for travellers to talk about travel whether they’re travelling or not.
  5. No business accounts means that you’re getting advice from a traveller, not someone with an agenda to push.
  6. Our online community can help you find answers that Google can’t help you with.
  7. Forums are a place for travellers to share up-to-the-minute advice on security situations as they develop.
  8. The advice you find on the forum can help you decide where to go next.
  9. Forums are a place where travellers can meet locals.

We provide Thorn Tree as a resource for travellers to exchange travel advice, hints and tips. We think it’s mainly useful when you’re still making plans, but we're happy to see that we’re becoming a bit more helpful when your boots hit the ground.

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How well does Thorn Tree meet the needs of our community?

Our mission is to make it easy for new members to use the forums, while not changing things too much for the travellers that already use and love our product.

At least 16 per cent of respondents have been participating on Thorn Tree for more than a decade. A further 21 per cent have accounts that are more than six years old. It’s encouraging to see 27.7 per cent of respondents registering in the last year. That’s the best way for us to make sure that what we’re doing is still relevant and that we’ll still have an online community using the platform in years to come.2016ttsurveyfig2

What next for Thorn Tree in 2017?

In 2017 we’re going to focus less on new features and rethink some of the taxonomy and navigation for the platform to bring it in line with the rest of lonelyplanet.com. We’re rethinking profiles and working to find new ways to collaborate with our online community in other sections of our site.

A word about search

It’s not all good news – we know our search experience is a lot less than ideal. We have been making improvements to Thorn Tree search where we can. See this topic for all the updates this year.

There is a project to review the experience of search throughout the site in 2017. Rest assured that we will do what we can to advocate for the type of search experience that you want. In the meantime you can use this hack for Google to return search results for content that’s on the forum:

In the URL bar, precede your search term with ‘site:lonelyplanet.com/thorntree’. If I were interested in more information about community guidelines on Thorn Tree I would type in ‘site:www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree community guidelines’.

Collaborating with our community

We want to minimise the number of repetitive, boring questions so we can have better conversations. This year we’ve fixed the dead links for the FAQs that are already on Thorn Tree.

In 2017 we’ll need your help to put together ‘Thorn Tree guide to <country>’ topics for each country. We’d like to put together traveller tips for each country (and maybe even bigger cities). Find out more about the project here. We’re trying to work out the proof of concept with Turkey, Romania, and New Zealand.

Thank you!

We run a survey every year to better understand the needs of our online community so we can keep members at the heart of our plans for the future. If you're one of the thousands that took the time to fill in the survey, thank you! If you missed this year's survey, you can always email us at community@lonelyplanet.com or post a new topic with your suggestion in the community FAQs and feedback branch.