Hello everyone! As many of you know, we took a year off from posting our annual Thorn Tree survey so that we could continue working on the suggestions we received at the end of 2016. There's still much work to be done but this quarter we've returned with a lighter version of the survey and we are preparing to revive the tradition of our comprehensive annual survey in November. As always, our aim is to better understand the needs of our online community so that we always keep user experience in mind as we work to improve and evolve the product. Thorn Tree has always had a loyal following of its own and it holds a unique status as the foundation of Lonely Planet's Community. Our goal is to continue this tradition while getting back to the traffic and post levels seen in years past, and our mantra has been to keep the forum features users like, fix the ones that are broken, remove the ones which are not wanted or used, and add the features users want in order to maximize Thorn Tree's reach and potential. Here are some of the highlights from our recent survey:
Who visits Thorn Tree?
This time around we opted to forego location and instead gave visitors the option to provide their general age range. We are extremely pleased to see that Thorn Tree's appeal spans pretty evenly across several different age groups! Many visitors have had Lonely Planet accounts for varying amounts of time, meaning the survey reached new visitors and experienced visitors alike. Regardless of a visitor's age or how long they've had an account, 54.8% of the visitors who responded consider themselves veteran travelers who take 2-3 trips per year (47.9%).
How long have visitors had Lonely Planet accounts
Personal travel assessment
How is Thorn Tree used?
It was interesting to see nearly 60% of the visitors to Thorn Tree do so during the planning phase of their trip. Like previous surveys, a steady group of regular (19.6%) and occasional (18.6%) visitors stopped by regardless of travel plans. As we've said in the past, we consider ourselves fortunate to maintain such wide appeal to newcomers and veterans of 10+ years alike!
When is Thorn Tree most valuable?
Visitors found Thorn Tree to be slightly more helpful during the planning phase of their trip, and we're happy to see that 35.8% of the survey respondents found it "very helpful" - versus 30% a couple of years ago.
Those who use Thorn Tree during the travel process itself rate it reasonably well - 75% either "very helpful" or "somewhat helpful". As was the case before, we still have some more work to do before it’s seen as an equally valuable resource during travel as it is for the preparation stages. Improving Search and the mobile experience, encouraging new voices to contribute, while relying on experienced contributors who've been with us for several years to continue sharing their expertise could be steps in the right direction.
How well does Thorn Tree meet traveller needs?
While nearly 90% of the visitors who participated in this survey consider Thorn Tree "easy to use", the fact that a higher percentage of visitors found Thorn Tree "Somewhat helpful" during the planning and traveling stages indicates that improvements can be made in this area. While a few ideas were mentioned earlier in the article, making Thorn Tree feel a bit more personalized and social by bringing back some of the interactive profile features could be another step in the right direction. We know that 2017 was a year of change for Thorn Tree and our users, and we appreciate your patience and feedback along the way. If you didn't have the chance to participate in this survey, please be on the lookout for your next opportunity in November. We're always happy to hear from you if you have ideas or feature requests which could improve the Thorn Tree experience for everyone.