Online travel planners research. Part 2. Triphobo
Table of Contents
Part 1. Inspirock + its official response with my comments
Part 2. TripHobo
Part 3. Fancy apps: Sygic Travel, Blink (Tinder for Sightseeing), Google Trips (then: Google Travel)
Part 4. Underdogs of online travel planning: Roadtrippers, Tripplannera, TripFactory
Part 5. Utrip: the two-headed monster
Part 6. Timescenery
Part 7. Overall conclusion
There was a 2-part reply to Nadav Gur’s article I mentioned in the previous part. It was bravely called “How a trip planning startup can succeed” by Saket Newaskar, co-founder and chief technology officer at Triphobo.
In my first attempt to use TripHobo the service quickly discouraged me from that. But they have undergone redesign recently and things changed, I thus was encouraged to try it again.
Social following: 580K on Facebook
TrustScore: 9,3/10; 160 reviews
Broadness of possible request — 1/2
Quality of suggestions — 2/5
Quantity of suggestions — 2/3
Real use of preferences — 1/3
Routing and transportation — 2/5
Eating out — 1/3
Absence of other bugs (duplicates, etc.) — 3/5
Variety of free functions — 2/2
UX (predictability, smoothness, etc.) — 1/5
TOTAL — 45,5% good
2.2. The mechanics
- The trip planner asks you to choose City, Country or Region first. Would you say “like Inspirock”? Not exactly. If you enter a country its most popular cities would pop up and you would have to choose which one(s) to include into your route. Fewer surprises for users with that requirement.
- The first discouragement will wait for you if you want to enter multiple cities after choosing a country first. After choosing the first city your initial input dissolves and to get the list of most popular cities of a country you should type its name again,
- The exact dates are not required for the planning. It is very usable when you do researches like this one. But why did the planner suggest the same dates for different places? It was written “That’s ok, we will assume a starting date to create a better trip plan” but in reality it every time suggested exactly 1 month from today. While the end of June and the beginning of July is definitely not a good time to visit Rome: it is hot and lots of tourists, too.
- When you define city(-ies) the planner suggests duration(s) at the next step with the possibility to change them. The system is smart: if you change dates in the middle of a sequence it changes both the duration and dates of another city this change influences,
- You could deal with transportation between and accommodation in cities of your route them. Or you could go farther to the itinerary (that I did). Triphobo uses fancy animation that worked with trouble at my laptop (all other websites worked well though).
- The main part of Triphobo planning is Your Bindle. “A Bindle is your wishlist of things to do, we will create your plan based on what you add into it”.
From one side, this approach is discouraging once again (after a necessity to choose exact cities).
From the other side, it is more detailed than just plain categories like “museum”, “nature” etc. and also could serve as a popularity setting: if you check less popular places — the planner would then suggest less popular places in the output,
- You also can skip this step and proceed to the plan right away. But don’t complain then if your route is not tailored to your preferences,
- When you start to fill your Bindle the planner starts to enforce you to take tours. Luckily you can check a box and see no more offers again (at least for this trip). My experience makes me think this was the most effective way to promote tours to users.
- If you add all interesting places yourself — what would be left to the suggestion? With that in mind, I decided not to overload my Bindle and left it relatively empty.
- The only option I had was to click “Skip to trip overview”. Why “Skip” if I had done everything I needed?
2.3. And then I got the itinerary…
And disliked it much. Why?
- In the case of Belgium, I added 7 activities for Brussels in the Bindle. But the planner suggested only 2 things for a 1-night stay in the city: 1 from my list and 1 appeared from nowhere. Then why did it make me spend my time and fill the Bindle if it was useless?
- Another thing that drove me crazy was an empty morning of the second day. I looked at the giant hole in the timetable and couldn’t realize why none of 6 unused places of my Bindle was suggested.
- Speaking the truth, I added 7 places for the 1-night visit of Brussels to see whether the planner would suggest rearranging durations (it was Antwerp that had been left relatively unmarked — only 4 activities for 4 days). You guess, no suggestion occurred. At least the system could get my preferences if I add 7 places for 1-night visit. Nope,
- Although there were just 4 preferences for 4 nights in Antwerp — one of them also surprisingly was left out of the route,
- And for Ghent, I got 1 Sint Niklasskerk and 1 Sint-niklaaskerk.
When I clicked on them it some more confusion appeared: these churches were situated at the same street but had very different numbers (4 and 9000). Oh, no, I got it: “Cataloniëstraat 4, 9000 Gent” and “Cataloniëstraat 9000 Gent” meant that there was no building number in the second address at all.
Pictures were different but not that much, these were 2 clones of the same church.
The fact that there you see no transportation time between churches in the editable view also confirmed that they are actually one.
Unluckily to Triphobo, the option with right spelling was added to the Bindle 20 times less than incorrect one. But in spite of unpopularity, it was suggested to stay 1 hour there while the suggestion to the more popular twin was 30 minutes.
- Sequencing. Here is an example of another route, for Moscow and St. Petersburg (that I know by heart). Gorky Park and Sparrow Hills are located nearby (in fact Sparrow Hills Park has been made a part of Gorky Park not long ago). But they were suggested to visit in 2 different days. If you looked at the map you would see that Sparrow Hills were at the different part of the city than the previous and the next places… wait, where is the map of the route? No map?!
Well… then you should believe me or check it yourself.
All in all, it would be reasonable to group Gorky Park and Sparrow Hills (dinner time was flexible as you see).
For Saint Petersburg, it was the same mistake as for Inspirock from Part 1: Palace Square and The State Hermitage at different days (though the planner knows that the address of The State Hermitage is Palace Square, 32).
2.4. What was good anyway (in comparison with Inspirock)
- Time for lunches. And dinners in the timetable rather than vague “nightlife” (that is not evident to mean having dinner),
- Open time is shown for most places in the Bindle. It didn’t take much screen space but made sure that the planner uses open time in planning. However, if open time is probably wrong (e.g. a church is open 24 h) it makes think about possible mistakes,
- Both driving and walking between places. And even public transport with time of transportation. You can choose the mode you prefer. Excellent move, Triphobo!
2.5. But I haven’t finished with the disadvantages
- No setting for pace. I didn’t get why there was so much empty space in the plan while there are so many suggestions for every city. Did it reflect the suggested pace of travel? If so, how to manage and fill all the holes? I didn’t get this initially but one way of doing that is to drag a place from the Bindle and drop it into the plan. If this is really what users should do then it is strange that the Bindle couldn’t be expanded to more than 1 row. Navigating it just clicking “Right” and “Left” buttons would be annoying and you couldn’t search through its elements while at the Editable view page.
- I didn’t get why exact time is not shown in the overview. Is it just a usability feature? And why the route there was slightly different compared to the editable view (see below). Which one of the plans would be saved if I click the “Save” button: one with the same duration for 3 places between lunch and dinner and no free time between them? Or another one with different duration and free time between them?
- My choice of the Bindle failed to act as a popular/hidden gems filter. When I chose 8 places for a 5-night stay in Paris all of them had been added to the Bindle by other users less than 2000 times. In this case the planner included all of them into the route — but other suggestions were popular places and, of course, Eiffel Tower (78 000 times added). Montparnasse Tower (that was added only 164 times and could be called a hidden gem similar to Eiffel Tower if it wasn’t seen from quite everywhere in the city) was not suggested.
In the case of Rome, it was the same: all my suggestions were included, but along with the most popular places: St Peters Basilica, Trevi Fountain, Colosseum, Roman Forum, etc.
- And no shopping destinations though I chose one. That makes me conclude that in spite of declarations the planner does not use the Bindle to suggest more places. I couldn’t define what is worse: this approach or sending you to outskirts for hidden gems (like Inspirock did).
- If you change the duration of stay at a previous place — next places don’t move in time, the conflict is just outlined by a red line (like I do in my screenshots). It is the opposite logic to what you experience at changing the duration of stay and (to the contrary to that one) I find this one not smart,
- I also failed to find a button to get back to the Bindle (except the “Back” button in the browser). If you click “Edit Cities/Dates” button — you get to the second page from the beginning and have to go through transport and accommodation. Another monetization trick?
- I didn’t get why there was “Free time” (marked with dotted line) in my plan for Belgium and wasn’t in my plan for Russia (though both of them contained free space after lunch and in the morning).
- When I tried to add a note to one day of a Belgium trip the headers made me crazy. Why Paris? Why Day 1? Why this date (not used in any of my plans)?
2.6. The conclusion
I couldn’t agree Triphobo is the best. Triphobo has bad sequencing, no map, no real customization, lacks usability and many other things. With such a great number of Facebook followers there are only 160 reviews on Trustpilot. But the TrustScore is even bigger than Inspirock’s one: 9,3.
You could say that I wrote more bad things about Inspirock and thus think it is worse. No, I wrote that many things because without them the service is overall good. While Triphobo didn’t inspire me to dig into that many details.