Designing destinations at Lonely Planet
by Brad Haynes
If you’ve traveled the world, there is a good chance you’ve used a Lonely Planet guidebook on your adventures. Founded in Melbourne in 1973, the company has grown up to become the world’s leading travel publisher, building a global network of writers, selling millions of books covering almost every destination on the planet, and providing fresh content to more than 120 million people every year across its different platforms.
Now, Lonely Planet is taking huge strides to reinvent its online offering. This is just the beginning of that journey.
Continent and country pages
It all begins with radically improved experiences for continent and country pages on lonelyplanet.com. We want to place an emphasis on organization, tools that help people quickly find the top things to do in each location, and a curated set of places and experiences that help people get to the heart of a destination.
Photography is one of the most effective tools in helping people understand a destination. That’s why we’ve developed new partnerships with wonderful people like 500px to help us surface the best travel images on the web. Each destination page begins with photography that tells a story of the location.
The love letter
One of Lonely Planet’s key differentiators is our community of travel writers. They work with dedicated destination editors to curate the best of the best experiences in each destination. As a way to introduce these behind-the-scenes experts, we start each destination page with a love letter from those responsible for these carefully selected recommendations.
One of the most requested elements of our guidebooks that’s never appeared online before is Top Experiences. The new design puts a lot of emphasis on this content — through photography and placement — to highlight our hands-on approach to curation, and of course to give travelers a shortcut to find out where to visit, what to see and what to do in a destination.
This is only the beginning for Top Experiences, though — expect to see this section evolve dramatically in the coming year.
This new feature is going to be fun to improve upon over time. We’re starting with an interactive experience designed to surface all the great content we have elsewhere on the site. We like to think of it as geographical navigation.
In the midst of a ever-changing industry, our book business is still growing every year. They’re a key part of our company heritage, and many travelers still rely on them to explore the world. So we surface our guidebooks in a prominent place on the new destinations pages for those who want to take a guidebook along on the trip of their dreams.
Independent travelers will find everything they need to put a trip together in our destinations pages, but if you want a little more help, the tours section makes it even easier to just go. We offer tours through several partners, providing people with a huge choice of experiences and adventures.
Another of our goals was to help people know where they are in the world. For the city view, we intentionally made the design feel smaller to communicate the parent / child relationship between continents, countries and cities. The layout starts to feel more like an article at the city level, and there are more tools that help with the planning process.
Hotels & hostels
One of the key elements we want to improve over time is our ability to help travelers find the best hotel or hostel in a city. While before, we sprinkled hotels throughout the experience, we’re now being more mindful of surfacing these listings only at places where the visitor is thinking about planning their trip.
Food & drink
So much of a city’s personality is derived from the food that it offers. We want to do a better job at approaching this through careful curation, so instead of confronting a traveler with hundreds of options, they instead just see a top 10 tailored to their tastes.
We consider our article and detail pages to be the DNA of our brand online. So all continent, country, and city views place an emphasis on funneling people into these pages. Sit back and peruse through a few to discover a wealth of information and inspiration.
More to come
This is just a quick walk-through of a few of the designs we’ve developed for travelers to try out. We’re only in early beta right now, but feel free to use this link to access it and be sure to give us feedback! We’re looking for input to help us turn lonelyplanet.com into something that can help every traveler to explore more of the globe.
For you folks that enjoy building world-class products, we’re also looking for great people to join the team and help us continue to deliver great experiences.
Special thanks to all the product, design, technology and content folks that pulled together to make this happen. You know who you are.