Last year the Rome2rio team decided to escape Melbourne’s drab winter for a week by setting up shop at Palm Cove (near Cairns in Australia’s far north). That company retreat resulted in the development and launch of Rome2rio’s hotel feature, which has been a big success and has since become an integral part of the site.
This year we decided to do it again by spending two weeks in Townsville. The Australis Mariners North Apartments provided an ideal base for work and Townsville offered plenty for the team and their families to do in their spare time, such as trips to nearby Magnetic Island and walks up Castle Hill.
We took the opportunity to focus on ideas, features and analysis that we wouldn’t normally have time to work on. The most significant project was the development of a new sights & activities component for Rome2rio. By the end of the retreat the team had developed a compelling prototype, which we plan to ship soon.
The second major project was the addition of transport images to Rome2rio. As our image gallery develops, Rome2rio will provide informative pictures of trains, buses, ferries, bus stops, stations, scenic views, ticket booths and much more. We also expect to launch this feature soon.
We also took the opportunity to conduct a relevance analysis. Similar to an approach we used at Bing, the team divided into two groups and spent the day studying Rome2rio results for around 100 user queries that were drawn from our user logs. The search results for each query, such as Zurich to Bologna, was graded on a four-point scale of Perfect, Good, Fair or Bad. Relevance problems were categorized into buckets such as geocoder problems, missing transport data, inaccurate pricing or routing engine problems. The exercise is invaluable for prioritizing improvements to Rome2rio and is something we expect to do regularly.
Other projects included the development of a new A/B testing framework, experiments around new UI, conversion and SEO treatments, and new approaches to visualizing our query logs.