Development London Bus Pal

Summer update for London Bus Pal

The last time I gave any update on development for London Bus Pal was before the global pandemic became a thing in the UK. Things looked up at the time and I didn’t realise what an impact the pandemic would have!

New record!

Daily usage of the app was on an ongoing upward trend. As probably every other Friday before, on the 6th of March, I hit a new record of the number of users who were using my app. It hasn’t been surpassed since, and two weeks later, when lockdown was announced, usage had dropped by 50%. And a week later, usage dropped by another 50% from the week before (or 75% of our record day!).

Usage has slowly crept back up since April, with each week hitting a new record over the previous week (since lockdown started), but we’re still a while away from our previous record. Friday, 14 August, another record is still 32% below our pre-lockdown record. But it’s increasing rapidly and that’s good!

Please stay safe

Don’t take from my comments in the previous paragraph that I think it’s necessarily good for buses to become more crowded, this is not my wish. Please stay safe and do what it takes to stay safe.

What am I working on?

I think the core of the app is good and working. Every now and again I get a bee in my bonnet to rewrite some of it, but it works, so I should leave it alone!

I’m working on a range of add-on functionality which is mainly suited for bus enthusiasts. I already have the bus information screen where you can get all kinds of details about the bus you are travelling on. There is some basic details about which routes the bus has been operated on during the last 7 days.

I’m currently working on making it easier to track which buses you have seen before. I would say think about it as a bus journal, but I’m actually doing both – you can tag a bus as “seen” and you can add some details into a journal which you can then review later on.

With tracking all of the information about buses and routes, it is also quite easy to get out data about buses running on routes they don’t usually run on. The most difficult challenge for me is to find a way to fit it into the app without bloating it.

Sticking to my roots

When I created London Bus Pal all those years ago, the idea was to keep things simple. I didn’t want to over-complicate things and keep it easy to use for everyone. This hasn’t changed, so it’s quite challenges to keep things the way they were, but also add useful functionality without crowding out screens.

Equally, another thing I’ve always believed in, was to keep ads as unobtrusive as possible. It’s always been a small banner at the bottom of the screen, unless you donate some money and then it gets removed.

Why do I mention these things? Because things will inevitably change, but I won’t forget what’s important. On the main screens (anything with prediction data), I will still keep to only showing banner ads; but for any of the extra functionality (bus information, user-generated content and so on), I might become a little bit more aggressive with advertising or ask for some form of subscription to help fund this. There’s a good reason for it:

It costs money to keep the app going

The basic functionality (predictions) is there, it is stable and the costs are fairly small (generally covered by the banner ads). The more sophisticated functionality costs a bit more in terms of money and time investment, so I will try to make sure that I at least cover costs of what it takes to keep the lights on. So please, if you start seeing subscriptions and some full-screen ads, I promise you that it is not because I am trying to milk the app for all the money I can, but just a way that I can keep funding all of the infrastructure needed for whatever you are using.

That’s all for now, I’ve just taken a bit of a break from working on the “seen” functionality – back to some coding for me!

London Bus Pal

London Bus Pal v20.8.3

Thank you so much to all who have given me positive feedback. I am actively working in the background on some awesome features. In the meantime, some small changes:

  • Stops with no letter indicators will no longer show a blank roundel πŸ”΄
  • Fixed a bug where the board would not update if there a no more buses due at the stop (and the last bus would stay stuck) 🚌
  • Fixed the way that one-way routes work (“H2 towards Golders Green Station” instead of “H2 between Golders Green Station and “. ➑️
London Bus Pal

London Bus Pal v20.8.2

  • Some small tweaks to the look and feel for screen to make everything fit 🐘
  • Changed the wording of “approaching” to “due” for buses πŸ“
  • A few small fixes where things would get “stuck” as loading and never complete βŒ›
  • A fix for version 20.8.1 where stops with no buses due would break the app πŸ”₯ (sorry!!!)
  • In the settings, you can change the colour scheme away from the default red (blue and purple) – I actually really like the blue! 🌈
London Bus Pal

London Bus Pal v20.7.3

Several changes in this release: β€’

  • Updated the home screen so buttons fit better on the screen 🏠
  • Moved the bus to show “additional bus info” to be a floating button ℹ️
  • You now have the ability to send suggestions for updates to bus data πŸ“
  • Ads should no longer interfere with the menu πŸ“΅
  • Fixed a bug where an error would appear if you go into the “remove ads” screen multiple times πŸ›
  • Fixed a bug where you could not view the details of buses which are not in service β›”
London Bus Pal

London Bus Pal v20.7.2

  • You can now back up your favourites and other settings to the cloud and restore it on another device (requires sign in through the settings menu) πŸ’Ύ (this is not yet automated!)
  • Fixed an issue where you could only pay me once to remove ads (you should now be able to do this multiple times) πŸ’°
London Bus Pal

London Bus Pal v20.7.1

  • Fixed an issue where the time would not show fully on all devices if using the “Toggle countdown” functionality ⏰
  • Updated the journey planner to use a more modern map style πŸ—ΊοΈ
  • For speed and efficiency, made the download file even smaller πŸ—œοΈ
  • Fixed a small typo in the GDPR consent screen (it was showing \n instead of starting a new paragraph) πŸ“‘
  • Removed support for Android 4 🍫

I have made the decision to remove support for Android 4 altogether. I used to keep a really old version of the app around (from 2018) for older versions of Android, but it has become nearly impossible to support, even in the new app framework. It is not easy to find test devices and many users would give bad ratings for the app when it was unfortunately the really old software causing the issues, rather than my app.

London Bus Pal

London Bus Pal v20.6.1

Some small updates:

  • Added in a section for bus routes which start with the letter ‘P’ 🚌
  • Speed and efficiency improvements to give you the best experience possible ⏰
Development London Bus Pal

What’s been happening?

I haven’t written any posts for a while, but you will notice that there have been some updates to the app. Life started getting really busy from October, but things seem to have stabilised a bit now so that I can try and find a balance between life and my app.

My posts are mainly to try and give people a bit of an insight into what goes on behind the scenes of London Bus Pal. Here’s what you need to know:

  • I have a day job which is not developing a mobile app
  • I work on London Bus Pal in the evenings, mornings before work and weekends (but I have taken long breaks at times when I just get too busy at work)
  • I do not make enough money from the app to not have to work a day job
  • If I could, I would work on the app full-time, because I have so many ideas but just not enough time to implement them

That’s all for now. Always happy to correspond over email!

London Bus Pal

London Bus Pal v20.2.2

  • Updated the way the app displays errors when TfL has scheduled maintenance 😑
  • Improved the look of the toggle countdown time displays ⏰
  • Added in some “secret” swipe gestures – you can swipe left or right to get additional information:
    • Swipe the stop name left or right when viewing stops to see the 5 digit stop code. 🚏
    • Swipe the destination of a bus to see the bus registration number 🚌
  • Better handling when the app loses connectivity to the internet 🌐
  • A few small bug fixes 🐞

London Bus Pal

London Bus Pal v20.2.1

Next update to make things better.

  • β€’ Added in toggle function to switch between countdown and ETA view ⏰
  • Added in option to show fleet number by default when looking at buses (changed in settings) 🚌
  • Improvements to make the app as small as possible πŸ—œοΈ
  • Updates to the platform and libraries I use to ensure that the app is as stable as possible. πŸ“š