Development London Bus Pal

Summer update for London Bus Pal

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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!

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1 month ago

Another great write-up Pieter! Have you considered adding bus crowding?

Reply to  Ryan
1 month ago

I have, but I would have no idea where to begin other than sourcing the data myself!