London Bus Pal

Devastation of bad reviews

Reviews on the Google Play store since the release of London Bus Pal 4 has been disappointing (it has only been four days since release, but the reviews have been generally negative). At least it feels that way!

I have been moping around all day and I have lost all motivation to improve things.

Six reviews in and my average is 2.5 stars – the last six reviews of version 3.2.11 average 4.67 stars. Bad reviews really hit me hard, because I spend a lot of time thinking about my users and what they would want. I am constantly told by my advertising provider that I can make so much more money with interstitial ads, but I refuse, because I would never want to annoy a user.

As I am full-time employed, I can only work on my app in my free time. This takes quite a lot of energy at times, especially if all I want to do is take some time out. But when users are facing issues, I want to fix it for them.

There is also an unfortunate problem with the rating system. As it stands, anything which is not a 5 star rating, takes my average down. I don’t necessarily agree that every rating should be 5 stars, but I always think about what those 4 star ratings are doing to my average. That said, I am thankful for those 4 star ratings!

Because of the large number of apps on the Google Play store which are of poor quality or just plainly unusable, I feel that giving me a 1 star review is comparing me to those publishers.

How do I rate other apps?

Given that we only have 5 stars to play with, there isn’t too much scope to play with, so the difference between poor quality apps and good apps is quite small. Here is my baseline for rating apps:

  • 1 star – the app does not do what it is meant to do
  • 2 stars – the app is clearly missing much functionality or bugs / poor usability get in the way of full use
  • 3 stars – the app does most of what it is meant to do, but with some missing functionality or poor usability hindering use
  • 4 stars – the app does what it is meant to do but for whatever reason I couldn’t give it 5 stars (usually a crash or frustrating usability)
  • 5 stars – the app does exactly what I want it to do

Those are my baselines and I would then subtract stars for negative issues such as crashing, excessive battery usage, unneccessary permission requests, excessive advertising or deceptive practices.

London Bus Pal

Map views are here!!

I was hoping to get this out there quicker, but rather late then never!

This week I added some map views of all the data to London Bus Pal.  There are four “distinct” views of data in the application, but only three maps are interesting (seeing a single bus stop isn’t the most interesting view!).

Multi-stop view

If you switch to the map view from a list with multiple bus stops on, you will get a view similar to this.  It shows you markers of all the stops near you with their “letter” indicators on, it there are any.  This is a really useful view to see any bus stops in the area or near somewhere else you might be going (try searching by post code).  Tapping any of the markers will give you the name of the stops and where it goes – if you tap on the information box that appears, you will then be taken to the screen to see the estimated arrival times for all buses serving that stop.


Bus prediction view

The next view that is possible is one showing you a list of all stops for any specific bus over the next 30 minutes and the number on the marker indicates how many minutes the bus is expected to take to get there.


Bus route view

The last view I want to show you, is the bus route view.  This is a calculated route based on all buses for that route over the next 30 minutes showing their stops.  Red markers indicate one direction and blue markers indicate another direction.  The pins are also arranged so that you can get an idea of which way the bus is going (I will add some arrows soon!)


If you don’t have London Bus Pal yet, you can download it from the Google Play Store:


London Bus Pal

Racing the bus by tube!

I travel between Angel and Waterloo on most days. Most of the time, I take the 341 bus, because it always seems quicker than the tube and it’s also a whole lot less fuss. The strange thing is though, when I’m running late, I choose to take the tube, because even though the bus feels quicker, my logic tells me that the tube must be quicker. So I put it to the test this morning.

First, some ground-rules: I always walk as fast as I can without running or being rude (no pushing people out the way). I walk up any moving escalator, and I know my route very well, I take the shortest route to each platform and take the first available train.

  • 09:21: Arrive at Waterloo station. Check the bus will be at stop F in 1 minute – if I want to make it to the bus, I need to get there now, but today, I’m racing the bus instead of taking it.
  • 09:24: I get down to the Waterloo & City line platform with a train ready and waiting for me.
  • 09:29: Arrive at Bank station. At the point I begin to even wonder why I bothered – it all seems to be going quite quick. Unfortunately though, because I jumped straight on the train at Waterloo, I am right at the back of it, so have to fight my way through people to get to the Northern Line.
  • 09:33: I get to the Northern Line platform and I can see the train coming into the platform. Timing has been great this morning for trains, because usually I end up waiting for a few minutes.
  • 09:40: I arrive at Angel station and I am thinking that I am probably way ahead of the bus. Unfrotunately there is only one up escalator, so “traffic” is a bit heavy, but I still make it up in the end.
  • 09:43: I walk out of Angel tube station and open up my app to check where the bus is. I look across the road and think “No! This only happens in movies and documentaries.” – I’m assuming this will be a different bus, but I check the registration number and it is – the bus beat me to Angel station!

The benefits of the bus far outweigh taking the tube every day. Firstly, I’ve just proved that it’s faster for me to get across central London by bus (obviously, there are many tube routes which are faster – possibly if I tried doing the same starting from Vauxhall, results would be different), I have mobile signal when I’m on the bus – the wifi access on the tube works, but only in stations and I couldn’t pick up any signal at Moorgate station. And then there’s all the stairs and walking, which might be good for some trying to stay healthy, but I really hate getting to work all sweaty and red in the face. And the bus has a view of London! That’s probably the best reason to take the bus.

The above experiment was done using bus times from the London Bus Pal application for Android. You can download it from the Google Play store here:

Take the bus!