Update: (April 2011) The app is no longer available
My last post was a bit of a clue, but I still thought it was worth a mini-announcement that “UK Traffic Checker” is now available in the Android Market.
I wrote about the basic idea for the app when I first hacked it together, but to summarise it’s a mobile app that checks for roadworks or other traffic incidents on UK roads for a specific journey. Tell it two places, it will work out the route between them, and check that route for known problems.
And if you give it your schedule, it can automatically check traffic for you – with support for both one-off and repeating journeys. So if you have a regular commute, you can give it the details and it will check your route to work for you in the morning while you get ready, without you needing to remember to ask.
Between starting a project for a new client at work last month, and getting distracted (like the goldfish that I am!) with other bits and pieces, I kinda forgot about this code after starting it last month.
But a bunch of people were kind enough to give the app a test, and gave me a lot of useful feedback. So last night, after a well-timed prod from Ben, I had a go at writing a “release version” that reflected the feedback I got.
It’s worth mentioning some of it here, because (although I said at the time that my last effort was focused on getting the engine working, rather than the UI) there were some good points raised that I was very grateful for:
The original app relied on users typing in addresses. That still plays a part, but you can now check routes without typing a single letter. For example, there is a shortcut key for “Home” – most of my routes go to or from my home, so instead of typing my address every time, I can just tap the “house” icon. There is a button to reverse the ‘from’ and ‘to’ locations, so you can plan a return journey without having to copy and paste. And there are a bunch of shortcuts to copy scheduled journeys or previously checked journeys, so you can check again without needing to enter all the details in again.
For journeys from where you are, to somewhere else, you used to have to type in your address. Now you can just tap the location button, and the app will use your current location.
The original app had a simple front-screen, with buttons to take you to each of the different functions. That makes sense from a desktop perspective, but for a mobile app, it’s another barrier between the user and what they want to achieve. So I moved the most common function (checking traffic now – the action that a user is most likely to be in a hurry to perform) to the front screen. As soon as you launch the app, you can start checking traffic, without having to navigate to a different screen.
No more auto-complete text box
The auto-complete text box seemed to piss a few people off. Including me. It was way too big, took up far too much of the screen, kept popping up when you didn’t actually want it, and pretty much ignored what you were typing in. So I did away with it, and now a tap on the history button pops up a scrolling list of previous locations to choose from.
Scrolling text boxes bad, multiline better
A small point, but still an important one, I feel. The original app had single-line text boxes – if you typed an address that was too long for them, it would scroll horizontally. This meant you often couldn’t see the whole address at once. Now, the text box wraps, and reflows the UI – moving everything else down as necessary. I think it works better this way.
After all of these, and a few more more subtle changes that were suggested, the app was finally ready to share.
If you have an Android phone and are based in the UK, please do give it a try (Android link only – or just search the Market for ‘dale lane’).