Business update – stopped doing Facebook ads

Here’s another update on how my business is doing.

Key Metrics

I noticed that I stopped learning from my clients so I stopped Facebook advertising. I was paying about $1.80 per install so it wasn’t sustainable anyway.

The app has about 40 daily active users and 30 premium subscribers.

I keep hiring writers for the Trail Navigator Victoria blog. I use the Airtasker website for that.

The number of visitors coming from Google Search is not growing, unfortunately. This chart shows number of clicks from Google per day:

My biggest challenge right now is getting feedback from my clients to understand how to make the app better. I sent a survey to 100 people using in-app support chat and got zero response. I also sent emails to people that installed the app and signed up for an account but nobody responded. My next idea is to talk to people I meet on the hikes – to understand their frustrations when it comes to planning and going on a walk.


Business update – premium subscribers and SEO

Here’s an update on how my business is doing.

Key Metrics

On average, 150 people install the Trail Navigator Victoria app per week. Most installs are from Facebook and Google ads. Activation means that a person selected a walk after installing the app. Retention is the count of people that selected a walk in 1 week or later.

Premium Subscriptions

I also gathered subscription data from Google Play and Apple App Store. This chart shows how many people started trial premium subscriptions, week by week. It also shows how many people cancelled their premium subscription:

Trail Navigator Victoria has 24 premium subscribers at the moment.

The app started getting reviews on Google Play Store. Here’s a recent one:

1.5x the price of Trailforks but less functionality. If Trailforks didn’t exist, I’d be all over this, it’s really not bad.

I asked that user which functionality he missed from the Trail Navigator Victoria app but unfortunately he did not respond.

I put my efforts into Search Engine Optimization (SEO). I added national parks pages to the Trail Navigator Victoria website, for example Wilsons Promontory National Park. I also added pages for Melbourne suburbs and towns in Victoria. Each page has a list of walks in nature nearby, for example Ballarat Central. Traffic from Google is slowly growing:

I also hire writers for the Trail Navigator blog. Here’s a recent blog post by Sarah Thompson: Tower Hill Nature Reserve

Thanks for reading!

Tracking key metrics in Trail Navigator Victoria app

I finally got around to track activation and retention for my Trail Navigator app. I was tracking acquisitions only before (number of people that installed the app).

I decided to define activation as someone opening a walk on the same day as he installs the app. Retention is the number of users that opened a walk in the app in 1 week or later.

Each group of columns represents a weekly cohort of users. For example in the week starting 30 January 150 people opened the app for the first time. Among those people 105 opened a walk on the same day (activations). 17 out of those  people came back to the app in a week or more and opened a walk.

As you can see the retention rate is quite low. I’m not sure what to do about it yet. I made viewing the current location on the map (blue dot) and getting directions to the starting point (using Google Maps) premium features recently (end of January 2023). Perhaps people don’t see enough value in free features? I’m going to show my app to people that like walks in nature and ask.

Premium subscription is $4.99 per month or $44.99 per year with 1-week free trial. Right now I have 12 premium subscribers.

New App – Trail Navigator Victoria

I’m working on a new mobile app now – Trail Navigator Victoria. It helps people that love walking in nature to explore the best walks in Victoria, Australia.

This is how the idea for the app was born: we would go for a walk with our children. We would often miss a turn or take a wrong turn and would have to go back. Also, kids would ask me all the time ‘How much further?’ and I didn’t have the answer.

Initially I wanted the app to help to create a route and then follow it but after talking to some potential clients I noticed that people are interested in good, pre-defined routes. So I created an app that shows a map of Victoria with walks as pins on the map:

I released the app in November 2021.

I’m getting about 150 downloads per week:

I’m running ads on Facebook and Google to get those installs.

The app is free but it has an optional paid premium subscription. It allows you to:

  • Use the app offline
  • Get an alert if you stray away from the route for more than 100 meters
  • Get rid of ads

At the moment I have 6 premium subscribers. The ads brought just $3 for December.

My goal is to bring the revenue from the app to at least $100 per month by the end of 2023.

You can get the app from Trail Navigator Victoria website.

Calling PureJPEG and PngCrush from Far Manager

I like to keep images that I upload to blog and websites small and free of metadata (EXIF etc). PureJPEG and PngCrush are two tools that help me to reduce image file size without affecting quality.

I invoke them from Far Manager using F2 user menu:

Far Manager user menu

Here’s how to configure it:

  1. Press F2 to open user menu.
  2. Press Insert key. Select ‘Insert Command’.
  3. Enter ‘j’ as hotkey, ‘PureJpeg’ as label and the following as command:
    “C:\Small Programs\PureJpeg\purejpeg.exe” “!.!”
  4. Press OK to save
Far Manager command to invoke PureJPEG

Far Manager replaces “!.!” with selected file name in double quotes.

I keep small apps and tools in ‘Small Programs’ folder. You might have them somewhere else.

Follow the same procedure for PNG Crush. Use this command:

"C:\Small Programs\Pngcrush\pngcrush.exe" -ow "!.!"

Note the -ow switch – it tells pngcrush to overwrite the source PNG file.

Now you can compress an image file losslessly by simply selecting it in Far Manager, pressing F2 and selecting PureJpeg or PngCrush.

Folder Shortcuts in Far Manager

You can quickly jump to your favorite folders in Far Manager by pressing right Control + 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and so on.

Adding a shortcut is very simple:

  1. Go to your favorite folder in Far Manager
  2. Press Ctrl + Shift + 1 (or 2, 3, 4, 5, …)

Now you can press right Ctrl + 1 to jump to that folder.

You can view all your folder shortcuts by pressing F9 to open the top menu, then C to open Commands submenu, then D:

I have right Ctrl + 1 assigned to my temp folder, I gave it 1Temp name so that it’s always on top and also to remind me that it has 1 as shortcut. Usually I put there files and folders that I’m going to upload somewhere. I train myself to delete everything from that folder from time to time.

You can assign more than folder to a single shortcut. In this case Far Manager would show you a menu with all folders when you press that shortcut. I have folders that I use from time to time assigned to right Ctrl + 0 (zero). Typically they are so deep in the file system that it would be too long to navigate there the normal way:

Folder shortcuts menu in Far Manager

How to Start Beyond Compare from Far Manager

Beyond Compare is an excellent tool for comparing files and folders. I use it most often during software development.

My weapon of choice for file operations is Far Manager so I decided to make launching Beyond Compare fast and painless. After some experimentation I settled on creating bc.cmd in C:\Program Files\Far Manager folder:

@start "" "C:\Program Files\Beyond Compare 4\BComp.exe" %*

Note the empty string as the first argument to the start command: it wouldn’t work properly without it since the full path to BComp.exe has double quotes.

Now I can compare files from Far Manager by typing

bc file1.txt file2.txt

Usually I use Ctrl+F shortcut to insert full path to the selected file in Far Manager.

Comparing Folders

My next idea was to use some keyboard shortcut to compare Far Manager’s left and right panels. Both Far Manager and Beyond Compare have 2 panels so it’s natural to open and compare folders:

Here’s how to set it up:

  1. Press Ctrl+. to start recording a macro
  2. Type bc, then space, then press Ctrl+[ to insert path to the left folder, then space again, then Ctrl+]
  3. Press Enter. This should launch Beyond Compare. Close it and go back to Far Manager.
  4. Press Ctrl+. to stop recording the macro
  5. Press Ctrl+B to assign a hotkey:

Voila! Now you can press Ctrl+B to launch Beyond Compare and compare folders that you have open in Far Manager. Normally Ctrl+B turns on and off the key bar at the bottom of the window but I never do it. You can still turn it off by opening Options menu, then Interface settings:

Don’t forget to save settings by pressing Ctrl+F9. Happy comparing!

USB eXtensible Host Controller Preventing Computer from Sleeping

Recently I noticed that my desktop computer didn’t go to sleep automatically. I have Windows 10.

As an experiment, I manually put my computer to sleep by opening Start menu, clicking Power button, then Sleep:

My computer went to sleep for about 5 seconds and then woke up without me doing anything.

Common advice to troubleshoot Windows sleep problems is to use powercfg -lastwake command. Here’s the output that I received:

Wake History Count - 1
Wake History [0]
  Wake Source Count - 1
  Wake Source [0]
    Type: Device
    Instance Path: PCI\VEN_8086&DEV_A36D&SUBSYS_50071458&REV_10\3&11583659&0&A0
    Friendly Name: Intel(R) USB 3.1 eXtensible Host Controller - 1.10 (Microsoft)
    Description: USB xHCI Compliant Host Controller
    Manufacturer: Generic USB xHCI Host Controller

Why would Intel(R) USB 3.1 eXtensible Host Controller wake up my computer? I was stuck trying to figure that out. Then I saw a post on Super User website and realized: it’s actually one of USB devices connected to USB host controller that wakes my computer up!

I opened Device Manager and switched view to ‘Devices by connection’:

I had 4 USB devices connected to the host controller:

  • Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse
  • Webcam

I bought UPS not long ago so most likely it was the actual culprit. To confirm I disconnected it from my computer and put it to sleep again. This time it stayed asleep as intended. Mystery solved.

In the end I decided to keep UPS disconnected from my computer. Initially I connected it using USB cable so that Windows 10 would automatically hibernate if there is power loss. I’d love to figure out how to configure Windows so that it goes to sleep after 15 minutes of inactivity but wakes up if there is power loss, wait for 1 minute and then hibernates by dumping all memory to disk.

Christmas Spike

There was a spike in the number of people that installed the app at around Christmas time:
4,626 people installed the app and signed up for a new account in the week starting December 23. That’s a record week! I think this is because many parents buy Amazon Fire tablets as a Christmas gift for their children and then look for YouTube Kids app there. It is still unavailable on Amazon App Store so they try alternatives. Few people asked me if there is a Spanish version of the app (in Spanish). A couple of parents suggested to make it work on Fire TV. Most of recent reviews on Amazon App Store have been positive. Example:
Way better than YouTube Kids. I love how I can choose the channels beforehand and I love how it shows what content is featured on the channel so I can see what to add and avoid. I recently, shared this app to my friends on Facebook after they stated they removed kids YouTube off their child’s iPad/tablet due to “sneaky” inappropriate content hidden amongst kids videos and they are happy. I love how I know exactly what my girls are accessible because I chose it. I also like how I can control it from my own personal device and it syncs to their personal profiles and the other time limit features.

There are still 1-star reviews – parents are not happy that they have to pay to get past limitations of free version. Example:
It’s a knock off version of youtube kids you have to pay for to fully unlock more than 5 channels.
You can read more reviews on Amazon website. I decided to bring back 7-day free trial of premium subscription – I noticed that fewer people were starting premium but the churn rate remained the same. Also, I moved Lock button on top of the video in the parent mode. I received several questions via support chat on how to lock videos. The problem was that the button was far down below the video and it wasn’t obvious that you had to scroll to see it.



Improved UX Design

I hired a designer to improve user experience (UX) of Safe Vision app. Fabio did a great job at making the app to behave more logical and look more professional (click for larger image):
The onboarding process flows better now, I believe:
Also I made a fairly big change of removing all pre-approved videos.
That part of setup was confusing for many parents. Here are 2 examples of support requests I received via in-app chat:
This is a frustrating app. It asked my child’s age but didn’t tell me it was unlocking hundreds of thousands of channels. Now I can’t figure out how to get rid of them! I want to lock everything and just add the ones that I want.

Can I block all the preapproved channels at once? I don’t want them. I hate to go through and lock them all individually. This is the difference between keeping or quitting service. I just want to manually unlock channels, but my child keeps getting onto the ones you have preloaded.

I was monitoring closely app reviews and support chat to check the impact of that change. Also I conducted a couple of user testing sessions. So far nobody complained about missing those pre-approved videos. However I’m going to think how to bring that feature back, perhaps in a different reincarnation.

Key Metrics

Number of people that install the app (acquisitions) is declining and I don’t know why. Most of my clients come from Amazon App Store and it doesn’t provide information on how people find the app. Also, activation rate is still low – about 25% of people that install the app start using it. I’m getting about 45 new premium subscribers per week now:

Updated App Description

I changed the app description on Google Play and Apple App Store as an experiment. It is more geared towards parents that want to let their children to watch educational videos now. Kylie helped me with the new description.