Being lost on a street is mostly inconvenient, but being lost in the woods can sometimes be a risk to your life if you’ve been injured or are very far out with few supplies.
It can also be very difficult for first responders to find people who need rescuing if they lack modern tools we tend to take for granted.
Jason Gunar, founder of TrailView (pictured below), is an avid trail rider, and he saw that there was a problem that needed solving, yet there existed no good solution.
So Jason set out to create an application that gave trail riders the power of GPS and mapping technology so that you never get lost or miss trails again while off-roading.
Jason reached out to us to build him a mobile application.
There were lots of challenges!
Many of the places where folks ride the trails are completely bereft of cellular coverage. This means that all TrailView maps have to be available for download.
Not just that, as administrator and map creator, Jason needed to be able to create maps while offline and later upload the created maps to the server so that users can purchase the map.
The thing that really differentiates TrailView is the high quality maps that Jason creates from real GPS coordinates while riding the trail himself. The app tracks his journey and that becomes the map he sells.
Jason also needs to be able to make changes to a map while offline.
All of this offline work required synchronization with the server, network detection and lots of careful attention to detail to get it right.
Showing a map on a device requires access to some very sophisticated software and understanding of things like extents, layers, projections, data tile or image tile, and the differences between the WGS and EPSG standards and what that means relative to sourcing data for various software frameworks.
In short, the science of presenting data points in a way that provides spatial meaning around the curved surface of the Earth is a big and complicated discipline.
Understanding how to use data in various formats, like GPX and KML and translating GPS coordinates into an accurate place on a graphic image of a small section of the Earth is non-trivial.
Even after so many people have created very helpful software frameworks to help us, it remains a challenging task.
Prior to this project, we had no experience in this area!
Of course, it was imperative that we provide implementations for Android and iOS. We used a modern approach of building against a single source code base for the two platforms.
This is pretty easy for software that isn’t accessing so many native features like TrailView does (e.g., GPS, file system, push notifications, and in-app purchases to name a few). Each operating system requires its own software to access these capabilities. They often have their own versions. This can be very complicated to manage well.
By the way, we host the software on our own server. From there, we serve up maps to users who have purchased said maps. Of course, we also record these purchases there.
TrailView has thousands of happy customers who rely on TrailView to:
My initial search for a developer was admittedly pretty stressful. I was very confident my idea could be a winner if executed properly but with a total lack of technical knowledge and limited funds it was quiet overwhelming.
While researching app development I came across many horror stories of overseas developers taking the money and running, or holding apps hostage for ransom once profitable. So I decided I would not move forward without someone local. I needed a face behind the emails and a handshake when signing the contract, as this would account for my life savings.
In the early stages of discussion, it was clear Eric knew his stuff. Communication went well, despite my total lack of technical knowledge and lingo. Eric was able to explain things I could never understand, with great patience for my tech ignorance, while taking in my vision for the app.
I had worked on proposals with 3 other developers before Eric, and was strongly considering giving up on the idea. No one seemed to grasp my idea and no one was able to instill confidence in their ability to make it happen.
Working with Eric on the TrailView project was, and is, a pleasure. His ability to make my ideas come to life, plus his input on new and better ideas is what made TrailView a success. Communication is spot on and nearly instant. From the early development stages to the many changes and upgrades he is always on top of it while keeping me in the loop. Now that the app is up and running his technical support is amazing. He has jumped on top of or in front of any problems, day, night, weekend and even a holiday or two.
Despite the fact 99% of our interaction is via email I feel we have gotten to know each other on a personal level over the last 3 years.
To sum up from where this started to now is pretty simple. In the beginning this was just a little idea. Many friends and family thought it was kind of silly to invest in it. I was overwhelmed and a little scared.
Since then, thanks to Eric's skills and hard work, I've been able to turn my hobby into a successful business. I've gone on dozens of trips to ride some of the most beautiful trail systems and call it work with a straight face!
TrailView is definitely a success. It has become nearly passive income with the only real work being what I've considered vacation in the past (riding trails).
I couldn't be happier having Software Prophets in my corner. The app is exactly what I hoped for. It is super simple for users which was a huge deal to me. 99% of users need no explanation on how to use the app. With thousands of users buying higher priced in-app purchases I can count the number of refund requests on my fingers. Eric's patience and support has been second to none. His creative suggestions have made for a better product, by far. I'm sure it was and is a great challenge to work on a project of this scope with someone as technically handicapped as I am. Eric has made it possible for me to do everything necessary with me having zero computer skills. I'm able to do everything on my phone!