How Mandarin Blueprint got happier and higher-converting students by using Traverse flashcards - while saving the team valuable time

Dominic Zijlstra
Dominic Zijlstra
Publish date
Dec 19, 2022
Mandarin Blueprint used Traverse to offer an easy-to-use and highly converting flashcard experience to their students, saving the team a lot of time and frustration dealing with software
  • Traverse saved Mandarin Blueprint executives 3 hours a week and countless frustrations
  • Their students are much happier with the Traverse flashcard experience
  • Traverse removed the #1 reason preventing Mandarin Blueprint trial customers from converting to a paid plan

Executive Summary

Mandarin Blueprint faced some though issues with their online Chinese course. Customers were dropping off because of the complexities involved with their flashcard practice, and managing and updating the flashcards was a nightmare for the team, resulting in a lot of customer complaints and frustration.
Traverse worked with Mandarin Blueprint to move their flashcards over to Traverse, giving all students the same streamlined experience. They’re now able to centrally manage content and instantly update it for all students. Tech issues have almost disappeared, and any remaining tech support is completely handled by Traverse.
Once they started using Traverse as their flashcard solution, customer satisfaction and conversion instantly improved. Also, the team has freed up a lot of time to focus on things like growing the business. And most importantly, all of the frustration from broken tech is gone, and has improved their mood and joy of work.

Meet Phil from Mandarin Blueprint

Phil Crimmins founded Mandarin Blueprint in 2016 together with his business partner Luke. While they were learning Chinese themselves, they got frustrated by the limitations of existing apps and courses like DuoLingo or ChinesePod.
This led them to develop a complete bottom-up Mandarin Chinese learning method. Their goal is to get as many people as possible interested in learning Chinese, and to make Mandarin Blueprint the standard for Chinese learning.
They started by live teaching, before finally completing their online video course. In just a few years the company grew to around 20 employees.
Phil now focuses mostly on the product side, and loves to work with great people on an exciting mission.
Mandarin Blueprint
Product used
Flashcard software


In the Mandarin Blueprint method, the learner starts with pronunciation and radicals, then learns the characters, then the words and finally full sentences and stories.
Each layer builds on top of the previous. It’s a lot of content to remember, with many complex connections.
To ensure each layer is deeply learned and understood, spaced repetition software is necessary. This lets the learner review materials at the optimal time using flashcards, to build their memory and understanding.
Mandarin Blueprint initially used Anki as their spaced repetition software. It was what Phil used personally in his Chinese learning journey, and it was open source and free (except for a paid iPhone app).
But when using it with their online course, issues soon started to arise. The very fact that it was open source, meant that their intellectual property was not protected. So they didn’t give away as much as their content on the flashcards as they’d have liked to.
The issue that impacted the business most severely however, was the issue of updating, improving or adding content. With Anki, updating the flashcards was a painful and time-consuming process:
  1. The master deck needs to be re-exported
  1. It needs to be re-uploaded to the website
  1. The new version needs to be announced
  1. Every student needs to download it, and re-import it into their Anki
Inevitably there would be people with technical problems, resulting in many tech support requests which were painful, frustrating and time-consuming to handle (even after the team had created long tutorials to explain how to use Anki).
“I had to try to figure things out on my own, and then eventually sometimes have to send them to Anki support which was a real pain.” - Phil
A third reason Anki was frustrating to work with was that the software is not user-friendly. The flashcards software became the main reason Mandarin Blueprint customers didn’t convert to a paid subscription after a trial.
“The number one reason why people did not continue with Mandarin Blueprint? The problem was Anki - they couldn’t get the flashcards to work the way they wanted to” - Phil
They reached out to several companies, but none of them could offer a solution that was both sufficiently customizable for the user, as well as controllable from the admin side.
Then an acquaintance told them about Traverse. When they got on a call with Traverse, they were relieved at the can-do attitude. Once they saw first results actually being delivered, it was a big stress relief.


All of the Mandarin Blueprint Anki flashcard decks were imported into Traverse. Automations were set up to give (and revoke) student access to the decks. Changes are immediately synced to all students. From the admin side, updating content and changing templates has become quick and painless.
“All of these problems were solved instantly with Traverse. If I make a change to one of the flashcards, it populates all the decks and I don't have to re-export and get a bunch of tech questions. And Traverse is much easier to use to begin with, so there are fewer tech questions at all. Even if there are, we have direct access to Dominic and Traverse, which takes care of the whole customer service side of it.. I've saved a huge amount of hours which frees me up to do lots of other things.” - Phil
The user-friendly interface also meant students were much happier. Whereas before Anki was the #1 reason people didn’t convert, Phil says: “We haven’t had a single customer say they didn’t convert because of Traverse. Traverse took away the single biggest thing that was blocking our conversion rate. If anything, we now have students commenting on how much they like the flashcard software! It’s so much easier to begin with”.
“Traverse removed the single biggest thing that was blocking our conversion rate. If anything, we now have students commenting on how much they like the flashcard software! It’s so much easier to begin with” - Phil
The students’ flashcard practice now completely takes care of itself. The student signs up for the Mandarin Blueprint course, gets access to the flashcards on Traverse, and can watch their videos in parallel with the corresponding flashcard practice.


Traverse has freed up 2-3 hours a week of time for both founders, as well as assistant time. But more importantly, it saved the frustration of having to deal with software that’s incomprehensible and with customer requests that are about tech rather than about Chinese.
“We saved between my business partner and I two or three hours a week. And just the amount of time I didn't have to spend updating tutorials would have been another 20 hours. And it's not just the time, it's also the frustration. I don't know why it's not working for someone and then you have to get on a call and maybe the call is a half hour and you have to pull up a screenshare.. So yeah, a few hours a week, but also just pain and suffering. So there's a degree of that being relieved.” - Phil
The team now has time to research and learn new things, become better at marketing and create new content.
“With the time we’ve been saving, we are making more content, making more courses, managing the team and getting them to work on lots of different stuff, researching new things ourselves, learning new things that we need to become better at business.” - Phil
Conversion rates have also improved, as Traverse removed the single biggest thing blocking conversion. Student satisfaction has gone from frustrated with flashcard to delighted with flashcards.
“This is so much better than Anki”, was frequently heard customer feedback.
“Conversion rates must have gone up.. All of the complaints that Anki is the reason they didn't convert disappeared overnight.. nobody is saying Traverse is the reason that they don't convert. So that's a real relief from that perspective.” - Phil


By implementing Traverse as their flashcard solution, Mandarin Blueprint were able to save time and frustration, and focus on growing their business instead. They also have happier and higher-converting customers, and their intellectual property is in safe hands.
Mandarin Blueprint and Traverse are now looking into further cooperation, for example to offer flashcards for a language immersion course they are planning to launch soon.
👉 If your company or online course is looking to offer students a highly sticky flashcards/concept maps/study notes experience, let’s have a quick 15 minute call to see if Traverse is the right solution for you.

About us

Traverse is a learning tool which helps students learn better using scientific learning techniques. Our values are simplicity, lifelong learning, joy and beauty. We’ve helped over 10.000 people learn better so far, learning languages, medicine, law and other subjects.
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