Mar 9, 2011

When Technology Fails, People Die... or just get really, really angry.

Updated: We're back together. I just couldn't stay away. I tried a few runs with the Adidas MiCoach, but in the end I came back to the loving embrace of Nike+ (with Runkeeper as well).

MiCoach is very cool. Although the site is in flash, it has some very robust coaching features. Very flexible and easy to set up. However, the in-run display and app experience were lacking.

The in-run display is the focus for me. I want it to be easy to read and display the information that is most important to me. MiCoach had promise with it's minimalist style, but the contrast was just to hard to read without looking directly at the display. The "Zones" are a great idea but just too hard to target with GPS signal fluctuation and difficult to read at a glance. I have an idea for how to make it more usable but I am saving that for my own app.

The second thing about MiCoach, and something Nike+ suffers from as well, is the number of steps to simply set up a run. Runkeeper excels at this. Open the app and push the green button. That's it. Both MiCoach and Nike+ have multiple step set up procedures that are great if you are doing a certain kind of workout but suck at just quickly getting going.

I learned a lot about what I want from a running app. What I want is a clear, dead simple, in-run display and an app that knows what my goals are and makes it easy to stay on track. None of the apps out there really to those things well and most have some big issues that stand in the way.

I HATE Nike+ for iPhone.

I have logged over 620 miles in to the Nike+ web site. I have become a die hard Nike+ user. I have evangelized it to friends. I have blogged about it.

And most of all, I have looked past it's flaws to see it's beauty. It's true love. The web site is slow, flash-based, and a hodge-podge of un-focused features. But it does something for me. It motivates me. The silly little goals, trophies, and challenges keep me going. Data alone has changed me from a casual runner to a die-hard runner with marathon aspirations. Running with data is a powerful thing.

Even Tracy Morgan's exuberant voice has inspired me. But more and more, the motivational elements have  gotten old. Tracy congratulates me for things that don't matter, or are just wrong:

Tracy says, "You just ran more this week than you did last, dawg!"

"Uh, Tracy... it's Monday."

Or, "You know what? You're changing. You're changing."

"Um, thanks Tracy, but you said that to me 6 months ago and it meant a lot. After 5 times I am beginning to think you don't really mean it."

It's really sad when software is stupid. We can do better.

Now, here is the worst. I am a Green Level runner on Nike+. It's a silly distinction but it has proven to be a great motivator. Especially, as I got closer and closer to the goal of being a blue level runner. A months ago I noticed I only had 70 miles. Hmm, close. I can knock that out easily, I told myself. Last week, I only had 10 miles.

Green UI, Green Runner, only 4 miles to go!

Tuesday morning, I bounced out of bed for an early morning run after a late night (in bed at 1AM). I only had 4 miles to go and I was level Blue. I could see in my head the interface turning blue, fireworks and confetti, maybe Lance Armstrong would send me a special video message.

I kicked out my run, probably a bit faster just because of the excitement, and waited for my run to sync. But something went wrong. The run didn't sync. I tried again, still no joy. I tried again and again and again. I gave the button a little more firm of a touch, maybe I just wasn't pressing the pixels hard enough. But nothing.

I searched the forums and found people who had the same issue. I talked to a friend who said that once the run didn't sync, it never would. I was broken hearted. All that anticipation and nothing. And because of a failure to sync a run? The most basic functionality of the app? I mean, this thing goes to SPACE and tracks where I am down to meters and it can't do this?

After some angry words I got past it. I would just run again. I was going to anyway. The next afternoon I headed out again and busted out another 4.3 miles. I anxiously waited for the run to sync. Syncing, syncing, syncing... fail.

Now I had two runs not synced and still had a Green Level on Of all the times to fail. After 84 hours, 616 miles, 75, 251 calories, and 136 runs, right before a HUGE personal milestone, now Nike+ fails. 

So, I'm done. I'm not using Nike+ again. I love it's motivation (when it's not stupid) and it's in run display but I need consistency and dependability. Along with all the other failures, like not being able to view it on my iPhone or iPad, it just isn't worth my time.

Of course, I am sure I will have issues with other apps. Luckily for me, I am a User Experience Designer and I build apps. Along with a couple of friends I am currently making a pushup app called Pushups Xtreme. It's focused on motivation and simple user experience. With those same principles, and based on the success of our first app, our next project will be a running app.

Goodbye Nike+. And stay tuned.