Running Mate has gone through 4 major revisions since it was launched in late 2010. If I remember correctly there was only one other run tracking app in the Windows Phone store at that time. The first release of Running Mate was a simple app put together over a weekend. It tracked your run using GPS and then displayed your distance, time, speed and route. The second revision saw addition of many features like noise filtering and performance chart. Nothing major happened for about a year. There were only minor releases with bug fixes and small enhancements. The third major revision was the complete re-development of the app for Windows Phone 8 using features like background location tracking, large live tiles and Nokia HERE maps. The fourth revision added features like SkyDrive sync, voice feedback and custom split notifications.
All these revisions provided a leap in functionality but the design of the application was never given full attention. I have been receiving a lot of feedback regarding small annoying things like wrong colours of the flip switches, text alignment, mixed text sizes, etc and so far I have been successful in ignoring them without upsetting most of you. Nevertheless, it has always been an important area for the users and me so when an opportunity came knocking my door to get some expert design feedback I couldn’t let it pass.
Nokia ran a design workshop for Windows Phone apps in their London office few weeks ago and I was lucky enough to be invited to one of the sessions with a UX expert. Nokia had roped in a well known and very helpful design and user experience consultant, Dave Crawford, from Microsoft to help developers get their apps in shape. Dave’s opinion is second to non when it comes to UX and the feedback I received from him has been extremely useful. It was an eye-opener is many ways because the problem wasn’t the major things that I always knew about but the small things that I knew were there but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. There were many actions for me to complete as a result of this exercise but I am glad to report that I have been able to incorporate almost all of the suggestions from the session. I have submitted v5.0 for certification which includes these changes. You can expect to get the update in 5-10 days. I have provided detail of the design changes below comparing the current version with the new one.
That empty space on the first page, blank history list and blank medals list when there is no data or the rectangle in the header is hard to ignore. Also, the medals page is using black on grey which is illegible on OLED screens.
This is how the main screen will look in v5.0 with and without data. Space is utilised properly now and the empty lists are indicated with a message. Oh and now we have a logo!
Dave also provided a great design for a feature that a lot of you have been requesting over the years – a lock screen. Adding lock screen wasn’t an issue but adding a lock screen that blends into the design and feels like a part of a Windows Phone app was the difficult bit. The goal was to provide a lock screen for runners who use arm bands so they can see their progress at a glance and also quickly pause/ resume their workouts. Since this meant keeping the screen on at all time I had to come up with ways to preserve battery life. The result is a handy lock screen that works just like the Windows Phone lock screen and also provides 20-40% better battery performance compared to the old screen on devices with OLED displays. The battery life improvements come from using a black background and some algorithm improvement in how GPS is used. Here is a screenshot of the lock screen in action:
The lock screen uses the same slide upwards gesture that you know and love. I tried to use similar physics and animations to the Windows Phone lock screen but made it a bit stiff to avoid accidental unlocks. You’ll see minor tweaks everywhere in the app. Hope you enjoy the changes. Here are few screen captures showing before and after:
I would like to give a big shout out to Riaz Ahmed (Nokia) and Dave Crawford (Microsoft) for organising these workshops. Riaz is doing an amazing job supporting and promoting Windows Phone developers in the UK. I have learnt things that has not only helped me with Running Mate but with application development in general. I have already started enhancing other apps as a result of the feedback I received during this session.
I hope you enjoy these changes as much as I did implementing them. As always, please use the feedback button if you have any suggestions or issues. Your feedback is what makes Running Mate successful. Thanks again for using and loving Running Mate.