Running Mate – Incoming Design Improvements in v5

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.

Image(Main screen with no data in v4.1)

Image(Main screen with data in v4.1)

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!

Image(Main screen with no data in v5.0)

Image(Main screen with data in v5.0)

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:

Image(New workout view and the brand new lock screen in v5.0)

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.


Regarding “High Accuracy Mode” in Running Mate

With v3.0 I’ve made “Running Mate” use only high accuracy coordinates from GPS. This resulted in some people not being able to use the app for tracking. Since the OS was ignoring coordinates returned by triangulation or Wifi, the app ignored them. This would be most probably fine if you used it out in the open but some users start or stop their run where GPS signals are weak. Users of pre-v3.0 were frustrated because all previous versions didn’t have this limitation.

Now with v3.2 I am introducing “High Accuracy Mode” which will enforce high accuracy coordinates. By default the app will use any GPS coordinates returned by the phone but if you want to make sure you only use high accuracy coordinates (like in v3.0) then you will have to enable that option in settings. This way the users will know that they are running the app in high accuracy mode hence their run will not track where GPS strength is low. This is also useful where you go through a lot of tunnels or places with low GPS strength. High Accuracy Mode will only take the coordinate before you entered the tunnel and after you came out instead of trying to triangulate when you were inside the tunnel.

To make this even more clear I have added a GPS strength indicator bar in Run View so you can see why your coordinates are being ignored. Hope this clears up a lot of issues users reported post v3.0 release.

SkyDrive support FAQs

A lot of the beta testers are asking questions around SkyDrive support so I have decided to put them here:

  1. Can I sync my application configuration?
    No, at this stage only your workouts will be saved.
  2. How can I delete a run already synced to SkyDrive?
    You can log onto SkyDrive website or use the Windows Phone app to locate your run. All workouts are saved as XML files with *.nmo3 extension. The name of the file is date and time of workout in UTC. E.g. “2013-06-26 110355-Run.nmo3”
  3. How do I delete all runs from my phone and SkyDrive?
    You can use “remove all runs” from app bar in the phone to delete workouts locally. You can then go to SkyDrive -> NabMo Media -> Running Mate -> Workout History and delete content.
  4. How do I know what Running Mate is saving to my SkyDrive?
    We only save your workout data. Everything is saved in XML format so you can open the files in Notepad or any other text editor. An XML editor is even better!
  5. How much space does it take?
    An hour’s workout normally takes around 250kb data. You can do the maths.
  6. What folder structure can I expect?
    NabMo Media
    :::: Running Mate
    :::: :::: Workout History
    :::: :::: Exports
  7. Why is there an Exports folder?
    For future use.
  8. Can I archive old runs?
    Yes you can. The app doesn’t provide this functionality natively yet but you can easily do that yourself using SkyDrive website or an app. The way I would do it is to keep another folder (perhaps inside Workout History folder) called Archive and move the runs I don’t want to sync. This way when you sync you only sync latest data and the whole process would be much quicker.
  9. Why there is no auto-sync option?
    Currently, the guideline to use SkyDrive from a third party app is to only access a user’s SkyDrive through an explicit action (pressing sync button in this case) so an app accessing your SkyDrive in the background without your action will fail certification. Also, workout data can be big and may add to your mobile phone bill so it’s best to sync when you are using a faster WiFi connection.
  10. I am an XML ninja, can I edit my workouts to remove coordinates I think are potential noise?
    Absolutely, if you are comfortable with XML and you know what you are doing then it shouldn’t be a problem. Keep in mind that the app will not sync your changes if it already has that workout locally. You will need to delete run locally on the phone and sync again to get the latest file from SkyDrive.
  11. Can I convert XML in .nmo3 files to GPX?
    If you know how to do this then you can use XSLT to transform our file to GPX. It is possible though it might be a bit tricky. Btw, we are bringing export functionality soon!

Running Mate – Reported Issues

Thanks for being part of Running Mate closed beta. I just wanted to put a list of known issues here so everyone knows about what has been reported so far:

  1. Some issue in distance calculation. Less distance is being reported.
  2. Some flip buttons in settings use wrong colour.
  3. Some Nokia Lumia 620 users reported blank screen issue. The app doesn’t launch.
  4. Some medals are showing wrong values. Probably related to distance calculation issue (1).
  5. Help page is empty.
  6. Missing Imperial Units.
  7. Split page in settings doesn’t do anything.
  8. Changing Tile settings doesn’t make any difference.