Glow, pace yourself
I participated in a triathlon in June after not racing for three years, it was just a small and lighthearted sprint course, and it felt like something I was still in good enough shape to just do on a whim.
Even though I didn’t set any personal goals going into the race, I found myself curious to see how I did compared to my previous races. I wasn’t the only one, my friends who were with me were all anxious to see how they had done right after the race, it didn’t matter if it was their first race, or if they were seasoned racers, we just wanted to know how we did.
It was that recent experience that lead me to create this minimal apple watch application — Glow, an app that allows you to pace yourself with as little work as possible.
The idea is simple, the app would record your pace for any activity, compare it to your current pace, and provide you with feedback — you’re on pace, you’re ahead, or behind.
The way pacing works is a simple distance covered versus time taken to cover that distance, presented as a minutes per mile. That way there is no longer a distinction between activities, be it a bike ride or a cross country ski; allowing the app to be a handy companion for anyone.
Of all the factors that I was most concerned about while building Glow, the most important for me was the feedback the user received. I wanted the feedback received to be as minimal as possible, I had learnt from talking to athletes that feedback is great, but too much feedback is the same as no feedback at all. So I set out to present the user with a simple piece of feedback they can digest while they’re focused in an activity.
A full screen of color was the solution, it’s a full screen of color, green means you’re ahead of pace, blue means you’re on pace, and red means you’re behind pace.
My original intention was for the screens to be just one color, with no other information, I felt that having nothing else available would allow the user to focus on the activity and the app wouldn’t get in the way. But after rounds of user testing it was clear that users would rather have some information available if they want it than none at all.
A few other features were considered while I was designing the app, but after rounds of user testing and need finding I decided that only two functions were necessary to support the pace indicating colored screens.
The first function is the ability for the user to input a route, this allows the user to set a pace, and use it as a benchmark for future activities.
The second function is to record a pace, the user simply starts recording at the beginning of the activity, and end recording at the end, the app will calculate and save the pace.
The design of the user interface is intentionally lighthearted, most of the existing technologies in this vertical are very serious, and can be quite intimidating. While the original goal was for the app the help triathletes pace themselves, I’ve designed an app that is simplistic and accessible for anyone, from the seasoned athlete, to someone that’s looking to start training for something.