WKO4: What it Takes to Re-Build and Launch a New Version of Our Market Leading App
A candid look at the monumental effort required to re-write a complex app from the ground up. Twice.
By Gear Fisher
Today we’ve launched a whole new future of innovation in endurance sports software. WKO4 for Mac has arrived and is available now for download. With a 14 day free trial, you can dig deep into your data, experiment with an entirely new set of analytical tools, and visualize your training in ways never before possible. I’ll leave the explanation of the new science to Dr. Coggan, Hunter Allen and others, but I thought you’d appreciate a little history of how we got here, what took so long, and where we’re going with this product.
WKO started it’s life as CyclingPeaks, created in 2003 by Hunter Allen, Kevin Williams, and Dr. Andy Coggan. It was groundbreaking in how it visualized cycling data and it brought new capabilities that simply hadn’t been seen until then. It became the gold standard for analyzing power meter data and is loved by thousands of loyal users. I will never forget when I first saw it and how far ahead of everything else it was, and in many ways still is even to this day. We reached out to Hunter and team to talk about integrating it into our products which led to us acquiring CyclingPeaks and joining forces in 2004. In fact, at the time, we were called TrainingBible, but we renamed the company to TrainingPeaks to incorporate the best of both companies. From there, we renamed the app to WKO+ (wko was the file extension used by the program, loosely meaning “workout”) and we invested in several major feature improvements. For the next six years it served as a cutting-edge desktop app for Windows users which was unequaled by anything on the market.
During those six years the web saw an incredible transformation. Mobile had really started to take off with the iPhone launch in 2007, and by 2009 the TrainingPeaks web-app was growing rapidly. Broadband connectivity was widespread and we were wondering if desktop apps even had a future. In late 2010 we made the last update to WKO+ 3.0 and we were going to let the market decide if desktop apps would have a future.
Fast forward two years and mobile was taking over the world with “apps”. Not just web browsing or web-apps, but native-code apps purpose built for a specific operating system, iOS and Android in particular. The demand for desktop apps was still strong with the Mac App Store, users and businesses alike were realizing the benefits that native app development afforded like improved user interface and pure speed. Also, every app released had some sort of cloud connectivity.
Despite the advances of the web and mobile, we still had a lot of requests for an “offline” app, and especially a “native Mac app”. In mid 2012 Hunter lobbied me to reinvigorate the development of WKO and introduced me to Tim Cusick. They promised to put the original team back together and develop something just as groundbreaking as the original CyclingPeaks. If anyone could do it, it was them. So we formed an exclusive partnership with Peaks Coaching Group to rewrite WKO from the ground up. This was the same team that built the original CyclingPeaks and I was confident they could do it, after all, they’d already done it once.
We had a deal by October of 2012 and work had already began several months prior. The goal was to launch by December of 2013. This was going to be a monster effort to re-imagine a very complex app, rewrite it from scratch, and along the way, introduce some new science to enable levels of analysis that’d never been possible. On top of that, we wanted a user interface that was frictionless, improved on the lessons we’d learned from WKO+ 3.0, and it had to be fast. This app would target the high-end coach and athlete and provide an entirely new paradigm of analysis.
A Completely New WKO
Somehow, we thought we could get that done in a year and a half. As we got deeper into the initial design and programming, we realized that just evolving WKO+ 3 would not be enough. Today, the endurance training world is full of new devices, new data, and new demands for a more diagnostic approach for such data. It was doing some incredible stuff, just not at the level we wanted, we wanted something vibrant that would be a game changer. The launch date was drawing near and we held to the belief we could meet it, but alas, we didn’t want to put out something mediocre. Our customers would expect all the functionality of WKO+ 3.0, and they would expect much more. We had to deliver something awesome. We decided to withhold the release, go back to the drawing board and re-build what we’d rebuilt. As we really dug in, weeks turned to months, then literally, months turned into a year, and well, here we are today, some one and a half years after we thought we’d have it ready, and three years into its development.
This was an incredibly painful time for everyone. Customers were complaining, our staff was challenged with a few misfires and frankly, we had no idea when we’d launch. We just agreed we wanted to get it right, so that’s all we focused on.
Ready for Release
With today’s release, we are excited to see the reaction from our customers, and once again begin the cycle of improvement that is critical for software to grow. We will be iterating and listening very closely to feedback, and will be working tirelessly to address bugs and add new features. TrainingPeaks and Peaks Coaching Group are deeply committed to WKO4, 5 and beyond. We’ve been building dozens of help videos and tutorials and we want to educate the world’s coaches on how to use this new tool to help athletes improve and even perfect their fitness for race day.
Since I’ve gone this far, I might as well mention a few of my favorite features:
- It’s a native C++ Mac app, and it works offline.
- Auto-calculation of your FTP (mFTP = modeled FTP) using the new power-duration model. I can literally see my fitness improving right before my eyes with every workout I upload.
- One glance view of key metrics like: peak 5s, 5min, 20min power. CTL, ATL and TSB (Fitness, Fatigue and Form). Number of workouts this year, total miles and total hours.
- Overlaying years or months (or any range you create) to see comparisons of fitness over time
- Works with multi-sport data effortlessly
- Workout stats and charts that I can use offline
- Expressions to customize and tweak any chart
- Seamless two-way automatic sync between WKO4 and TrainingPeaks.com (for premium athlete and client accounts)
- Chart Library to share ideas and find other cool ways to visualize your training and racing
These are just some of the killer new features in WKO4. I urge you to check it out for yourself and experiment with what interests you. Ultimately, we didn’t just build another tracking software, we built an incredibly comprehensive analytical engine, complete with it’s own language for graphing and analyzing data that will enable anyone to explore their fitness in ways never possible. Going forward, we’ll focus on making “actionable intelligence” so you can tune your fitness and take action with specific guidance from WKO4.
We set out to re-define what scientific innovation and leadership really means, and I’m excited to finally have WKO4 join our market leading web and mobile apps in our world class ecosystem of products for endurance coaches and athletes.