How Strava screwed up their ‘Save activity’ screen

I ride my bike to/from work every day, and like thousands of other people, I use the Strava iOS app to keep track of my performance.

Strava is a brilliant, function rich, fitness tracking app and I always look forward to their updates. So, I was disappointed by their latest update (version 4.0) as one of the app’s key features , has taken a turn south in terms of usability.

Strava iOS app save screen – before (left) and after (right) the update to Strava 4.0

The change

The screen where you save your activity has been re-designed, unfortunately with detrimental effect on usability. The picture above shows the screen before (left) and after (right) the 4.0 update.

‘Save’ your activity (the primary call to action) as well as the ‘Discard’ button have taken a massive hit in terms of screen real estate, for no significant benefit.

Why is the reduction of screen real estate of these elements a problem? Let me explain.

Understanding the app use cases

When assessing usability of an app (or anything), it is important to understand the use cases under which the app will be used. Strava is a fitness app for tracking your cycling and running activity. As such, it is used outdoors and is often attached to your bike using a bike mount, or your bicep using a strap. This is important for a number of reasons:

  1. The various straps and bicycle mounting devices often have a clear waterproof cover. This has the effect of reducing the legibility of the iPhone screen
  2. As it’s used outdoors, you often have sun glare to contend with, further reducing the legibility of the iPhone screen
  3. Many cyclists and runners wear sunglasses while exercising, again reducing the legibility of the iPhone screen
  4. Finally, for runners, with the phone strapped to your bicep, it is slightly awkward to accurately press the button (try it)

The reduction in size for the primary call to action

The earlier versions of the Strava app catered well for the above use cases. The save button was clearly the primary call to action and as such was the highest in terms of visual hierarchy and had a generous hit area (roughly 600 x 100 pixels). Not only was it clearly identifiable in the above conditions, but it was also easy to tap whether it be on your bicep or handlebars, even while moving.

As of version 4.0, the Save button screen real estate has taken a huge hit – it now measures roughly 140 x 70 pixels – that’s a roughly 84% reduction! For what? The only (debatable) benefit of this change that I can think of, is that now the ‘Save’ button is in the standard iOS7 location – top right hand slot in the nav bar.

Conforming to platform standards is generally a good thing as it makes it easier to learn how to use an app. However, in this case, I really think that the designers of the Strava app would be justified in deviating from placing the ‘Save’ button in the standard location (refer to use cases above as justification).

The reduction in size for the ‘Discard’ button

The reduction in the size of the ‘Discard’ button is somewhat more debatable. You could argue that it is better for it to be smaller as it makes it harder to accidentally discard an activity you’ve just completed (imagine accidentally deleting a 50k run or ride!). Also, the frequency of use for this function is much lower, so it doesn’t hurt for the button to be smaller.

The size of the ‘discard’ button has been reduced even more (by roughly 93%). Personally, I preferred the larger, clearly labeled button – especially given that it has a ‘confirm’ step which allows you to correct accidental deletion before it is too late.

Recommendation

So, what’s the best way to fix this – in my opinion, the app would be better for it if this change was reverted. However, as a UX designer I know that these kinds of decisions are best made with user testing and data to back them up. I can only assume that the team at Strava did their testing on this change, but I wonder whether it was done in a usability lab, or out on the road or running trails? I’d love to know if and how this was tested and what the results were…


Migrating my old blog to Medium — originally published 17 Mat 2014

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