Improving the Following Experience on Strava Part II

Activity Feed Improvements

Strava faces a unique issue from a social follower perspective because of the nature of the activities that are the content of the product. Unlike most follower based platforms, the event that is the content is entirely separate from the creation of the event on the platform. Let me explain.

On Twitter, if I wanted to produce content, the act of creating that content is the event itself. I type something and click Tweet and the content is published. The creation of the content and the publishing of the content is separated only by seconds.

Strava, on the other hand, has a unique problem from a social network perspective in that the activity or event is completely separate from the publishing of the event. An athlete may run in the morning, but may not upload that event until later in the day, or perhaps even days later. The barrier to entry to publishing content is very high on Strava and often involves using cumbersome software and special cables. Technology is improving in this area, but we are a long way off from complete adoption of immediate uploading devices.

Objective

Identify a better approach to displaying uploaded activities so athletes do not miss activities from people they follow.

Background

Strava currently displays the activity feed in reverse chronological order based on the actual time of the activity.

What should be noted is this is an absolute time reference and not adjusted for time zones. For example, below you still see three events that occurred in absolute chronological order, despite one time seeming to be out of place due to time zone differences. The time shown is local time, despite the listing order being in absolute time.

The 6:29 PM appears out of order, but that is a time zone difference.

Strava has made uploading activities from their mobile app a seamless and user friendly process. However, many Strava users upload their activities using devices that are not mobile phones. For an athlete to upload data to Strava from another device, they usually sync their watch or cycling computer to another service through separate software that links with Strava. Although the uploading process from watch or cycling computer to outside services has improved substantially over the years due to bluetooth technology and many services offering data integration, it still requires an extra, often painful step.

Because the uploading process from a dedicated device is often time difficult, athletes do not always upload immediately after an activity. Struggling to find time to eat and get to work, uploading activities to Strava usually falls on the priority list. Not only do athletes not just upload data much later than the activity itself, but they often all at once upload several activities spanning the course of days or weeks.

Product Suggestion

Until the market is 100% saturated with automatic bluetooth synchronization, there will always be a gap between activity time and upload time. Strava shouldn’t invest effort in trying to decrease that period to create a more cohesive timeline, but instead display the timeline in a different fashion. Reverse chronological order is the way most social networks sort their content and for Strava, that makes sense to an extent. Reverse chronological order should stay, but the event of publication should be the upload event and not the specific activity.

Because the number of upload sessions will always be less than total activities, I argue Strava could improve its timeline by displaying the upload activity as the publication point in reverse chronological order. One upload event of four events would like this on the timeline of athletes that are following me.

Even though all of these events were in the same day, aggregating specific events in one upload publication would encourage followers to investigate all new activities posted. A common issue is the posting of an activity a few days after the fact, and it is never viewed by followers because it is buried by more recent events of the people they follow.

There are instances of athletes uploading a month’s worth of activities at one time, and if the last event was not within the day, their activities are never seen in the activity feed. Making the upload event the activity of publication would alert users that multiple activities were posted and would encourage them engage with the athlete’s other activities.

From a user experience perspective, I would show the most recent two or three activities per upload event with a link to see the rest of the activities. For most athletes that upload regularly, most uploads will show just one event and the view of their activities would look similar. However, for athletes that upload on a more irregular basis, this would allow followers to engage with all activities within a given upload.

Conclusion

Even if this were not the default or only way to view your activity feed, there would be tremendous value added to the product if you had the option to sort your activity feed this way. People would engage with specific athletes more and fewer activities would go unnoticed.

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