Running Mate is in it for the long run

Dave Crawford, design lead at Microsoft, recently sat down with several independent Windows Phone app developers in the UK to offer guidance about ways to improve the functionality and overall user experience of their apps.

Dave is a proven expert in refining mobile applications; he has worked with the Windows Phone User Interface since its initial release and has reviewed more than 2,000 Windows Phone applications. Through these design reviews Dave helps developers to distill the most common issues in application design, providing guidance for steps that can be taken to make a great app even better.

One of the developers that met with Dave at Nokia’s London office is Nabeel Moghal, from NabMo Media. They spent time looking at the star of Nabeel’s app portfolio, the sports tracking app Running Mate.

Watch the process that Nabeel went through with Dave in this video.

Nabeel has taken the best features from other run-tracking apps, and combined them for use in his own application. Up until now it has been the feedback from his users that has led to changes in the app itself. “I have received some really encouraging emails which would make me get up in the night and start developing the app,” he said.

“Nabeel has built a really great app,” Dave said. “It’s a very functional running companion. It has got tons of features in there, and he spends lots of time listening to his users and building features that they like.”

According to Nabeel, what his users have been looking for are really two different screens for two different use cases: one that shows all of the details (like the map, speed, pace, etc.) for use when not running; and the other view so that if they put their smartphone on an arm band, they can quickly see how much distance they have covered, and the time taken while running.

For arm band use, Dave recommended a usability change: the creation of a lockscreen for Running Mate, using high contrast (black background and white text) and large fonts, for ease of visibility when someone is using the app during a run.

“It would be really cool to be able to rotate it,” Dave noted during the consult. So if you are wearing your Lumia on your shoulder, you can see the app in an orientation that makes sense, rather than trying to twist your arm to see it properly.

They also looked at implementing the pivot UI component within the settings menu of the app, and how this was not working optimally with the app’s panorama. Dave noted that using the pivot functionality with panorama UI components at the same time can lead to a common issue known as “gesture competition” that occurs when an app attempts to activate toggle switches. Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this, which is to use check boxes instead of switches, to eliminate unnecessary movement of screens within the app.

Dave also made recommendations to Nabeel about ways to improve both the typography , and the alignment of the text and columns within the app to help enhance the overall look and feel. As Dave pointed out, “These are little tweaks, but it will make the app feel much more professional.”

Nabeel first created Running Mate back in 2010, and since that time the app has gone through four sets of revisions prior to his meeting with Dave. His latest changes (now version 5.0) are the most comprehensive to date.

“After talking to Dave it changed my attitude toward design. I look at it differently. Small things didn’t matter to me before. But now I am going to look into it,” Nabeel said.

Nabeel shared his perspective on his website about the experience with the design consultation, and the types of changes that he made to the app. “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,” he wrote.

You can see how Running Mate looked before the latest design updates, and what has changed in the new version of the app, including the new “workout view” and lockscreen (pictured below), on Nabeel’s site.

The latest version of Running Mate, which includes numerous improvements based on his design consultation with Dave Crawford, is available for download from the Windows Phone Store. There is both a free trial, and a paid version of the app.

If you are ready to improve the user experience of your Windows Phone app, design consultations are available as rewards from our DVLUP program, including an introductory one-hour consultation with the experts from Toledo Design.