Monday, January 26, 2015

Review: Final Surge

Site: Final Surge

Score: 47/100

Summary: Poor layout and flow, premium coaching only, limited data sync, no help tools, and lack of analysis tools make this one a difficult sell.

Layout (25)
  • Logical Flow: On login you're presented with a large calendar, a set of icon buttons, an account area, and a menu bar. The icons are all repeats of the functions in the menu or settings, and one of them (Mailbox) doesn't do anything and even goes so far as to say it's a feature that's coming soon.  There are some gaps observed when using different features that definitely are not thought out. For example, when creating a workout in the future, it would make logical sense that it is planned, not actual, but it shows up as an actual workout.  There is a 'Planned' toggle switch, but it doesn't turn off the Actual section, so you don't really know what you're doing. In another example, I expected the 'Reports and Statistics' tab to have, well, more than one report just because of the grammar, but there's only one report. More on that later.
  • Feature Location: The icons are confusing, until you ultimately decide not to use them and stick with the menu bar. This proves to be especially important in the mobile conversion, where the icons don't actually work at all, but more on the mobile part later as well.
  • Feel: In a word, unfinished. As a basic example, the 'Home' icon corresponds not to home, but to 'Dashboard', and brings you to a different place than the default page you get when logging in (Calendar). Additionally, there are actually two different icons for getting there, styled differently. The same applies to the calendar, which has no less than three different ways to get there. After a while you get the sensation that it's very much a work in progress and not a finished product.
  • Performance\responsiveness: Many of the functions don't load instantly and there's no indication the buttons were hit properly, leading to many double taps.
  • Mobile conversion: The site renders, but the icons stop working altogether. The menu collapses and still controls everything though. There's no spillover, but some of the forms (for instance the workout creator) render so far down vertically that you can't remember what you're doing. I was getting very frustrated until I saw something at the bottom of the screen scroll that said 'Mobile Site'. Strange, why not just detect it and send me there like every other web site that has a dedicated layout? Odd. Once I switched over, the styling improved dramatically. So much better in fact, that I would have preferred it to the 'Full Site' version. However, we're talking mobile here, and mobile wise, it's only ok - forms are still long and require a great deal of scrolling up and down. There is an app available, but it's out of scope for this review - it's no great feat to adapt a web site to have excellent functionality specific to mobile devices, and apps aren't the place for them in my opinion. 
  • Creating a plan: In the basic (non premium) version, you can't. Period. There is a tool for coaches, but it's highly work intensive, and out of scope from the review.
  • Creating a workout: Comprehensive, including everything from temperature, humidity, weather, RPE and 'Feeling' (Great to Terrible), Warm up, cool down...you could feasibly spend 10 minutes creating a workout report. In my opinion, there's actually too much information. I'll never know the humidity percent, and even if I did, I would put it in a notes section, not a number value. Considering that most athletes would pull all the data from their device store (only Garmin in this site's case), most of this information wouldn't populate unless done manually, which is realistically too time intensive. Regardless, as I'll get into later, there is no use for all the data, as you can only see it in a workout detail view. 
Score:8 This might even be a little generous here, but at least a couple of people spent a lot of time working on the site. However, one of them made a decent one (mobile) that doesn't make sense on a big screen and is too feature rich for a mobile device, and the other made a confusing one that also doesn't make sense on a big screen and is too feature rich for either a mobile or desktop device.


Analysis Tools (20)
  • Charts are time variable: Yes, the one chart is time variable.
  • Heart Rate: no
  • Fatigue vs. Freshness: no
  • Duration: Yes
  • Distance: Yes
  • Zones: No
  • Personal best calculation:No
  • Zone calculation: Nothing calculated. You can fill in your own, but there's no logic behind it. 
Score: 10 Again, I think I'm being generous again. There is only one report, and all it does is sum up the workouts by type (swim, bike, run, etc) for distance and time and display the results in a table. At the summary level there are no charts to be found. All of this is odd considering there are charts in the detail section though - if you own the charting libraries and knowledge, why not use them? Stranger still, the non-application website (just what you see before you log in) shows a chart that isn't included in the application - Duration By Activity.


Activity Detail display (10)
  • Time analysis –  yes 
  • Maps - Honestly, I'm not fully sure, but I'm pretty sure. I could only import the last 30 days of Garmin data in and I haven't been on a GPS-tracked run since early December, as I hate running in the cold. I see the code for it in the source, so I have to believe it's there, but from looking at the source code it isn't integrated with the data (like when you hover over a data point, it doesn't show the corresponding marker on the map).
  • Overlays – yes, if you switch to 'Advanced Analysis' on the chart you can see 4 axes at once. Why not just make this the main view? 
Score: 9: I can't deduct for feel twice, but I wanted to. The big chart\little chart thing was a clear miss, though.

Coaching features: (15)
  • Follow athletes – not in the free version
  • Provide feedback– not in the free version
  • Scheduling tie in: not in the free version.
Score: 0: this is a premium feature only. I gave the 'Coach mode' a whirl in trial mode, and found a lot of the features I was looking for in the basic version, but I can't give any points for it. The difference between coach and basic mode isn't justified by the price ($9.95/month or $99.50/year), there's simply not enough tools to reach for my wallet given the alternatives offered by the competition.


Device Store Connectivity (15)
  • Garmin - yep, but only pulls the last 30 days to start
  • Suunto - nope
  • Strava – nope
In what's turning out to be a theme, I'm disappointed it will only sync data from the last 30 days, a couple of points off for that.

Score: 3


Import (10)
  •  Manual entry - yes, with intervals.
  • .fit –yep
  •  tcx –yep
Score: 10


Help (5):
  • Well written: Honestly, there is none. Just a form to send a request for support.
  • Clear term definition: None. The zones are for you to decide on and define, there is no load calculation, recovery, etc. 
Score: 1 More generosity. The 1 point is for having a support request screen. As if by insult, there *is* a help document (albeit in pdf document, for some unknown reason), but it's only available to coaches. If this tool is only intended for coaches, why make it available to anyone else??

Extra features (bonus, 2 points each)
  • Email reminders – workouts: yes
  • Email reminders – equipment : nope
  • Workout text messages – nope
  • Sync with online calendars : nope
  • Allow messages with other athletes: not that I saw
  • Allow tracking of consumables – yes
  • Metric\imperial conversions\Time zone\Clock\Calendar: yes
Score: 6 bonus points