Monday, March 23, 2015

Activity Tracker Summary Table

Nothing new here, just a single table to track all the results as they are posted, allowing for a quick comparison and jump pad of sorts.

Site Name Total Score Layout Analysis Tools Activity Display Coaching Connectivity Importing Help Extras
Training Peaks 62 10 15 8 0 10 10 5 4
Endurance Tracker 97 19 20 10 15 10 9 4 10
Final Surge 47 8 10 9 0 3 10 1 6
Endomondo 55 8 15 5 10 2 8 3 4
Garmin Connect 82 18 12 10 10 10 9 4 9
Suunto Movescount 72 20 18 10 10 6 3 0 5
Beginner Triathlete 49 16 9 2 11 2 4 5 5
Sportlyzer 90 24 17 10 11 10 9 3 6
MapMyFitness 58 10 8 1 5 10 10 5 9
Triweaver 97 25 15 10 15 15 0 5 12

Friday, March 20, 2015

Review: MapMyFitness

Site: MapMyFitness

Score: 58/100

Summary: Broken features and performance issues behind a firewall, an unexpected failure from such a large market participant. The strength of the site is still the ability to map routes ahead of time for mileage and elevation, but unfortunately none of that is part of the review gauntlet. A difficult recommendation to make for triathletes to use as a training tool, as it adds little or no value over a data store such as Connect, Movescount, Strava, and the like - which any site should strive for.

Layout (25)
  • Logical Flow: Right from the start, this is not going to go well; upon login you have a banner ad, a navigation bar for 'My Home', 'Discover', and 'Improve', a button to upgrade to "MVP", then a sub navigation bar for Create Route, Log Workout, Log Food, and Create a Goal. However, over to the right side of the main nav bar is the Under Amour logo, my name with a drop down carat, and a search icon. But alas, in Chrome, none of them do anything. Switching over to IE and enabling secure content, they turn into javascript pop down menus...for a while, and then they stopped working. Then miraculously they started working (albeit for a little while only) in chrome. Let's pause for a moment...I start from the top and work my way down the screen, that's flow. Before I get to the sub nav bar I have 3 buttons that don't work consistently. There's also a lot of redundancy - when the buttons *worked* I could get to my profile or dashboard 3 different ways. While on one hand that's good for feature location, it's bad for clutter and comfort. I was confused again by clicking "Activity Feed" and seeing a spinner gif that never disappeared...and never showed an activity feed. Things are feeling very broken.
  • Feature Location: The aforementioned profile wasn't obvious, the activity feed doesn't display anything, and I had to click everything to eventually find the way to connect to my data under the '24/7' tab, which I don't know what it means. I also found the manual import option for .fit, .tcx and other files in the same place, but way at the bottom of the list.
  • Feel: It's a billboard, and the free version is kind of an onslaught of ads. At any given moment, at least 20% of the screen real estate is dedicated to ads. However beyond that, the feeling is light and modern, with sensible icons, soft colors, and a non-aggressive approach. 
  • Performance\responsiveness: Fair, and that's a stretch. First for the javascript buttons that refuse to work consistently. Not content to just kiss goodbye to features, I had a look under the covers and saw a log message that jQuery.Browser() was deprecated. To the non-tech out there, that basically means the site is using a function that has been discontinued and will eventually be removed. When you get these messages, it's sloppy if you don't clean them up, because it's usually a minimal effort to do so. There is a TON of javascript behind this site, and I think it's just a question of how long it takes to load that causes the issues, but as a user, it's not supposed to be my problem. I'm also disappointed in the endlessly spinning gifs in the 'Activity Feed' tab that make me think something is loading even though it never does. Additionally, the 'Friends' section takes about 4 minutes to load for me. Unreal for a major brand (Under Armour is the parent company now). Interestingly enough, when I put the browser on the other side of the firewall, everything works better (I finally saw the activity feed!), but still with lethargic speed.
  • Mobile conversion: The site condenses, but it does so into a fairly useless state, only able to show me my workouts and nothing more. As if to wave the white flag, there's a giant button at the top to 'Download the App'. No thanks, that's not the point.
  • Creating a plan: You can't. Even more bizarre, I went to try and add a 'Goal', and...well...there's nothing there. It just says 'My Goals', and shows me an ad (of course). Without a firewall, the goal types *do* display, but they're kind of pointless as they lack context. For example a goal to 'run 6:00 per mile' is admirable, but its a different animal whether we're talking a 5K or a marathon, you know?
  • Creating a workout: A good widget to do this, for distance and duration, the ability to add splits, HR data, calories and what not. You have a dizzying array of different sports to choose from, to the point I consider overkill. I can't be bothered to discern between 'Bike Ride - Road Cycling - General' and 'Bike Ride - Road Cycling'. Actually, I'm not even sure there is a difference.
Score: 10: It looks pretty, but that's where the fun stops. I gave 2 points for the color scheme and 7 points for the workout creator, which is actually pretty good. 1 more point given for having *some* plan for condensing to mobile, albeit one that's pretty lacking. Any points I would award for performance observed without a fire wall can't really be given, as many users have this setup (ie those that log on from work!). 

Analysis Tools (20)
  • Charts are time variable: Yep, organized by day, week, month or year.
  • Heart Rate: nope
  • Fatigue vs. Freshness: nope
  • Duration: Yep
  • Distance: Yep
  • Zones: nope
  • Personal best calculation:nope
  • Zone calculation: nope
Score: 8: It's a stretch to say this is any kind of analysis tool, but I'm being fair in standard with the other reviews, and there is a time variable chart for total duration and distance, so it gets the points. 

Activity Detail display (10)
  • Time analysis –  No, it actually says "Detailed workout analysis is unavailable" and asks me to download an app for iPhone or Android.
  • Maps - nope, same issue.
  • Overlays – nope, same issue.
Score: 1: Disappointing. The point I gave is for *having* a detail view, though there is nothing on it.

Coaching features: (15)
  • Follow athletes – I clicked on 'Find Friends' which brought me to a search function, where I put in my friends name (in this case myself under a different logon) and was able to send a request. I got the said request via email, which is good because I couldn't find where to approve requests from within the site without it! It brought me to my 'Activity Feed', which presented me with the same spinning gif that never went away. I waited 10 minutes (about 9:59 too long, in other words) and it was still there, so I gave up. I try all this without a firewall, and magically everything started working. Unreal.
  • Provide feedback– Yes, but only with no firewall. Disappointing.
  • Scheduling tie in:  I can't affect any of my friends schedules, nor they mine.
Score:5 :  It's worse than it not being there at all when I find features that don't work. Why I find things that don't work behind the firewall but do on the other side is beyond me. The notion to even try it that was isn't something normally in my test packet, and I'm not sure why it occurred to me.

Device Store Connectivity (15)
  • Garmin - Yep
  • Suunto - Yep
  • Strava –nope

Score:10 - Another rare Suunto sighting! Lots of platforms to connect to, conspicuously missing is Strava. 

Import (10)
  •  Manual entry - Yep, with intervals
  • .fit –yep
  •  tcx – yep
Score: 10- Finally, something that works. Oddly, all the detail is preserved in a file upload (you can tell because it exports with the same detail), but it isn't available in the site. On a pure technical basis though, it *does* upload.

Help (5):
  • Well written: Most of the features are documented, however without images or whatnot. I found it interesting that there is a 'known issues' section, where half-assery abounds, for instance: "There are a few issues with Suunto integration at this time, namely that imported workouts appear as bike rides or activities other than the original activity type. This will be addressed with a site update as soon as we are able."
  • Clear term definition: They don't *use* terms like load, zone, and the like, so it's hard to miss definitions for them. 
Score:5 : It's there, and I can't find a fair reason to deduct any points. Half assery isn't deductible in this section.

Extra features (bonus, 2 points each)
  • Email reminders – workouts: yep
  • Email reminders – equipment : yep
  • Workout text messages – nope
  • Sync with online calendars : not that I could find.
  • Allow messages with other athletes: supposedly, but it mostly only worked for me without a firewall, only saw it work once with a firewall. 1 point.
  • Allow tracking of consumables –yep
  • Metric\imperial conversions\Time zone\Clock\Calendar: Yep.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Review: Sportlyzer

Site: Sportlyzer

Score: 90/100

 Summary: A lot to like in a sleek, modern package that self coached athletes should find very adequate, particularly the under-served Suunto user. Missing analysis features for coaches and a clearly written help section, but overall a strong offering that deserves consideration and will likely improve as time progresses.

Layout (25)
  • Logical Flow: The concept of the site is driven by 'clubs' and 'members', which I can describe as imagining that when you join the local LA Fitness, you're assigned a competent coach who can manage a group of athletes with this application. If you think of *yourself* as that coach and club owner, then everything is actually pretty logical. 
  • Feature Location:Again, if you're in the right head for it and think like a dual club owner\member, everything is in a logical place. Creating a plan and applying the plan to your calendar requires a few extra clicks because of the 'think like a club owner', 'now switch to member' process, but it works.
  • Feel: It took a little while to get used to it, but I started to really like it. It has a very modern and light feel, with soft color choices, rounded edges, and smart icons. The more time you spend in it, the more you get used to it. I really liked the planned vs. actual layout, even though it was only week to week. 
  • Performance\responsiveness: No issues, I was able to move fluidly throughout the site.
  • Mobile conversion: Another excellent example of how you're supposed to do things. The site collapses beautifully down to mobile devices, rendering controls in a sharp fashion. Very well done indeed.
  • Creating a plan: Nicely done. You create weeks of simple workouts, then schedule when those weeks begin and end on the calendar. If you want to re-use weeks it's a bit redundant as you can't copy old ones or schedule them to run on more than one start and end, but that's more of a nice to have than a requirement.
  • Creating a workout: Basic, no intervals, but you can specify sport, duration, time of day, and notes, which allows you to cram in there what you want. Very simple interface, right on top of the week scheduler, a good placement from a layout perspective.
Score: 24 :  I like the feel a lot, and I think the implementation of the planning and workout creator is clever and very extensible. Coaches will really like the layout, athletes will be just fine with it. However, the dual headedness of the club\member mentality - while functional - is a little confusing. Overall, though, this is really well done and sharp.

Analysis Tools (20)
  • Charts are time variable: Yep, organized by weeks
  • Heart Rate: yep
  • Fatigue vs. Freshness: sort of. There's a pretty cool charting\analysis tool to make customized charts, and you can plot duration vs load, of which the inverse plot would be fatigue...sort of. Hacky, yes, but sure. 
  • Duration: Yep
  • Distance: Yep
  • Zones: Yep
  • Personal best calculation:not calculated, just a section for 'tests' where you enter what benchmarks you want for whatever sport, and it displays the results you enter. Meh, 1 point.
  • Zone calculation: Yep, although a little confusing whether I'm calculating them myself or picking them up from my data. 
Score: 17: Overall, solid. The deductions are for the personal best display and the FvF hackery.

Activity Detail display (10)
  • Time analysis –  Yep
  • Maps - Yep
  • Overlays – yep
Score: 10: Up to snuff and sharp.

Coaching features: (15)
  • Follow athletes – you can examine other athlete's training logs, and keep track of who your 'friends' are to make it easy to find them. However - you can't access any of the reporting or analysis features using the non-premium version, at least not that I could figure out. To that extent, a lot of the coolness isn't available to coaches in the free version.
  • Provide feedback– yep, you can comment on other club members' activities, send emails and messages.
  • Scheduling tie inWell done, a strong feature. As I pointed out in the layout section, there's a segmentation in the app between clubs\coaches and members\athletes, but the distinction between who is coach and who isn't is broad, and you could have multiple coaches or groups of athletes, what have you. I like that sort of extensibility and while it can lead to outlandish scenarios (ie you could have 10 coaches telling you what to do!) it's more likely that users will tailor it to a smart situation than an unrealistic one.
Score:11: There's a lot there, but not having the charts and analysis presented to coaches is a big hurt. 

Device Store Connectivity (15)
  • Garmin - Yep
  • Suunto - Yep
  • Strava –nope

Score:10 - A rare Suunto sighting! Also supported are Withings and Polar.

Import (10)
  •  Manual entry - Yep, again, no intervals.
  • .fit –yep
  •  tcx – yep
Score: 9One off for no intervals, a common theme in these sites!

Help (5):
  • Well written: There is a smattering of popup tips around the site, but oddly, no help section.
  • Clear term definition: For heart rate zones, yes, but 'load' is referred to often with no clear definition.
Score:3 Really could be done better.

Extra features (bonus, 2 points each)
  • Email reminders – workouts: Yep
  • Email reminders – equipment : nope
  • Workout text messages – nope
  • Sync with online calendars : not though iCal format, no.
  • Allow messages with other athletes: Yes
  • Allow tracking of consumables –nope
  • Metric\imperial conversions\Time zone\Clock\Calendar: Yep.

Score:6, no minor deductions.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Review: Beginner Triathlete

Site: Beginner Triathlete

Score: 49/100

 Summary: Due to many disappointing issues, including features only available to premium members, poor styling, data loss, unsecured features, and a lack of connection to data stores, there's simply too many hits against BT to overcome and deliver with.

*Note that this is a review of the activity tracking portion of Beginner Triathlete only, and not a review of the myriad helpful articles, active user forum, or other features that BT provides all of which are an important and valuable resource to the triathlon community. 

Layout (25)
  • Logical Flow: It's not illogical, but it's no flow chart either. There's nothing particularly offensive, but there's an awful lot of clicking. BT isn't obviously first and foremost anything, in that it's a forum, it's a collection of articles and resources, a training planner, race report repository, and other unused nooks and crannies. As such, cramming all that into one space will produce a cluttered look, and BT is no different. There simply isn't such a thing as a logical flow to go between a race report and classified section, so there's plenty of gaps.
  • Feature Location: A little clunky at first, which is to say until you enter *a* workout somehow, you can't easily find anything. However once you do, the site wakes up and a lot of otherwise hidden content becomes exposed. From there, it's pretty simple to locate the features you're looking for, albeit from VERY long (ie too many option items) javascript hover menus. 
  • Feel: BT has a feel like 10 years ago. It's not styled in a modern way and everything is very pointy-clicky. I don't want to outright rag on it, because functionality IS important, but in my view, it's not an expensive proposition to have form and function. It wouldn't take much to skin this in a much more attractive way, but as I think about it, there might very well be a target audience that feels very comforted by this kind of styling. I could see folks who remember the html styling the 1990s recognizing the coloring, fonts, and layout from the dawn of the internet, and conservatively thinking it's fine. However, considering the site went through a 'face lift' within the last couple of years, this is really pretty bad.
  • Performance\responsiveness: Highly performant from a UI perspective, but as I'll detail later, the file upload times are horrible, taking over 10 minutes in some cases.
  • Mobile conversion: The mobile site is pretty painful to use, but functionally, it gives you everything in a mobile style. It's an amalgamation of blue buttons, with no real concept of how you're navigating around from a breadcrumb perspective, and a bit too liberal a usage of width=100% - buttons spread unnecessarily across the entire screen and are hard to like. That said, I appreciate all the work that must have gone into doing a completely separate skinning for mobile purposes.
  • Creating a plan: Oh man, this is strange. If you go into your profile you can create a plan with days, weeks, etc, and apply it to your calendar. However, this is supposed to be part of the premium membership only. Even by pointing this out here, I have a sinking feeling that I'm taking away functionality from users that they depend on, and the site admins will realize this flaw and take it away from non-premium members. Sorry!
  • Creating a workout: If you go into your profile, you can create planned workouts, albeit without interval data. The template for each day has all 3 sports, plus optional exercises and "other" sports (Archery training, anyone?) you can add. No intervals, just time, distance and pace.
Score: 16 : I tried to be as objective as usual, and only deduct points for problems. Ultimately I didn't deduct any points for the features that I suspect should be disabled, because whether that's the intent or not, the features are there currently. The styling, mobile painfulness, upload performance and layout clutter are the deductions.

Analysis Tools (20)
  • Charts are time variable: Yep
  • Heart Rate: paid only
  • Fatigue vs. Freshness: nope. 
  • Duration: Yep
  • Distance: Yep
  • Zones: Not for analysis, and I'm going to do something I rarely do - deduct a point. You can create zones, then you're asked to *manually* enter the time spent in them (it isn't calculated during upload either!), and then you find out you can't see the zone reports unless you're a premium member. A ludicrous amount of work to do for nothing. Disable it completely if I can't benefit from it. 
  • Personal best calculation:there's a place to store them in your profile, but they are not calculated.
  • Zone calculation: Yep, actually you have a few different choices as to what method to calculate with. Nicely done, with a good article written by Mike Ricci on what the different methods mean.
Score: 9: What's there works fine, but the Zones snafu had me red. Starting to run up against the premium features.

Activity Detail display (10)
  • Time analysis –  sorta not really. There's one point on the chart for each interval\lap, which is not near the level of detail captured. 1 point.
  • Maps - nope. All the data points are merely summarized by interval or, if there were none, as a workout.
  • Overlays – meaning I can add or subtract different series such as power, pace, heart rate, etc, no, you can't. You get what you get from the lap data and that's it.
Score: 2 This really isn't implemented at the level of detail that's standard across the platforms.

Coaching features: (15)
  • Follow athletes – you can examine other athlete's training logs, and keep track of who your 'friends' are to make it easy to find them. You can see their reports, but again only the ones allowed by a basic membership.
  • Provide feedback– private messages achieve this means to an end.
  • Scheduling tie in: Technically, using the planning feature I unearthed above, a coach could create a plan, send it to you, and you could upload it as your own. However, day to day changes or major changes to the plan would require subsequent uploads, constituting a hackish approach.
Score: 11: A coach could reasonably follow your progress on BT at a summary level and provide feedback via messages. However, the same coach can't create a plan for you without resorting to hackery using a feature that doesn't look like it's supposed to be available. Without the activity detail level, any sort of analysis is lost as well, as well as the ability to see the reports afforded to premium members, the functionality is limited.

Device Store Connectivity (15)
  • Garmin - Technically no. There is a provision for how to use Garmin Express\Communicator to publish to both Connect and BT, but that's not a connection to Connect. 
  • Suunto - no.
  • Strava –no

Score:2 - a little credit given for trying to be Garmin-ready, but it's not a solid attempt.

Import (10)
  •  Manual entry - Yep. The form to do so is pretty straight ahead and clearly targeted to triathlon. There is one frustrating feature, however - although you have the ability to add intervals, there's no connection between the summary duration and distance and the interval duration sum and distance sum. 
  • .fit –It took over 10 minutes for a file to finally load, but once it did, it was there. However, all of the datapoints are lost, it was merely summarized.
  •  tcx – same as the .fit, it worked, but it was both super slow (to the point I didn't think it worked at all), and then the data points were lost.
Score: 4- This has all the evidence of a major cop out by not storing the detail that comes from importing a file. If it's a database size issue, serialize it smaller, there are ways around this. Otherwise, don't give me the ability to upload, as it's not adding any value by losing the data.

Help (5):
  • Well written: Yes, very. 
  • Clear term definition: There's a glossary, and a detailed section for each feature, with screen shots to assist in locating features.
Score:5 The time was put in, and it shows.

Extra features (bonus, 2 points each)
  • Email reminders – workouts: premium only
  • Email reminders – equipment : nope
  • Workout text messages – nope
  • Sync with online calendars : premium only
  • Allow messages with other athletes: Yes
  • Allow tracking of consumables –Yes, but you have to tag the workouts with the gear manually. Technically, it's implemented though.
  • Metric\imperial conversions\Time zone\Clock\Calendar: Time zone, but not metric\imperial conversion. You have to select the unit of measure each time you create a workout.

Score: 5, one off for the metric conversion manual issue.