Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Review: Triweaver

Site: Triweaver

Score: 97: Practically perfect in every way*.

* It's impossible for me to be objective, but I'll try!

This 'review' is going to be a departure from the others, in that I created Triweaver as my own answer to all of the criteria I was looking for in a training planner. I'm going to take each element as an opportunity to talk about what went into the process of creating it, and still try to give it a score as objectively as possible. Making Triweaver has been a lot of fun, and I'm really hoping others find it as useful as I do! I'm excited to launch it as a free alternative to what's out there, and my hope is that a community grows around it to help it improve over time.

Again, as objectively as possible I tried to score it and came up with a 97, with the major deduction coming from not doing imports of files in the 'traditional' way, but I'll explain that later. I feel Triweaver competes nicely with the current offerings, and is structured in a way that it can scale\extend rapidly based on feedback from users. I intend to keep it free for users, and will (hopefully) move towards a banner ad revenue model, so what's currently blank space on the sides and bottom will - over time - become ads for triathlon products we triathletes care about. I'm looking at alternative revenue sources as well, such as rewards for continued usage, referral rewards, etc, but I just don't see charging users ever in the future. However, if the community says they believe differently (can't see anyone asking for people to take their money, but I could be proven wrong!), then I'll change accordingly.

I've been using Triweaver for my own training and planning for the last 6 or so months, and I find logging on often, getting emails daily, and making decisions based on my data is logical, quick, and pleasant using this tool. The goal has always been to create something of worth, not to scrape money from coaches and athletes, and I think by following that principle it will grow into something valuable, if it isn't already.

My last comment before launching into the review is that it's my intent to make the user interface open source, allowing the tech-savvy engineer athletes of the world who stumble upon Triweaver to extend it in ways I haven't thought of.

OK, let's get going!

Layout (25)
  • Logical Flow: After registering and entering the site, you come to a screen to define your profile and your data hookups, the life blood behind Triweaver. As you come to learn, there's no way to import files into Triweaver, as it relies on what I call 'data stores' to function. A data store is - at press time - a Garmin Connect, Suunto Movescount, Trainerroad, and Strava, although also on the roadmap are MapMyFitness, TrainingPeaks, and RunKeeper. More on this later in the 'Device Store Connectivity' section. After defining your data relationships, you have tabs for Activities, Analyzing, Scheduling, Profile, Sync, Social, and Help. I'd like to think these are pretty logical, and that you can find the things you expect to find behind the tabs you think they should be associated with.
  • Feature Location: Again, some thought and several iterations went into how many tabs and where to put things, so hopefully users find what they are looking for with less than a couple of clicks. The guiding principal was to keep things simple, uncluttered, and present as much functionality as possible given what triathletes are looking for.
  • Feel: A lot of the functionality from a click, point, and styling perspective is a result of using the Twitter Bootstrap framework, a popular (for a good reason) standard used in web development these days. Bootstrap solves a lot of cross-browser and mobile conversion issues without any meddling, which is both convenient and cool. While Triweaver isn't the pinnacle of web design by any means, it should feel sturdy, but light.
  • Performance\responsiveness: In beta, I had the site hosted on a dollar-store provider, and it felt sluggish. It's now hosted on Amazon's AWS platform, and it's pretty snappy. AWS also gives Triweaver the opportunity to scale without changing hosts, a nice promise.
  • Mobile conversion: While the aforementioned Bootstrap framework takes care of a lot of this stuff for you, I also spent some time making sure displays that made sense converted and ones that didn't condensed down to something that did make sense. In some cases, that meant truncating columns off tables, but I was careful to not remove functionality. As the saying goes, I 'ate my own dog food' for months here, and did a lot of my daily interaction with Triweaver on my Apple iPhone 4s. If I felt something was missing or difficult, I'd fix it or move it until it made better sense.
  • Creating a plan: This is the real main point of Triweaver, and it's split into three distinct parts. 
    • First, creating a workout - workouts are expressed as intervals in percentages of your personal bests, as opposed to distinct paces. For example in Triweaver you would say 'do 5 minutes at 75%' rather than 'do 5 minutes at 8:00/mile'. The percentages are applied against your personal best on the day you do them, and your personal bests are automatically culled from your trailing three months of data. This is a subtle, but important facet of Triweaver - by only looking at 3 months at a time, it forces you to test your paces on at least a quarterly basis. If you don't use it, you lose it! Special consideration is paid to swim workouts, which are expressed in yards or meters instead of time. 
    • The second part is to organize the planned workouts in weeks. These weeks can then be applied into the third part...
    • Scheduling weeks, which you can do out into the future as far as you'd like. The paces themselves won't be 'activated' until the day you do the workout, so you're afforded a lot of flexibility in terms of how you plan. You can re-use the same week's plan months at a time and have it be viable over that period, as opposed to editing the paces and times manually as your paces change.
  • Creating a workout: I tried to make this simple and self explanatory, based on intervals and percentages. Hopefully users find it to be as easy and painless as I do. You can also edit and copy existing workouts, which makes creating variations of a single workout easier, if that's your flavor.
Score: In many ways I did this series as a way to figure out what I was doing myself with Triweaver, and this scoring template became my way to keep myself honest. I'd give it 25 points here, trying to be objective, while still realizing I have a natural bias. 

Analysis Tools (20)
  • Charts are time variable: Yep, you can vary the number of months worth of data you're looking at.
  • Heart Rate:  I'll be honest, I have never reached for this chart, and didn't include it. I did include an alternative - Time at Load - that to me, expresses the same concept in a way that actually makes sense to me. If I get a request to add a heart rate chart I will, but I'll let the market dictate its importance. If people feel differently, let me know!
  • Fatigue vs. Freshness: Yep. 
  • Duration: Yep
  • Distance: Yep
  • Zones: Nope, for the same reason as heart rate. If I hear it's important I'll add it, but I never cared. Sure, to some extent Triweaver is an extension of how I and those I have worked with train, why shouldn't it be? :)
  • Personal best calculation: Again, as a backbone of Triweaver, this is present.
  • Zone calculation: There's a tool to do this with resting heart rate and max heart rate on your profile page, but it isn't 'sticky', meaning it's not saved with your profile. If anyone asks for heart rate charts, it's simple enough to save these values and create charts based on them.
Score: If I'm trying to be subjective, I would remove 5 points for the 'missing' tools and score this a 15. 

Activity Detail display (10)
  • Time analysis –  Yep
  • Maps - Yep
  • Overlays – yep
Score: It's there - so a 10 -, and a note - Triweaver doesn't *store* the gps or series data, it fetches it from the data store when requested. I've toyed with the idea of simply providing links to the original data instead (in a separate tab), and I'm of two minds about it presently. I'll be listening carefully to feedback to see what people prefer. 

Coaching features: (15)
  • Follow athletes – Yes, you can follow athletes and connect in coach mode, which allows your coach to schedule workouts for you, view your results, etc. You can even have multiple coaches!
  • Provide feedback– You can send messages to your friends/athletes. I think eventually I'll replace the messaging with email, but I'll let users decide how that should work.
  • Scheduling tie in - you have the full ability to schedule workouts for your athletes, as well as view their results and charts
Score: I'd give Triweaver full points  - 15 -here, this was a big part of the design.,

Device Store Connectivity (15)
  • Garmin - Yep, although it bears mention Triweaver is not an 'official' partner of Garmin. Triweaver uses the same sync mechanism that uses, an open source way of connecting to Garmin Connect via http and cookies. If at some point Garmin decouples their api completely from their website, this will cease to work, at which point I'll ask the community to help me raise money to pay for the exorbitant API key - a $5K investment.
  • Suunto - Yep, and it's official, Triweaver is partnered with Suunto. It's no secret I'm a big fan of Suunto, and I look forward to doing a lot of work with them moving forward, including pushing workouts into Movescount and integrating with their recovery calculator, a very cool feature.
  • Strava –Yep, and since it's open, it will stay in place as long as Strava keeps it there.

Score: I'd give Triweaver extra points if I could for connecting with Trainerroad, a tool that a lot of triathletes use, but no extra points were given to others, so that's unfair. 15.

As demand warrants it from user feedback, I'd like to also add Under Armour\Map My Fitness, RunKeeper, and Training Peaks to the mix here. If there's others that are of interest to users, I'll look into those as well.

Import (10)
  •  Manual entry - nope
  • .fit –nope
  •  .tcx – nope
Score: I'm forced to give Triweaver no points here, because it doesn't import anything, it simply connects to your data provider. Being a data store adds a significant layer of complexity, in that you have to encrypt a bunch more stuff to ensure privacy, add export features so users can get their data back out, and your database has to be a LOT bigger. There's no small investment to get these features done right, and I made a conscious decision to leave that to the Suuntos and Garmins of the world. No points for Triweaver, but I feel this was the right decision. You can import your files to Garmin, Suunto, and Strava and they will import just fine to Triweaver. 

Help (5):
  • Well written: I'm no English major, but I think I got the point across. The same help chapters are located under "?" buttons where they apply, as well as from within a dedicated help section.
  • Clear term definition: I made a concerted effort to explain what Load means, how it's calculated for Triweaver, and what the Load vs. Recovery chart means. Hopefully I hit the mark.
Score: I'd like to think a 5 is in order here.

Extra features (bonus, 2 points each)
  • Email reminders – workouts: yep, if you want em, just check the box in your profile settings.
  • Email reminders – equipment : yep, if you want em, just check the box in your profile settings.
  • Workout text messages – nope, but I'd like to. This requires profiles to have your wireless provider and phone number, which is more of a security concern than anything else. If\when I move to a more robust server, this is something I'll be investigating.
  • Sync with online calendars : yep, via iCal, which works with Google, Apple, and Outlook.
  • Allow messages with other athletes: yep
  • Allow tracking of consumables –yep, pretty standard stuff, except it automatically calculates usage as opposed to you having to choose what gear to apply. 
  • Metric\imperial conversions\Time zone\Clock\Calendar: Yep, actually the time zone is determined by your log on location, derived from your browser.

Score: This is easy to be objective about, 12 points

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