It’s the UI, stupid

Yesterday, Garmin and Strava made every attempt to show how the new API integration between the two fitness-focused applications will be good for users.

IGarminn general, this is a great idea, although there are still doubts if this arrangement by Garmin and other providers could stifle innovation.

I have thought for some time that each of the players should focus on what they do well. Garmin does great hardware. Their newer watches Fenix2 and Forerunner 620 and 220 are great products with good features that get updated often. My vivofit has replaced my old FR70 and is on my wrist all the time.

Strava, RunKeeper and MapMyFitness are just three of the aggregation portals that do a great job in storing, analyzing and provide you with bragging opportunities on your activities. Each of these apps do this a little differently, and they are technically geared toward different end user populations. But in general they provide excellent user interfaces, screen designs and logical pages, analysis and reporting abilities.

stravalogoHere’s where I think Garmin is barking up the wrong tree. I like the fact that data can be easily synced to Strava and the other applications. But Garmin Connect probably has the worst fitness user experience at this time. I actually feel that the “classic” dashboard was better. The “modern” dashboard looks like a bunch of smartphone screens thrown together. And I understand the approach here. Save on developer time by making your mobile and web look, feel and design similar. But if you deliver an online portal, it needs to grow up.

The problem that Garmin has is that  the user experience of their fitness devices will be ultimately be determined by the experience online and on phone apps. That is not great today. You can have a watch made of the finest technology, but the way the user interacts with the device and information determines user satisfaction.

Strava and the other portals do not have their own branded hardware hardware, so they don’t suffer that penalty. They do more of what they’re good at. As long as their apps and web UI works great, all is good in the world. Garmin Connect can learn from the guys who know what they are doing, not try and replicate features such as segments and leave those to the experts. Get the basics right and we will love you even more.

Users are ultimately going to judge you through the UI that it interfaces with you and your data. Heed the advice.