When I was learning to program, "user-friendly" was all the rage. A program's user interface, i.e., the ways that we interact with the software through menus, buttons, and data entry, had to be easy to use. Although today user-friendly has been expanded to include the complete user experience, i.e., how the software is delivered, installed, and paid for, a program's user interface is still an integral part of the overall user experience.
So it is with some sadness that I proclaim that a recent update to the Planet Fitness iPhone application has made the user interface worse. Please allow me to share my story.
Though I work from home, when I wake in the morning, I leave my house and go to the gym. I workout, come home, shower, and start my workday. It's part of my routine. One part of my workout is running. Let's take today as an example: I ran. I took a picture of the results on the treadmill (so I would remember what I did when I got back home).
I walk/run 3 miles every workout. I do this by varying my speed based on how energetic I feel. I normally: walk with the setting 4.3 mph for 1 minute, crank it up to 6.3 mph until I am comfortable at that speed, crank it up to 7.2 mph until I get tired, and then revert back to 6.3 mph. I alternate back and forth between speeds until I reach 3 miles and then I stop.
So based on today's treadmill picture, the correct data for my run is:
After I get home, I use the Planet Fitness iPhone app to record my workout. The user interface of the Planet Fitness app used to let me enter:
It would then immediately compute the Calories consumed and show me the result. I could override what it had computed if the calorie number did not match what appeared in the treadmill picture. This worked beautifully.
Recently the app was updated. It has a whole new look and feel, i.e., user interface.
Instead of entering data the old way, it now asks me for:
It even has a pull-down for Intensity:
There's the problem. An Intensity of 6.39 is not a choice. Intensity is not the correct data item to ask for. It's something that can vary during the workout. On the other hand, distance does not. At the end of a run, the distance a runner has run is the distance a runner has run.
Given this new user interface, the best I can do is pick a 6 or 7 and artificially vary the time to match the distance I actually covered.
In addition to the troublesome pull-down for Intensity, the app now computes the calories using a formula that differs from the formula used by the treadmill. Historically, I had been recording what the treadmill reported. I trusted the device over the app. Now I have no choice but to trust the app.
The treadmill reported 421 calories but I am stuck with 380 calories.
I am writing this blog post so I can send it to Planet Fitness. My guess is that the app designers did not consider the use case when a runner varies his speed over the course of a workout. I'd like to see the app updated to ask for Distance instead of Intensity. Recording a workout accurately would be a better user experience.
If you feel the same way or are sympathetic to my plight, you can contact the Planet Fitness in Tomball, Texas. Thank you.
User interface critiquing is alive in the lab.