Photo by Yomex Owo on Unsplash

ideas on usability heauristics

I’ve been using Strava for over two years now to track my bike rides and occasional runs, and I’m quite pleased with it. Every now and then an app comes along and it somehow helps us achieve to make our lives better in one shape or form. is one of those apps that has helped me push myself to be more fit and healthier, while having fun at the same time.

Strava is Swedish for “”, and is the co-brainchild of Michael Hovarth and Mike Gainey. Founded in 2007, it found a place for itself in the fitness market after the rise of GPS enabled devices and apps, like Nike+ and It helps users become motivated by sharing their activity on it’s news feed. With a fast growing user base and tens of millions of active users, it is becoming a go to app for runners and cyclists.

Most recently I noticed it is adding features for tracking skiing as well as many other sports. It seems to be appealing to a wider demographic from when it started out with top athletes in mind. It is a social network for athletes as Strava puts it, and I’d say it manages to be just that.

“Strava is the social network for athletes, but not everyone is comfortable calling themselves an athlete. It doesn’t matter how fast you are, how many races you win — or if you race at all. All you have to do is strive. Strive to be an athlete, and you are one.”

Pro athletes as well as casual hobbyists make up the fabric of Strava. They create an engaging, dynamic and a competitive playground for all users to join in on the fun. Users can choose to share each of their activities with the massive online community that Strava has built over the last 11 years.

Usability Heuristics

A good user experience throughout the journey is what makes up the building blocks of Strava. The interface is able to achieve a high level of usability through key heuristics. Let’s examine some key usability features that are at play that make up the experience.

image courtesy of Strava

The visibility of system status is never ignored. Once we start recording our activity, the app shows us vital statistics such as our pace and elapsed time. At the end of our activity we can see logged statistics such as our route, average and max speeds, calories burned, as well as heart rate data and elevation. We can then choose to upload photos we took along the ride and include it in our activity log. The app is efficient in addressing our need for flexibility of privacy. We can opt out of sharing our data and keeping to our own if we wish, but whats the fun in that? Strava is fit for healthy competition within it’s active growing community.

The interface manages to achieve a high level of usability for pro athletes as well as casual hobbyists to create an engaging, dynamic and a highly competitive playground to record, save and share each activity.

Next is where the fun stuff starts. Once our activity stats become computed, they are put up against all time stats. From there we’re able to compare ourselves against the best times recorded. This helps us not only strive to beat our own time, but also to mark ourselves a top spot in the global leaderboards. I remember this being a great motivator in wanting to climb up leaderboards until I ate the pavement one time as I was being a bit arrogant.

A recently added auto-pause feature halts the timer, if you decide to take a break, or while waiting for the stoplights to turn green. I find this feature useful though it makes me wonder if that’s a bit of cheating, as it impacts leaderboards.

For premium members more stats and features become available. Suffer scores offer a glimpse into relative effort, while setting and tracking goals become available. They also offer training plans and additional social features such as joining clubs and challenges, though the core set is already solid.

image courtesy of Strava

I’ve been using Strava on the Apple Watch lately. As soon as I launch the app I choose the type of activity I’ll do. From there everything works as expected: I get real time stats, and when I’m done all of the data collected is uploaded to seamlessly into my account. The app makes use of the watches GPS, barometric altimeter, heart rate sensor and speedometer in the background while only showing you the relevant information that you’d want to see at any given point. Better yet, Strava is compatible with many other watches on the market so you don’t have to bring your phone with you.

Strive for your best

Strava has not become profitable since it’s founding, though there is something to it. It’s built by athletes for athletes, and there is clear passion there. The company doesn’t believe in distracting their customers with advertising which makes me feel confident that they put their users first. With a growing user base and a steady track of improving it’s core products and services, it is clear that Strava strives to provide the best for its users.

Beyond their core product, it seems Strava is aiming to build the healthier social network. A million new athletes make their way into Strava every 40 days according to latest stats. A recently added posts feature lets you make posts without recording activity, further enhancing the social aspect of using a fitness tracker app. It’s challenging the ways we think of what a fitness app should be or do, in favor of good competition and a drive to do better.

A healthy dose of competition is fun and can be quite rewarding and using Strava can bring your competitive side out of you. At the end, It brings the best out of each of us if we do it right, and can be quite rewarding in return.



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