Endorphin is an opportunity to combine my passion for running and design. My running partner, Nick Fedoroff and I founded Endorphin to create apps for runners.
8 years ago my son was born. I was overweight and out of shape. I was headed to a life of couch surfing and watching my kids from the sidelines, if not worse. I started running with Runkeeper and the data I got from my running apps changed my life.
8 years and 55 pounds later, I have run over 10,000 miles, including 6 marathons. Running with this technology has changed my life and Endorphin is a way to make that happen for other people.
We have shipped 4 apps, including Runcast, Pace, and the Hood to Coast Relay App. We’re currently working on new versions of Pace and Runcast, as well as an app for a school running program.
Runcast is very simply, weather for runners. During my training for my first Eugene Marathon, I got in the habit of checking the weather with an app called Dark Sky before a run. On mornings where I needed to wake up at 5AM to fit in a 12 mile run before work, it was essential.
I would lay in bed and look at the forecast. If it was crappy, but better later in the day I’d hit snooze and run later. If it was beautiful, I would seize the moment and run. More often than not, especially in those dim mornings in January and February, it would just be complete crap all day and I would drag myself out of bed and run anyway.
I researched forecast.io, the API used to create Dark Sky and began to hatch an idea for a running focused weather app.
I brought the idea to Nick and he jumped on board. As I sketched out workflow and functionality, he began connecting to the forecast.io API and building a rough prototype.
Most of our projects begin like this. We identify key screens and build them out in a rough form, connecting to data sources and proving out key functionality.
My initial concept looked like this. I envisioned a long 24 hour spectrum that would give you recommendations and weather data by the hour. Initial prototypes didn’t work well. The color shift as you scrolled through was nice, but we immediately saw the need to see the data on one screen instead of a long scroll.
We continued to iterate on the design. Much of my design process follows the presumptive UX methodology. That is, say yes first.
Many times, UX is put in the position of saying no. Of course, it’s important to stay true to your vision and avoid tangents, but at the initial start of a project, saying yes can actually be more effective at identifying what should be cut out.
Nick and I used this presumptive UX strategy to explore many different ideas. Even bad ideas led to good ideas.
Another key to our design process is a free flow of ideas.
This is an initial sketch I did for our sharing UI. Quickly sharing the design on Slack starts a conversation and allows us to get the big picture before getting in to the specifics of the design.
The final product is a simple, easy to use app used by over 1700 people in 5 countries. Runcast was number 5 in the weather app category in July and up to be featured by Apple. It was featured at number one in Buzzfeed’s “22 Products For Anyone Who’s A Sweaty Mess When They Work Out”.
We continue to iterate on the design. We’ve integrated the Runcast feature in to our RelayKitTM platform for use in our other apps, including the Hood to Coast Relay App which is another project I am proud of.
We are currently working on Runcast 3, completely redesigned for iPhone X.
Hood to Coast is a labor of love. I had always wanted to run Hood to Coast. It’s a 200 mile relay from Mount Hood to Seaside, Or.
12 runners, 2 vans, 36 hours. It’s known as the “Mother of All Relays” and it’s origins are legend in the Portland running community. When I got the chance to run it in 2011, I immediately thought, this needs an app.
Our goal was to replace the clipboard many teams used to keep track of runners. Each team had a timekeeper designated to mark down an incoming runners time with a stopwatch and update the clipboard. For my first Hood to Coast as a team captain, I used a google spreadsheet on an iPad.
The problem was that in areas with no cellular connection, the spreadsheet couldn’t be edited. Exchange times quickly became out of sync and essentially we ended up taking a screenshot of the spreadsheet and using the projections as a guide. After a while, we completely abandoned the iPad.
In addition to the clipboard, Hood to Coast racers spend a lot of time pouring over the handbook.
Before an exchange, the next runner needed to look at their leg details to quell their anxiety and pump themselves up for the upcoming effort.
After an exchange, the driver and fellow van mates would scramble to find directions to the next exchange.
The handbook was great but hard to navigate, especially in the wee hours of the night in a van full of sweaty people.
Nick and I work quickly in the same sketch file, handing off as we iterate.
We start with bare bones UI consisting of the data and elements Nick has available in X-Code. Then we iterate on concepts, adding data and design elements. You can see the appearance of the slide to handoff feature and how it evolved over time.
Toward the end of pre-race testing with internal testers, the Hood to Coast team asked us if we could just release the app in 2015. It was tempting and their confidence in us was encouraging but we convinced them to hold off.
The beta test of the app was a complete success. We proved out our timing concept and data underpinnings. We got great feedback from a few dedicated testers, including some legendary Hood to Coast racers from the Dead Jocks in a Box team. And we built trust with the Hood to Coast organization.
For 2016, we had a lot of data and a little more time. We also had a lot more pressure. Although the beta test had gone well, there were several ‘gotcha’ moments where we encountered a scenario we didn’t anticipate.
One of the unique elements of designing for a once a year relay race is that you really only have 36 hours a year to get real world testing. We had gone through handoff scenarios many times over, even going as far as acting them out in the street, but none of our play acting really captured the dynamic nature of raceday.
I mapped out the user journey from pre-race prep to post-finish glory. I turned those in to use cases and mapped them to functionality. I then used those use cases as the basis for user stories in our kanban board.
Nick and I began building out the initial prototype. Using the user journey map, we identified key features and data and stubbed them out in a sketch document, again working in layers.
Looking at the sketch files, you can see the evolution of the design from bulleted lists to wireframes to high- fidelity concepts.
The app had over 7500 installs and 150,000 sessions total. Over 80% of the volume was just from the last three weeks of august from the captains meeting to race day.
Our biggest complaint was lack of Android support. The following year, we redesigned the app for iOS and Android.