Swim app lands in North America.

Swim app lands in North America.

We are really pleased to finally say that Speedo Fit has now crossed the Atlantic and is available in North America. The release includes a new visual design, overhaul of the UX, some additions and improvements to existing features. This has been a long journey on lots of levels, but it represents a huge milestone for us and a significant step towards global roll out and cementing our position as the the world's largest and most active 'mobile' swim community. 

Now the app is 'in the wild' the real learning and lessons start, but the entire design and build process threw up a few challenges which we thought we'd share. We've also provided some context and explanation for some of the changes and additions you'll see in the new Speedo Fit v3.0.

  • Yards, Metres, Short Course and Long Course. 
    Running and cycling apps can rely on the device's GPS tracker to accurately measure distance. Unfortunately, swim tracking on a mobile device has to work that bit harder! You can't swim with your phone on your arm (well you can, but it's tricky! trust us, we've tried it) so to keep track of your swims you need to 'check-in' the number of lengths you've swam - in a FourSquare kind-of-check-in-way.
    To make this 'manual experience' as easy and 'frictionless' as possible we've worked incredibly hard to provide the most comprehensive database of pools (see later) so the swimmer need only to know their lengths. However, North American pools can be configured as long (50m) or short course (25 yard) pools. We needed to display pools in different metrics and allow for custom pool lengths. From a UX perspective we also needed to account for someone mainly swimming short course - and therefore preferring to show their personal stats in yards, with someone mainly swimming long course and obviously the pretty common case of people switching between the two! Judging by the number of websites that help swimmers convert times and distances between the two systems hopefully many North American swimmers will appreciate our efforts to get this right (if not, let us know how we can improve it!).

    In the not too distant future mass market wearable devices will be available to make auto-tracking your swim work-outs as easy as tracking your run or ride. We're working hard to help make this a reality but for now manual tracking is the best-mass-market option
    (Although unconfirmed, it's seems very like the first version of the Apple Watch Sport appears to be only water-resistant - let's hope that future version are water-proof and usable in the pool).
  • You say "Laps" I say "Lengths" and vice versa.
    Up until this release, we've always referred to a swim from one-side of the pool to the other as a 'length'. The app usually knows the dimensions of a pool so to track a swim distance, the swimmer would need only to add the number of 'lengths' they've swam. The app would then calculate: 
    # of Lengths x Pool Length = Total Distance swam.
    However, 'Laps' started creeping into our vocabulary. From an interface perspective 'laps' is much better - it's easier to say,  it's 4 characters long rather than 7, so fits into small spaces. But it was confusing. Some thought a lap represented a swim from one end to the other and returning to the start point, others thought it was just one one side to another. So we canvassed opinion amongst our US colleagues and stuck with Stanford Uni's Pool Etiquette definition.
    Length= one side of the pool to the other - irrespective if it's the length or the width of the pool :) - and banned 'lap' from our vocabulary and interface. 
  • Pools in North America. We've always put a lot of energy into providing the utility of finding your local swimming pool within the app - and this has always gone down well with UK, French and Chinese swimmers - so we wanted to offer the same utility for Northern Americans. Getting accurate pool data in the US with good coverage wasn't easy. We trawled and evaluated lots of sources and scoped undertaking the primary research ourselves. Fortunately we started talking to Bill Haverland from 'The Swimmer's Guide'. Bill's been researching, updating and compiling a database of global swimming pools since 1996. It's been a real labour of love on Bill's part and he's done a magnificent job. Now, with the help of 'user-generated' feedback from the site he maintains one of the most comprehensive global sources of pool data. With Bill's data, and our team complimenting with more US pools, the Speedo Fit app now has one of the most comprehensive data sources available on mobile. We look forward to continuing the relationship with Bill in the coming months. Shown below is a view of the US pools shown on Google Earth.
US 'Public Access' Swimming Pools (red dots)  available now in Speedo Fit app

US 'Public Access' Swimming Pools (red dots)  available now in Speedo Fit app

  • Distance Goals and the 'Swimming Mile'
    Speedo Fit 3.0 includes a new feature we're really excited about called 'Distance Goals'. This takes inspiration from the hugely popular running apps like Couch-5K, which we all love, as they provide more than just 'tracking' - they help us start and maintain new fitness habits. These structured plans breakdown goals into more manageable steps - interim milestones provide rewards on the way and the running apps usually have an audio coach to keep you motivated during the run. Unfortunately, we're not able to provide audio coaching during your swim (but we're working on that!) so the challenge for us was how could we help swimmers set distance goals without a device in pool?

    We conducted a huge amount of research and analysis, spoke to swimmers of different abilities, professional swim coaches, club trainers, triathletes and collected our own team's personal experiences of following swim and structured fitness programs. We realised we needed to drastically simplify the instructions for swimmers to remember poolside yet still provide a motivating plan and support dry side- when they have their phones in-hand. Today, you'll find three distance goals to suit different levels. Bathtub-to-500, Miracle Mile, and 3k in 6 weeks . Each swim has a target distance and recommended maximum number of rests with the aim that you steadily increase distance and reduce rest time leading to a final swim distance. All goals start on a Monday so you set a clear intention to start,  you can add swims to your calendar to help you stick with it and the plans include helpful tips and hints to keep you motivated. The goals are also forgiving in that they allow you to miss a week, but still track your progress, making it that little bit easier to keep going. We can't wait to analyse the data and hear what people think of these. Watch this space for even more developments in this area!

    In the process of this we also learned that a 'Swimming Mile' is not really a mile.  
    1 mile = 1,609.34m or 1,760yds but what is commonly referred to as a 'Swimming Mile is actually 1,650yds or 1,500m. There are a few theories for why this is the case, the most plausible to us seems to be related to short and long course pools and 1,500m distance. If you're interested to know more the excellent SwimSwam blog tried to get to the bottom of this mystery but we liked the anomaly of the 'swimming mile' so chose this in our mid-level plan.
Swim-by-Swim Distance Goal plans like the Miracle 'Swimming Mile'

Swim-by-Swim Distance Goal plans like the Miracle 'Swimming Mile'

On the topic of definitions, we wanted to make it easy to add swim drill and work out information. We'd already seen UK and French swimmers adding time and stroke information in the notes section of the app. Adding duration and strokes was relatively simple but when we came to add drills we soon realised this was a different matter altogether! We checked with Pro and Club coaches in Europe and the US and each came up with their own list of drill names. We ended up with over 40 different names, many seemingly the same or with slight variations. We've got ideas how to add this in the future, but for this release you can record 'drill' and include your personal specifics in the free-text notes section. Let's see how this works out!

There are many more tweaks and improvements in v.3.0.
We've turned up the social-side of the app with more ways to connect, compare and share with swimming friends. Virtual 'Swim Challenges' [now called 'Map Goals'] have been reorganised and we've added many more. There's also a handy link to a fantastic collection of videos to help you improve your technique and a link to the Speedo shop - to get some new kit - to help you get fit!        

If you're in France, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, United States or the UK you can download the app from the App Store here and try it for yourself. We'd love to hear what you think. 

[Speedo Fit is a collaboration between Speedo International and us, AiT. Read about our unique partnership here. The North American release of Speedo Fit was an extended collaboration involving SpeedoUSA and Hello Design too ]