Garmin LiveTrack, A User Story

Introduction

So I’m a UX designer. “UX” stands for User Experience and means that it’s my job to make it as easy as possible for users of products to accomplish their tasks. When us UX guys and gals are feeling touchy-feely we create what are called ‘user stories’ where we follow a user from the beginning of a path to their goal and identify friction points and fix them. We are the champions of the end user.

I recently purchased a Garmin Edge 1000, primarily for the LiveTrack and SMS capabilities. Previously I had been using the RoadID e-Crumb app to let my wife follow my rides and get updates on my whereabouts. The concept is sound but the execution is tragically flawed–the app frequently freezes or fails to update making it look like I’m dead on the road. With my phone packed in my pockets with tons of gear I often miss her text message asking if I’m ok.

The Garmin seemed to promise the solution to both problems: more solid tracking and the ability to see incoming text messages if my tracker did fail for some reason.

The reality is that the onboarding is very, very bad and once configured, the remainder of the experience leaves a little too much room for improvement for a $500 bike computer.

In an effort to look chipper and on top of things @Garmin responded to an admittedly cryptic tweet of mine inviting me to contact their customer support. Of course this is an issue for their customer support but it is also an excellent lesson on exactly what kind of setup experience you want to avoid, so I’m posting it here.

The User Story

This user story is a slightly abbreviated version of my first actual attempt to set up and use LiveTrack on a ride with my wife as the at-home follower.

In order to set up text message notification I needed to pair my Edge 1000 with my iPhone in the bluetooth settings. Pairing required two connections as if my Garmin were two devices. Jeckyl identified himself as ‘BLE_Edge 1000′ and Hyde was BT_Edge 1000′. Or maybe that’s the other way around. Either way, with the devices paired, alerts on, and Garmin Connect running, text messages were not being passed through from the phone to the Garmin. Online forums provided no clues but suggested that this might be a software-version-incompatibility problem, or that this function was simply broken. You never know with online forums.

 

double-bluetooth-3

With my phone linked to my Edge I fired up the Garmin Connect app on my phone and started a LiveTrack session. As part of the setup I needed to invite a contact. Apple’s search filter works great within address book and narrows down the list as you type but here Garmin seemed to have written their own, much worse version. The results you see apparently only match the first letter you typed, and none thereafter.

None of the names shown first on my list matched the letter pattern I typed. They are also not alphabetical so I have no idea what logic, if any, this system is following. My matching name ended up being at the bottom of the second screen.

None of the names shown first on my list matched the letter pattern I typed. Since I’m on a first-name basis with my wife and my friends, and because Apple’s built-in address book sorts by first name, I expect that this will work in the same way.

After finding my wife I obviously choose her SMS number because I wanted her to receive my message right away.

choosing-SMS

but all she got was an error:

sms-error

So I had to resend the invite to a real email address AND send a separate text to my wife telling her to check her email manually. She doesn’t see it. The message went to her the Junk folder:

 

live-track-in-junk-2

…and was not formatted for phones:

Message set to display at half the available screen size, which is not much on a mobile phone!

Message set to display at half the available screen size, which is not much on a mobile phone!

 

She taps the link and is taken to a web page containing a map and some data. The tracker doesn’t seem to update, even though there have been methods to refresh web pages available for a decade.

There are also aspects of the display that are a little confusing such as the minus before the time and distance. Am I traveling back in time? Do I have 35 miles left to ride?

When thinking about what your viewer may want, elevation gain probably isn’t on the top of their list. More useful would be defaulting to a ‘current’ speed–this way the follower knows if you’ve stopped and if you don’t start moving again within a certain time period they can legitimately start wondering about you.

no-live-update-and-no-end-notification-3

 

So my wife sees the screen above and wonders what’s up and sends me a text message asking if everything is ok. My phone gets it quietly but does not register on my Garmin because something failed in the pairing of the devices and instead of producing and error or warning, it gave a confirmation that all was well.

crickets

Instead of seeing my incoming text messages I get crickets. Hand credit: DC Rainmaker.

So I never get back to her and she worries for two or three hours until I get home when…

ended-2

 

I’m done! After finishing and saving the ride Garmin Connect sends no additional email or text to her so the only way she knows I’m really done and alive is:

  • when I fish my phone out of my pocket and see her text messages and I reply or
  • when I walk in the door, completely unaware of the angst created by this notification system

What a horrible story.

So in summary, here are a few to-dos for Garmin:

  • Improve error detection so that if a bluetooth connection has a problem that will prevent a text message from getting passed from phone to edge that the user is notified
  • Fix the name search in Garmin Connect’s LiveTrack
  • Allow people to be notified of live track session via SMS
  • Auto-refresh online map
  • Improve data of online map
  • Send notifications to followers when activity is completed

Postscript: After this first ride I gave the bluetooth pairing another go and deleted all connections and re-added them, with the BLE_Edge 1000 first, after which text messages started showing up on the Edge. As and end user don’t know if this order is important or if it was just luck of the draw that it worked.

This entry was posted in Columns on by .
Aaron Deutsch

About Aaron Deutsch

Aaron has always felt a passion for, if not a gravitational pull from, racing. Since being lured from the basketball court onto the track in 1993 he set 7 track & field records and medaled six times at the state level of competition.

He moved to the mountain bike in the late 1990s and won the Penn Cycle Buck Hill race series in 2000 in the sport class. He also placed 4th in the Subaru Cup XC race that year.

After moving to New York Aaron took up road racing and rode unattached for the first year and medaled in 2 races including a 1st place finish in the Kissena Race Series in 2007. In 2008 the Brooklyn Arches Cycling Club was formed and the results were immediate and consistent including winning the Cadence Cup Race Series in Brooklyn. He currently races with the Major Taylor Iron Riders Development Team