Some suggestions for improving RideWithGPS.com

I’m really liking the RideWithGPS.com website.  It does a good job at tracking bike routes, and the interface is awesome.  The developers have left several comments on this blog, so I know they appreciate feedback.  They’re continuing to improve the site, and according to their blog, they are looking for ideas on how to improve the site.  RideWithGPS has multiple ways to give them feedback.  You can leave a message on their site, or you can comment on their blog.  Since I wanted to visually show some recommendations, I chose to offer some ideas with this blog post.  My suggestions below are basically to steal some ideas from Bicycling’s new Training Log.

1.  Add a summary tab to the list of the tab interface

Summary is clean

Summary is clean

RidewithGPS’s tabs are awesome, but I’d like to see a summary tab that incorporates information like the screenshot above.  I appreciate the weekly, monthly, and yearly totals on the summary page.  I can honestly do without the table that Bicycling has, but others might find it useful.

2.  Mileage and Mapping of routes is optional

Mileage/map optional

Mileage/map optional

Some routes, such as bike paths, are really hard to map out on a website.  Also, I’m likely to ride on our bike path a certain amount of time, then turn around and go back.  Bicycling’s Training Log allows me to enter a route without requiring a map (or GPS) and without requiring mileage.  This allows me to enter the mileage separately when I log an activity.  Currently, with RideWithGPS, I would have to map out the 33 mile bike path ride I did yesterday before I entered it on my log.   My understanding is that the developers are working on ways to enter activities without requiring a map.  I will definitely appreciate this feature.

3.  Script for embedding stats

Embed stats on your blog

Embed stats on your blog

Bicycling’s training log allows you to embed stats on your blog or website, simply by cutting and pasting a bit of javascript.  The developers of RideWithGPS seem to be very gifted folks, so this would likely be an easy to implement.  Also, I would imagine that allowing people to embed stats on their blogs would be a great way to publicize RideWithGPS, as well as promote the social nature of the site.  The widget that Bicycling has looks kind of generic too, so I imagine RideWithGPS could make a much cooler widget.  RideWithGPS’s map and histogram embeds are very cool and easy to use.  Embeddable stats would give users another option to share their data (and spread the word about RideWithGPS) all over the place.

4.  Import/Export of stats

Export stats from training log

Export stats from training log

Since Bicycling lets you export stats from your training log, one way that RideWithGPS could acquire some users is to allow an easy import feature from Bicycling.  The import of routes from MapMyRide works flawlessly.  Since Bicycling allows you to export data as an Excel file, it RideWithGPS should be able to import this data.  This seems like this would mostly be a matter of deciding which fields mapped where, then scripting the import of the data.

5.  Make the search interface more intutive

Route search is very powerful

Route search is very powerful

Searching for routes in RideWithGPS is very easy.  There are multiple ways you can search.  The only thing holding the route search back right now is the lack of content there to search.

Searching by zipcode is not intuitive

Searching by zipcode is not intuitive

It appears that currently the only user information that is searchable is the zipcode and the username.  A search for Athens or OH does not find me as a user.  You can only currently find me by typing my zipcode or my name.  It took me a few minutes to figure this out, and as a librarian, I’m trained to figure out how to search things.    A little bit of text telling user what to search (name, zip, etc) would make it easier for users to connect with others.   I’d also like to see the state and city fields searchable here as well.  Finally,   I’d also like to  be able to search for users in a mileage radius as well. I don’t know all the surrounding zip codes in a 50 mile radius, so the system ought to be able to help me find others nearby.  I think the community aspect of RideWithGPS has a great deal of potential, but users need to be able to find each other in order to maximize the potential.

These are just a few suggestions that I have with how to improve RideWithGPS.  I’m not an expert programmer by any means, so I don’t know how easy it would be to implement my recommendations.  I do see that RideWithGPS is already one of the better mapping and log tools available to cyclists, and I am excited about what the site creators will bring to the site.  The developers seem genuinely interested in developing a tool that others will use, so the end product, with user imput, can potentially be the best service available.  I’m looking forward to where they will take the site.

Checking out RideWithGPS.com

Over that past few couple of years I’ve hopped back and forth with online mapping tools.  Since I don’t have a GPS on my bike (would love one, but the fundage is a little short these days), I rely on a bike computer for distance, and a mapping tool for elevation.  I’ve used Sanoodi, Gmaps-pedometer, and MapMyRide at various times. Bicycling Magazine also recently released a training log/mapping tool, which I may review down the road, so to speak.    Each one has there own strengths and weaknesses, and I’m sure a comprehensive review at a later time would be a very good blog post. (none of which, by the way, will embed in a WordPress.com blog, which may be a reason to move this blog to my own host eventually).  For now I’m just checking out RideWithGPS.com, which I found via this very old, but recently updated, thread at BikeForums.net.  (You know it’s old first by the fact that the thread began in 2007.  Secondly, one of the members suggests using RouteSlip, which was purchased by MapMyRide some time ago.)

I’ve only been checking out RideWithGPS.com for a couple of hours, but here are some initial thoughts.

1.  There is an easy import feature directly from MapMyRide.  I loved this feature, as it allowed me to migrate my content easily, with a simple click.  If you’re tired of the MapMyRide ads (free version), then  this a great way to get your content to a less cluttered online service.

2.  The ride profile screen, shown below, is awesome. I love the fact that it is uncluttered and ad-free.  MapMyRide drives me nuts with the ads.  Yes, I know if I pay the ads should go away, but I’m on a budget.   I also love the fact that RideWithGPS.com gives you the total elevation in the top right of the ride screen, as well as an elevation profile below the map.   You’ll also noticed that there is a Gear Used section in the bottom right of the page.  If you have multiple bikes (or motorcycles) you can select which one you used, and it will show up on this trip details page.

3.  Drawing a route is easy as it can be.  There is a feature to have the program “Follow Roads”, which means there are a lot fewer clicks when drawing a route on your computer.  I found this feature to work pretty well, although for some reason when merging onto a major highway on a route, the software did something a bit crazy.  I just select the “Undo Last Point” option, and changed the drawing options to “Draw Lines” until my route got off the major highway.  Other than that little hiccup, the “Follow Roads” option makes it so you have to click fewer times when creating a route.  As a result, creating a route is not nearly as tedious as with other programs.

4.  The activity log (image below), which tracks what you did and when, looks to be intuitive and easy to read. With limited use, I only have one ride posted thus far.   There is both a month view and a list view to suit your viewing preferences.  My only complaint with the activity log is that you are required to select a route when entering a new activity.  There are times when I would just like to say “I rode 18 miles on the bike path in 65 minutes” without having to actually map or draw the route.  Otherwise, I’d have to map out the route to specified turnaround points, which is very difficult to do on a bike path.  I’d have to map the turnaround points as specific landmarks, such as a road crossing, which is not always convenient, as there are times when I just ride as far as I can for 45 minutes, then turn around.

Overall I like what I see at RideWithGPS, and I’ll likely continue using it for the time being.  It has most of the features that I need, is easy to use, and seems to be fairly quick and stable.  The developers also have a blog which they use to promote  features and post updates.  This looks to be a really promising tool for recording bike rides, and I am very interested to see where the product goes in the future.