Recently, I learned how to Run. How is that possible you would say, I learn how to run when I was 1 year old?
Since then, I was running because my sports teacher at school was very pushy, I was running because every Londoner does run to the next train even if they have extra 5 minutes to wait, I was running at the gym because I heard it is a good cardio. But I have never enjoyed it or as I admit now I didn’t know how to Run. How to run to enjoy, how to run 5th kilometre and not to focus on actual activity, but rather tackle design problem?
I still fight with myself almost every-time I run, but I learned how to manage my thoughts, which helps me to love this activity. Manage your head? Is it even possible?…
It is and it is just one of the running benefits that I want everyone to learn and use it to improve their lives. That is the reason I have decided to try and improve the Strava app.

Direct messaging feature

Strava is a social fitness network, that is primarily used to track cycling and running exercises, using GPS data although alternative types are available. As most of the tracking apps, it has an easy and efficient way to track your activity, but the main Strava’s difference from all other apps — networking platform. Every activity tracked with this app, with a picture or the summary, become the content on your profile. Other strava users can give you kudos or comment it to celebrate your achievements or encourage progress. I was intrigued by this smart social media integration and now can assure that I got hooked by this model and do run much more than ever before.
Once I completely transitioned from other tracking apps to Strava only, I became an active user. With better activity, I was noticed by other athletes that even live on another side of the world. I thought how great it is that I can connect with different runners around the world, but wait, I cannot contact them?
I noticed an opportunity to use Daily UI challenge — Direct messaging and improve Strava app.
It is something that users want?
To understand more if this a case for users I decided to have a look at Strava support forum online. This is what I have found out — question about direct messaging feature has started since December of 2012. There are 934 votes to favour this idea and 230 comments with real use situations, facing a need for this feature. Let’s have a look at some of the situations to find the main pain points.
Situation #1:
Imagine you post activity and receive kudos from someone you don’t know, but you notice that athlete is running in the same neighbourhood, or on similar pace and you would like to arrange a group activity. You may start to follow, comment on their activities and that is how communication ends. As we can imagine, users are not willing to comment on any personal information when it is public.

User flow once someone new gave you a kudos

Situation #2:
Other discussed case was club communication. Strava encourages everyone to join different clubs and take part in group activities. Club organizers can create events with all main information needed and it would seem that there is no problem. Few situations that I have noticed a few times:
Club members want to welcome and inform new members directly.
Some club organizers tend to choose other platforms for communication with other members.
Club members tend to travel together to different events places.
While reading discussion I have noticed that there are more and more people who are quitting premium services or quitting the service at all because of communication difficulties. These cases prove that direct messaging could not only empower networking, improve users activity, but also reduce user flow and a need to use other social platforms.
Direct messaging:
This is how I integrated direct messaging without changing Strava style guidelines and by using their own icons.

Direct messaging

Calling feature:
While designing direct messaging I have noticed one more opportunity to enable even more users to enjoy running/cycling and encourage their activity. Integrating calling feature Strava would enable users to find and have a virtual sports buddy, as well as organise activities with users from different parts of the world. The example on the left shows how calling feature allows you to run with your friends, even though they are not around.

Calling feature

Constraints and risks:
Because this feature has been discussed since 2012 and still has not been implemented, I have researched a bit to find out what are the biggest constraints that could stop Strava from implementing this feature.
The amount of hours it takes for developers to build direct messaging is around 200 hours, adding direct calling even more. And there is only amount in developing hours without counting the development price.
For the server-side, to process audio and image messages, audio and video call it takes a lot of data. To reach that scale, the company needs a backend that can run on many servers, own data centres and people to maintain them.
Direct messaging and call feature could increase annual maintenance price up to 20%.
Security risks — Crackers still using DM as vectors for delivering phishing attempts, “poison URLs”, and virus-laden file attachments.
Several studies have shown that DM services are quite vulnerable to providing user privacy.
Despite the biggest constraints and other risks of developing this feature, I believe that direct messaging would help to improve Strava users’ experience as well as encourage more new users to join the growing athlete community.

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