Run. Ride. Race! Forrest is Here

After many a late night after-hours in the studio, and at home, Adam and Matt, respectively Other Media’s Head of Mobile and Creative Lead, have now launched Forrest, the app promising to make running and cycling more fun…and competitive.

We had a chat to find out a bit more about this app that our experts in app design and creation have worked hard to develop and launch. As two people who are as passionate about running and cycling as they are their work, we know it must be worth a look.

First thing’s first then, where did the idea come from?

Adam: Well, it was inspired by the ghost driver in Mario Kart. For those who haven’t played it, a ghost driver appears during your race as a semi-transparent kart and behaves as you did when you had a good race. The idea is then you can see how you are doing against your PB in real time.

My wife was always a fan of running apps that have an audio announcement of your pace, but this doesn’t really mean anything if you’re trying to improve. You end up having to do some mental maths, whilst trying not to trip over something, it’s frustrating.

So how does Forrest work?

Adam: The concept for Forrest was to create an app, for running and cycling, that allows you to have this ghost racer element so that you can compete against yourself.

You probably have a rough idea of what your pace is when you’re cycling or running, but even a small change in pace can have a big difference over the course of a ride or run. Knowing when you have overtaken, or been overtaken, helps to put this into real-time context so you know when you can ease up a bit or step it up.

The idea was to build something that works without you having to look at it, hence the audio announcements when you need them. You can set it to tell you how you are doing based on time or distance as well as when you are halfway through. We plan to add more ad hoc announcements too.

And so how did it go from concept to beginning to create the app?

Adam: It’s easy to have an idea, but how you turn that into something that does the job you want is not so easy.

About 5 years ago, I wrote the first line of code on the project. I then spoke to Matt to see if he would get involved with the design. We had a burst of activity at the beginning but then it slowed down and we did a bit here and there, but then began not to enjoy it so much. Last year, things changed with the imminent arrival of my son and so I knew I had to get a move on. We set aside Forrest days once a week after work to get things done.

The original deadline we set ourselves was before I became a father…but babies come when they want to and I’m sticking with the excuse that him being early was what derailed us!

Matt: And then the next deadline was my son’s impending arrival this summer, but we kinda missed that too!

Matt how did you feel when Adam asked you to join him on the project?

Matt: I was excited by the concept. At the time I thought it’d be cool to work on something outside of work as I had only been at Other Media for just over a year or so and so I was keen to progress it. It sounded like a fun concept and Adam was open to the idea of me having creative free reign on how it would look and feel.

Suggestions for the interface quickly became collaborative. It was a steep learning curve for me but with Adam’s deep understanding of iOS I could draw on that and we were able to craft it together. It’s strengthened our friendship too. We’re jointly invested in it (Matt laughs off being a bit choked up at this point, but you can hear the love in his voice).

After Emmins Junior’s arrival, what got you over the line to get the app launched?

Adam: When we went into lockdown it was easier to devote time before and after work, that we would previously have spent travelling, to Forrest. So whilst we didn’t quite get it launched before Emmins Junior arrived, it did spur us on again once the initial new-Dad period had calmed.

Matt: It was initially an exciting thing to be working on, and whilst we lost traction a few times throughout the journey, I first lost interest because I wasn’t happy with what I’d designed and I got frustrated. There was a bigger vision for it and we weren’t realising that aspiration at that point. Then, once we simplified it and homed in on exactly what we wanted to do and how we wanted it to work, then the interface design and brand followed and got me excited again.

Adam: It’s seen a number of different technologies. It’s been through various versions of iOS and so I’ve had to update it. I started out writing in Objective-C and then had to start again in Swift. When you’re building anything, though, you don’t throw away code as you’ve solved logic problems and learnt things.

Once we had re-gained momentum this year, we were able to get it into good shape to launch fairly soon after Matt experienced the newborn baby haze.

Most users will be thinking “Run, Forrest, run!” when they see the app for the first time…is this where the name came from?

Adam: I think we were jokingly discussing the name on a lunchtime walk, and it stuck. It’s just always been called that, so that’s its name.

Matt: Yeah, I think it was Adam’s idea!

Adam: We started working on it as Forrest and found nothing at the time that was related to fitness with that name.

And how did the brand mark and app icons develop from there?

Matt: The mark itself is a hybrid of concepts. It’s a tree, which verbally is a nice tie, but it’s also the shape of an arrow, so it’s you moving forwards, progressing, leaning onwards and upwards. The mark was drawn freehand and then refined in Illustrator. As we made it quite organic and free-flowing we felt then that the full word mark should reflect that same spirit of freedom, so it’s hand lettered.

For the colours…I like green and black! It works for a sports app as the green is punchy – though it has changed about three times. It was partly an accident when we posted something to Instagram and applied a filter that made the colour look more vibrant, so we added that green to the pallet to lift it a bit more.

Adam: Matt did a really cracking job with the logo. There are plenty of apps with a running shoe or a person running. The tree/arrow mark really stands out. Most are also blue, and then you have Strava’s orange, and we aren’t looking to compete with Strava.

In the app itself there is more health and fitness related imagery, so we do have a runner and cyclist icon. All of them have been created specifically for Forrest, they are all bespoke. If I’d done this alone the app would have been filled with lots of stock icons or ones I’d crudely drawn myself, but Matt has taken it to another level.

You say you aren’t competing with Strava, so how does Forrest fit into a Strava user’s life?

Adam: I’ve been a Strava user for a long time and so it was important to me that it worked with it. We’re not trying to be the social network for running and cycling, they’re doing that just fine. We want people to use Forrest for a race, for their training, and then export their race to Strava. The value in Forrest is the real-time ghost racer to help you to improve your performance.

You’ve been in the App Store for just a few short weeks, how has the feedback been so far?

Adam: It’s been really positive, people get the concept and the value in the app. There are still ways we can improve it and we’ll always continue to refine it.

Users are telling us they find racing against themselves to not only be motivational, but also addictive.

There’s only one way to really find out what it’s like though…