This is the first post in a series where I'm pointing out some nice little touches that take up less than a 100×100 pixel square on a screen. Today's is the Nike Plus site.
Nike Plus is the product of Apple's partnership with Nike to produce an accessory aimed at those who listen to music on an iPod while they run. With that kind of pedigree, you'd expect nothing less than an excellent, aesthetically exceptional experience, and Nike+Apple definitely deliver.
The physical hardware is reasonably attractive, given its focus on pure functionality. You get a little fob that sits in a custom slot in the Nike shoes, and it can be attached to any brand of shoe if you're creative enough. There's a dongle for your iPod Nano, and then the rest of the magic happens when you sync up your iPod to your computer. It's not perfect, of course; The whole system locks in your running data in a way that's not entirely surprising given Apple's history of DRM advocacy. It's inexplicable why they won't let you export your own info.
On balance, the product is pretty good. But what's remarkable in the execution of the Nike Plus (or "Nike+"; the site and product are referred to both ways) is that it's not just pretty, it's practical for people who are actually runners. My wife and many of my closest friends are all runners, and several of them are in marathon training right now. And all of the runners I've talked to have described the tracking, reporting, and community functionality of the Nike Plus site as top notch. There's also a smart integration of music features, letting you pick a "Power Song" in case you need a boost while running. For someone like me, though, I'd need a way to keep motivated and to reward my competitive nature.
That's where the 100 Perfect Pixels of the Nike Plus site come in. You'll see highlighted here the My Records link, which offers access to a all your running records. You can set goals, challenges, milestones, and events, all designed to help you compete against the most difficult competitor: yourself. That kind of design touch shows some smart thinking and beautiful execution, so it's a shoe-in (pun!) for being the first example of 100 Perfect Pixels.
- You'll need an iPod nano to play with the system. Nike would also prefer you buy some Nike Plus shoes to go with it, though that's actually optional. It works with any sneaker, as Alaina has documented.
- Once you've got the first $400 worth of gear together, you've only got one more item to buy: Nike + iPod Sport Kit is the actual doohickey that makes your shoe talk to the fob that talks to the dongle that talks to the nano that talks to your computer that talks to the website that makes all the charts and graphs light up.
- In the iTunes Music Store, Athlete Inspirations is a bunch of playlists and podcasts for runners by athletes. I had figured everyone was just listening to Eminem's "Lose Yourself" as their Power Song, but apparently not.
- And finally, yeah, I know that 100×100 pixels is actually 10,000 Perfect Pixels. That name kinda sucks, so this post and all the future ones are going to be called 100 Perfect Pixels and tagged with "100px". Deal with it.