Like many others, Luke Beard took up walking in 2020. Gradually, daily walks in his hometown of Atlanta turned into daily runs. He started using apps to track his activities, but when he went to share his runs on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, he was disappointed with the options. Tools like Strava, Withings and Apple weren’t providing him with the sharing capabilities he wanted — so he took things into his own hands.
“I originally started by making the share images for each of my own activities by hand,” says Beard, who is also a photographer and CEO of Exposure, a visual storytelling tool. “I also knew that COVID-19 had a lot of people heading outside, and that I couldn’t be the only one thinking about this.”
1/2 After sharing runs for the last few months, I spent a little bit of time this week scratching an itch.
I've always wanted a more elaborate photo-focused share image design that has some character. Like using the route lines as more of an abstract shape. pic.twitter.com/u9PNlQfda2
— Lukebeard.eth 📍🏴 (@LukesBeard) December 4, 2020
He was right in hypothesizing that there was an appetite for more elegant social sharing — 85,000 people saw the initial Tweet he made about his app concept. So, in collaboration with developer and co-founder Dan Kuntz, Beard decided to create Any Distance. The app is designed for sharing customizable social media-focused images for distance activities, and for maintaining motivation with simple goal-tracking. Forty days after they started, the co-founders had a beta product.
The iOS app, which is now available for free in the App Store, allows users to choose a running, cycling, walking or hiking distance-based goal that they’re aiming to achieve within a period of time selected by the user. Any Distance connects to Strava and Apple Health, so any time users complete a recorded run they can generate a customizable image to share with followers on Instagram, Twitter and more.
The social sharing images can be designed with data such as distance, elevation gain, average speed, time, location and a user’s distance goal. Users can also choose to include a simple outline of the route and select different layouts to crop their image, and can earn collectible achievement medals for activities, distances and special events.
Any Distance is clearly an app with a design focus, something Beard says creates a sense of intrigue that can translate into motivation to try something. “I think Peloton has done a great job at this,” he says. “Just look at the brands and services ruling the fitness consumer world right now. It’s proof that, for the most part, everyone is attracted to the fundamentals of well-designed things: clean type, classic shapes, well laid out elements and interesting branding.”
“It’s a universal feeling. We have had posts from India, Singapore, Japan, Scotland, Israel, Turkey, Mexico, and all over the U.S. Any Distance is designed to make anyone who goes any distance feel good about sharing their activity.”
“Keeping an ‘easy to use’ tool actually easy to use is tougher than it sounds,” says Beard. “As we think about what’s next, we are being intentional about what direction we go. We’re getting stellar feedback about workflow, creative tools, and much more. It’s very exciting.”
He says there are some things already in the cards for Any Distance. Users can expect updates with additional activity details such as weather, easy-to-use photo filters (which Beard says they have a partner lined up for), multiple-goal tracking and more creative tools. “The long term is not crystal clear yet,” says Beard, “but we know there are plenty of problems Any Distance is positioned to solve.”