As the “new” Homescreen UI continues rolling out to more riders, the most common complaint I’m hearing is “What happened to the ‘Join another Zwifter’ function?” A fair question, since it’s nowhere to be found in the new UI, which is of course baffling to Zwifters who relied on this functionality to ride with friends.
Why was Join Another Zwifter removed from the homescreen? One has to assume Zwift looked at usage stats and determined that this feature wasn’t popular enough to include in the new UI. But how do we reconcile this lack of popularity with the cries of so many users mourning their lost ability to join others?
I have a theory.
I think Join Zwifter was seldom used. But when it was used, it was essential – because there’s really no workaround for a lack of Join Zwifter functionality. Unless you can directly message your buddy outside of the game and get them to meet you somewhere on course or join the same Pace Partner group, there’s no way to join them in a free ride without using Join Another Zwifter.
Join Another Zwifter is probably the least-used feature on the old homescreen. But that doesn’t mean it is unimportant.
Bringing It Back
Based on forum posts from Zwift HQ, it’s clear they have changed their minds based on user feedback and are working to bring Join Zwifter to the new Homescreen UI. That’s good news, because its removal was a step backward from Zwift’s goal of bringing more social experiences to Zwifters.
We don’t have an ETA from Zwift, but they’ve said, “We are actively working on bringing it back for all OS platforms so you can join another Zwifter as on the legacy home screen.”
As I pondered the return of Join Another Zwifter, I realized that I’ve barely ever used this feature in the past few years, because I found it to be underdeveloped and thus often unusable. The only times I ever used it were when I knew (thanks to communication outside of the game) that my friend was online and riding a particular route with a particular plan, and I wanted to join them.
Those are pretty rare instances. But could Join Another Zwifter be improved to make it more useful? Absolutely. And doing so would just build on Zwift’s strengths as a social cycling platform.
Here’s my list of potential improvements for the “Join Another Zwifter” feature, in no particular order:
- Show their chosen route: the old screen only showed a Zwifter’s name, total distance, and average speed. You also knew what world they were in, but that was it. I’d like to know which route they’re on, so I can decide if I’d like to join them!
- More ride stats: This is about convincing me to ride with someone else, and in order for that to happen I need to know what I’m getting into without directly communicating with the other Zwifter beforehand. I’d like to know how long they’ve been riding, perhaps their average watts or w/kg. Heck, if I could click and see their location on a map that would be even better!
- All worlds in one place: don’t make me click between worlds to see which riders are where. Show me a list of all active people I follow, along with enough activity detail so I know what to expect in terms of world, route, and level of exertion if I click to Join them.
- Filtering/sorting: the old list of active Zwifters was sorted oddly, with no ability to sort it differently or filter/search the list. My Favorites should always be highlighted and probably shown at the top of the list, then I want the ability to filter by world, search by name, and sort by distance covered, average power, and maybe more.
- Play nicely with events: on the old homescreen you might click to join a rider who was in an event, only to be dropped into free ride mode where that rider isn’t actually visible. The feature should be smarter than this – and it wouldn’t take much. If they’re in an event I can’t join, show them on the list but greyed out, with an event title visible so I know what they’re up to. But if they’re in an event I can late join, let me click and join, popping right into the event next to my friend!
- Notify me when a friend joins: a quick on-screen notification to let me know when someone has joined me would ensure that I notice them popping in and can immediately say hello. Like yelling “Norm!” as your friend walks in the door, this just makes Zwift feel more intimate and friendly, and that’s always a good thing.
- Do it on the fly: this may be an edge case, but if I was feeling particularly social, I’d love to pull up the “Join Another Zwifter” box while riding so I could click easily click and join other active Zwifters regardless of which map they’re on. A new activity would have to be started for each join, but imagine the fun of popping in and hanging out with a friend for a bit before popping over to another friend. Social butterflies with teleportation powers. What a time to be alive!
What About You?
Are you on the new homescreen and missing Join Another Zwifter? Do you have some ideas for improving the feature? Share below!