Goal: To create a fitness app from concept and research to finished prototype as my capstone project for Springboard.
Sphere Prototype App
BUILDING FITNESS THROUGH CONNECTION AND MOTIVATION
With the amount of fitness apps available on the market, there is an overwhelming amount of choices and data for new and beginning athletes. Sphere Fitness was designed to simplify this by using a 10-point scale while utilizing gamification to build healthy goals and habits over time. By providing users with a scoring breakdown as well as customizable goals, I created what I believe was the foundation for my app’s major pillars:
- To help new and intermediate users build fitness through an easy-to-understand tracker.
- Connect users to an online support group to help them achieve their goal(s).
- Use rewards and gamification to motivate users to turn working out a habit.
FROM CONCEPT TO DESIGN
As Sphere was designed to be my capstone project for my Springboard- UX Career Track certification, I was in charge of everything from concept to design. Through utilizing a waterfall UX approach over the span of 4.5 months, I began with 5 user interviews to try and understand the problems associated with the current fitness landscape. Then I moved on to synthesizing that qualitative research, sketching, wireframing and additional moderated and unmoderated guerilla/usability tests.
Additionally, I came up with the gamification concept to use metabolic equivalents (METs), heart rate/effort and duration to produce a fitness score for every recorded activity.
TAKING A DEEP DIVE INTO FITNESS
I began to conceptualize Sphere by performing qualitative and quantitative research. Through this process, I began to realize that the major issues with the fitness app landscape could be distilled into: motivation, confusion and not getting the right support. No matter how experienced an athlete was, motivation always tended to be the number one factor when it came to problems.
To help collect data and produce a pool of potential user interviewees, I sent a Google screener survey out to 20+ applicants using a combination of my own social media accounts, Reddit, Craigslist and Springboard’s Slack channel. Applicants were asked questions including favorite activities, how much time they spent working out and open-ended questions such as what obstacles they encounter when exercising.
5 interviewees were selected and then using a mix of in-person and online moderated interviews asking questions about what apps people are using to track fitness, their lifestyle habits and what kind of support system they had. As I had interviewed a wide variety of athletes at different levels on their fitness journey, both of my beginners informed me that extrinsic rewards played a huge role in motivation. From here I got the idea to gamify my app by having users complete goals for rewards/points.
After gathering quantitative and qualitative data from my user interviews and screener, I began to develop three personas for Sphere. These personas played a critical role in the development of my red routes which would eventually evolve into the live sketches that I would use for my guerilla tests. Throughout the process, the personas, “Claude,” “Sara” and “Justin” would represent potential users of varying athletic levels with different needs from the app.
BRINGING SPHERE TO LIFE
Sphere began life as a series of low-fidelity wireframe sketches that would be used for guerilla testing. As I was following a traditional waterfall development model, these wireframes proved to be a critical piece in the puzzle that allowed me to do some early testing of my hypothesis; which was that using a mash-up of gamification and goal setting would help motivate users to workout.
After a round of iteration from the guerilla tests, I began to work on producing high-quality wireframes. Beginning with the black-and-white screens below, I began to use information architecture to categorize all of my screens to four primary routes.
After I was satisfied with the structure and layout of the app, I began to work on its visual design. As I was placing a particularly huge emphasis on accessibility, I chose colors that would work harmoniously while providing the right contrast and mood for a fitness app. From there, it was simply taking the time to produce high-fidelity screens for my inVision prototype and then connecting the screens together to give an authentic app feel.
Throughout Sphere’s production process, I conducted a number of different usability tests during each phase of production; from the 5 in-person guerilla tests during the sketching phase to 3 rounds of usability tests, with approximately 5 users each during the prototype phase. By assigning users with tasks that I pulled from my red routes, I was able to collect valuable data that would help my most current iteration. These tasks included onboarding, leaving feedback to another user, manually adding an activity and trying to make sense of the scoring system.
One particular issue of interest that I encountered during usability testing was that since I had chosen to use Google’s material design for Sphere, iOS users originally had trouble finding the floating action button. Eventually I had gotten through this by using a raised center tabbed navigation for the manual add activity.
After looking into using a raised center and its UX appeal, I was able to validate through a series of 5 unmoderated remote tests that it was much easier for participants to manually add a workout.
DECREASING COMPETITION, INCREASING MOTIVATION WITH LIKES
While I was designing my social page, it occurred to me that visible ‘likes’ may demotivate users and detract from the social page. As other websites such as Instagram pioneered this trend, I believe that by hiding likes from other users in Sphere would help foster a more supportive environment instead of having users compete with one another to see who can collect the most high-fives.
MOTIVATING WITH GAMIFICATION AND REWARDS
After my early user interviews, it occurred to me that the best way to motivate beginners was through extrinsic rewards. As they appreciated the fact that they could get something for working out, I came up with the idea to combine goal setting with quests/tasks that are present in gacha mobile games.
MANUALLY ADDING AN ACTIVITY
Although the app was designed to sync up with fitness watches such as Fitbit, Polar and Garmin, users can manually add as well choosing from over 100 different types of sports, lifestyle movements or training activities. Scores are achieved through a simple formula of perceived effort/heart rate x metabolic equivalent of task (MET) x duration and comparing it to past performances.
HELPING USERS BUILD A HEALTHIER LIFESTYLE
To me, the fitness industry is something that I hold dear. As I personally did not start to get into it until I hit 30, one of the things that I always had trouble with was finding motivation to go out there and exercise. Through creating Sphere, I was able to identify through qualitative research that I was not alone in this.
Motivation is one of the biggest detractors that people always face when trying to exercise and thus this project was born. It’s something that I know I would have thoroughly enjoyed using as a beginner and is a nice alternative to the more “hardcore” apps out there that focuses mostly on intermediate-advanced athletes.
Even though I now belong to the intermediate group, I still often have to push myself to get outside and run a hard workout. While it’s easier to convince myself to do it, there will always be days that drag. It’s my hope that an app like this would help give users that extra push by giving them a goal to work towards and start to build a healthier lifestyle!