What it takes to do it right
Getting a rock solid mobile app user experience is hard in its own right — getting there with a health or fitness app is even more difficult. We’ll discuss why creators of health and fitness apps are having an even more difficult time achieving quality user experience, and we’ll show you a few successful examples along the way.
To achieve awesome user experience, developers need to dance on a thin line between being too generic and personalizing the experience to the point where people can’t be bothered to onboard anymore.
Let’s take it from the top.
Why is it so hard getting (and staying) fit?
Even though it’s 2016 and we know a lot about health and fitness, a lot of people are still out of shape, many of which are trying really hard to get there. So why are they failing?
Because we’re all different, with unique metabolisms, body shapes and sizes, and habits. All those things affect our physique, and in order to really be healthy, we need to have custom-fit, tailor-made workout routines and diets.
On the other hand, apps, even though there’s been a lot of talk about personalization, are usually generic in a way that they try to solve the same problem for a large number of people in the same way.
For example, traveling apps are the same for everyone. You pick a destination, book a flight, reserve a hotel room and find a few interesting sightseeing places. The same problem, in this case traveling, is solved in the same way, in this case through booking flights and rooms, for a large number of people.
For health and fitness, this recipe doesn’t work, thanks to the uniqueness of our bodies and our lifestyles.
What makes a good user experience?
How does user uniqueness, and app uniqueness, work together towards a great user experience?
Quality user experience revolves around users being able to quickly pick up your app and use it to get a certain problem out of the way. With fitness, it’s not that easy, as the app needs to learn a ton about you before proceeding. These apps need to be extremely intuitive, they need to ask you the right questions and they need to offer a simple and fast way of answering, so that it may reshape itself just for you.
Let’s take a look at six awesome health and fitness apps, each in its own sub-category, and analyze how they achieved the famed user experience we’re all striving for:
Android | iOS
Down Dog is the first place users should go to, to get their yoga fix. It is fast, simple and very intuitive. The app is stripped of all the unnecessary things, such as long log-in and registration pages. It throws you straight into the workout. As soon as you choose your sequence type (beginner, intermediate or advanced), pace and length, the only thing left to do is press ‘Start Practice’, and the app loads the workout. It’s a very smooth, straight-to-the-point approach, offering exactly the things you downloaded it for in the first place.
All necessary preparations before starting the workout are done on a single page in the app, where users get to choose their sequence type, pace, type of playlist and the exercise’s length.
Android | iOS
Strava is a running and cycling app that has spiked a lot of interest among health and fitness enthusiasts because of its simple interface and the offer of a competitive approach. The app’s user experience revolves around three simple steps:
1) Record your run with a compatible GPS device
2) Upload it to your profile
3) Compare the results with countless others, including friends and family
What’s particularly interesting about this app is that the more users engage with it, the more it offers them. At first, it’s straightforward, as it offers a simple product: record your run and share it with others. This feature is presented in a simple, visually appealing way that everyone will find easy to consume. However, for those looking for a little extra, Strava also offers clubs, challenges, activity feeds, training videos and an entire premium section.
Sometimes, when an app with a straightforward concept offers so many different features, it can seem intimidating, often scaring people away. Strava managed to craft such an interface which is never overwhelming. It slowly draws app users in, always offering a bit more without being annoying or asking too much of the users’ time. Its various features, like creating a profile, competing with friends, having goals and challenges, or many others, create a comprehensive app that not only helps people run but motivates them to do so and keeps them moving forward.
That is what makes it stand out, and what creates an awesome experience for the users.
Android | iOS
Headspace is a meditation app, offering meditation sessions and training through audio guidance. Being a meditation app means every facet needs to be calming, soothing and relaxing. This app does all those things perfectly, even paying attention to seemingly insignificant details such as color scheme?. The first thing you’ll notice is the color scheme used for the app. Mild, pastel colors, in the brown(ish) / yellow(ish) / white(ish) combo, are dominating the app. There’s not a single element in the app’s interface that’s over-stimulating.
The meditation sessions themselves are easily accessible, right from Home, the app’s first page. Besides sessions, split into the free and paid categories, the app offers quantitative progress tracking and a friends list. Those two things are combined so that you may motivate and encourage your friends to keep pushing on, and vice-versa.
Three pages make up the basis of the app: Timeline, Progress and Buddies.
Timeline is just what its name says — a timeline of sessions users can choose to help them meditate. The Progress page is where all the user’s progress is presented as stats, including run streak in days, average session duration, or the total number of sessions.
The Buddies page is where users can invite their friends and family into the app, to track each other’s progress and encourage them not to give up.
Everything is presented through a short video, helping users consume content faster, and understand it easier. Meditation is proven to have a positive effect on humans, and Headspace is a great motivator to give it a go.
Android | iOS
Ah, now we come to personally the hardest type of apps around — the ones you take to the gym with you. Like I said in the introduction, gym workouts are, together with diet, activities that are the hardest to fit in an app, because of how unique every person is and how workout sessions for each individual need to be custom-built. Stronglifts 5×5 uses one of the most popular workout routines for muscle building you can find, the 5×5, and fits it in a fast, simple and intuitive app.
The app pulled off something quite tricky — it asks for plenty of information from the user, yet does it in a seamless and fast way, so that users don’t find it boring, lengthy or annoying.
Luckily, the 5×5 is simple itself, and all the information required fits in a single app page. Submitting the information takes but a moment, after which 5×5 sets you up with a plan, and you’re good to go.
The app is basically a complete substitution to a fitness instructor. It measures your strength, your achievements and calculates your next milestones. It comes with video presentations of different workouts that need to be done and offers cloud storage to keep records of what you did, even if you switch devices. Just like other apps on this list, this one is stripped of all unnecessary add-ons and focuses only on what matters — making gains.
Android | iOS
Lose it is a diet management app which strives to be a one-stop shop for all nutrition-related needs and wants. It very much accomplishes that goal, and then some, but at the expense of simplicity. The app itself is split into four categories — My Day, Log and Goal, directly related to the user’s diet, and Social, which aims to bring the social aspect of gloating about your achievements to your friends into the mix. Visually, it is very reminiscent of today’s analytics apps, with pie charts and graphs. These visual results are also color-coded, for extra simplicity. It has another menu with ‘Requests’, ‘Challenges’, ‘Messages’, ‘Profile’, ‘Friends’, ‘Teams and Groups’, ‘Foods and Exercises’ and ‘Settings’.
Unlike Strava, which goes about introducing users to new features gradually, Lose It! went for a different approach. First, the user enters their basic information, including age, height, current and desired weight. After that, it allows users to add all the different things they ate, after which it calculates (I’d rather say ‘estimates’) the number of calories consumed. That helps users understand exactly which parts of their diet is hurting their weight goals the most, and can adapt accordingly.
It has a somewhat longer learning curve, but once users get the hang of it, it is arguably the best-organized diet app out there. With a very detailed interface, revolving around graphs, charts, and color-coding, it gives users all the necessary information they need to tweak their diet to perfection.
Android | iOS
Zombies, Run! is an app which combines a couple of concepts into one coherent unit, creating an awesome overall user experience. First of all, as a fitness app, its main goal is to get people running. Second, it is a mobile game, because the running revolves around users being ‘chased’ by virtual zombies. Third, it incorporates new technology — smartwatches, making it unique and extra appealing.
This gamification of apps that essentially have a completely different purpose is becoming trendy, and in this case — it has been executed perfectly. The game part of the app has been developed quite thoroughly.
By running, users collect various supplies and other in-game items which help them move through a compelling storyline. The interface is simple, with all necessary items being fit in a single menu.
Starting the run (or the game), is only a few taps away, and as users progress, they discover new features, like mini-games, workout customizations, and training plans. Best of all, it uses the device’s music library, so users get to run away from zombies while listening to their favorite tracks, without ever needing to leave the app.
The app creates an awesome and entertaining experience out of a fairly dull activity. It is fast, responsive, with a simple and intuitive interface.
Creating an awesome user experience for health and fitness app is simple in theory, but challenging in execution. The apps need to learn about their users, fast.
They need to have an interface which allows users to onboard even faster. And on top of it all, these apps need to offer a quality solution to the users’ problems, which is extra challenging knowing how unique each of us is.
These six apps have done a brilliant job, each in their own different way. The apps learn a lot about their users, yet they’re never too dull or annoying in their requests. They offer a lot, yet never seem too overwhelming for the users. And finally, they solve a very important problem for people and do it for each individual differently. They are a prime example of what it takes to create an awesome user experience in a health and fitness app — along with a powerful combination of quantitative and qualitative analytics.