The challenge
Design an app for non-professional healthcare consumers that improves the user's physical wellness, safety or adherence.
The outcome
Hustle, an app that helps users organize and attend group activities, designed to encourage consistency through accountability.
My role
I led the interaction design, including sketching, wireframing, lo-fi and hi-fi prototyping. I also facilitated the design research and user testing.
The problem
Of the 45 million adults in the United States with a gym membership, 67% of them never use itEven when they are determined to start a routine and try to follow it, it rarely becomes a habit. Committing to staying fit is easy; maintaining that routine is hard. 
The solution
I wanted to change this. A team of 3, we felt that this was a real problem that each of us had either faced in the past or continues to face.
We designed an app called Hustle, offering multiple commitment mechanisms for the user to create and maintain a routine:

Final prototype
Primary research
qualitative research
sample size:10
We wanted to understand what motivates people to exercise. Recruiting a sample of 10 people from our friends, we asked them:
1  What techniques do you use to stay fit?
2  Do you usually set goals when trying to exercise? 
3  If not, do you use any other tools to keep yourself motivated?
4  Can you tell us about a time when you could not meet your exercise goals?
We began by clustering the responses but eventually realized affinity maps would help us make better sense of them.
Moving from unstructured whiteboarding to affinity mapping
Here is what we found:
1  Most people who exercise set some kind of a goal to stay motivated.
Having a goal helps people see how much further they need to go.
2  Athletes or people who have been working out for years want to take on bigger challenges.
They have settled routines and don't need motivation for showing up.
3  People who lose motivation want to be more regular at exercising.
However, owing to a multitude of reasons, they are reluctant to go back.
quantitative research
sample size: 500
To find out if our insights are relevant across a larger sample, we surveyed people to learn what would be likely to motivate them. The responses we heard from the interviews became options for the answers and were randomized using Google Surveys . Here are the results:

Screenshot from Google Surveys

People think that “being able to measure progress” motivates them. 
But does it really?
Research suggests that most available apps are unsuccessful at changing behavior or worse, unreliable. Clearly, these apps were missing the mark. We felt that if we could build something that reflects progress in a playful way while offering an incentive for behavior change, that might be an opportunity for us.

sprint 1: virtual pets 🐶
Our hypothesis: Since people love to take care of their pets, a virtual one might tap into the same instinct and urge the user to exercise more regularly if there was an observed cause and effect.

Prototype on a cup
Sketching the virtual pet idea: The more the exercise, the happier the pet.
We ran a survey to learn if more people felt the same way.
sample size: 2280
Screenshot from Google surveys
No one was going to use this app!
More than 80% people surveyed felt they wouldn't use an app like this.
More research
contextual interviews
I wanted to learn more about the second most popular response from our first survey: having someone to exercise with. To gain insight into what this meant, we decided to do another round of interviews but this time in a different setting: inside UC Berkeley's gym. Here are some responses we got: 

Findings from the contextual interview

1  Beginners want an easy way to speak with someone more experienced when just starting out.
This could help alleviate any teething problems they have.
2  People want an easy and reliable way to find other people to exercise with at a mutually agreeable time.
Not only does this help their form but also keeps them focused.
3  People want a credible commitment mechanism for showing up for a scheduled exercise.
They want better support in times when they feel like slacking off.
4  Available time depends on individual schedules.
A college student has different needs and schedule than a working mother.
journey mapping
I felt I had enough information to identify pain points and inefficiencies in the user's journey. We considered touchpoints in the user's experience and the questions that arose alongside. This allowed us to uncover the current experience and the opportunities that lay within.

The journey map

the persona
These findings helped model the goals, motivations and frustrations of our persona, Janice. The quote in particular, stood out for me as it shed light on a nuance that we may have not captured without doing contextual interviews.

We used these findings to help users connect with a person they can exercise with, so the two can encourage and help each other achieve better results.
Sketching the on-boarding experience for 'Workout Hero'
Scheduling the first workout after onboarding
Using different levels of fidelity to understand how the screens would flow

Once we had a credible flow, we tested it with users both inside and outside the gym

As always, we received helpful feedback from observing them use our app

changes based on user feedback
Team leads
Team leads are users with a unique added feature: they can organize and lead workouts. Team leads are proven users who have grown into a great routine of exercise and can inspire folks in their groups to do similar things. 
More exercises
Other than gym workouts, we also added the ability for users to schedule runs, football games, swims, hikes and more outdoor sports. We felt this would result in a more engaging experience both the team leads and for the participants.

evolving the design

Refining the onboarding flow based on user feedback

Going from just gyms to offering more forms of exercise

The outcome
Quotes from the final user testing:
"You know what...I may actually use this to improve my workouts"
"I like how it suggests a good time for me to exercise"
"Can we take breaks with this? I would love to be able to do that"
“Well written paper and strong project. I liked that you clearly showed design iterations based on what you learned. Also strong use of survey data and existing research.” 
- Robert Youmans, professor, UX researcher at YouTube
Next steps
This is a hard problem to solve and I still have open questions about how long this paradigm may be able to motivate users. While I want users to build a habit, my hypothesis is that once a habit is fully-formed, the routine may become insipid over the long run: users may lose interest in the activity and fail to maintain their routine. I would love to explore ways to make this experience a dynamic one, that changes based on individual behavior and attributes.
My learnings
I learned that in order for the research to be rigorous, I should use several research methods, ideally triangulating my findings. It was also fascinating to see how priming or context changes people's responses, something I observed when I interviewed people in the gym. I felt it was also important to understand that for every commitment mechanism that I design, people will always find a way to circumvent it if they just don't want to participate. Since I was the only designer with experience, I also gained some understanding of how to manage the design process in a team where people needed help with design thinking. 

Other projects I've worked on