User Research and Interaction Design for Better Health

Tools Used: Sketch, Marvel, InVision, Paper and Pen

Skills Used: User Surveys, User Interviews, Persona Development, Affinity Maps, User Interaction Design

How Mobile Fitness Apps Can Utilize Big Data

The Challenge

Using Under Armour as a case study, conceptualize an updated mobile application that better aggregates health data for both the users and Under Armour. Allow users to track fitness, nutrition, sleep and mood to be more proactive about their health. Integrate the user experience to transition from wearable to mobile to desktop seamlessly.

Understanding the User


I worked with a team of three on this project.

I took the lead on:

User Research

User Surveys


Persona Development

Usability Testing

My teammates focused on a competitive analysis, storyboard, design iterations and prototype. 

Why Do You Track Your Steps?

User Research

I led on user research for this project. In order to understand the landscape of fitness app users, I created a user survey.  We received survey responses from a wide variety of users.

In completing the competitive analysis, my teammates realized the field for fitness apps is crowded and many apps perform similar functions. We need to understand how users approached fitness apps in terms of how engaged they were, what held them accountable, what social aspects they enjoyed and how frequently they used the app. I followed up on our user survey with user interviews that explored these ideas.

My Role
I've always been curious and asked questions about why people do things. This is why I love user interviews. For this project, we had a limited amount of time, and I knew I had to target user interviews towards people who were likely to use fitness tracking technology. I completed most of my user interviews at Lululemon and Pacers Running where people were very enthusiastic about discussing their experiences.

A surprisingly emotional response

I was surprised by the wide range of emotional responses we received from our surveys and interviews. Users discussed topics such as longevity and chronic disease in their responses. 

"[I] want to be around for my grandchildren."


They also revealed that the language used in other fitness apps had turned them off from certain features.

"I liked the app but I didn’t like the food tracker aspect because they rated food on whether it was “good” or “bad” and that was really weird to me."

From what we learned from the research, I knew we had to design an app that was social, engaging and approachable to all users. 

Fitness is for Everyone


I received survey responses from a wide range of age groups and fitness levels. In addition, I had rich qualitative data and quotations from user interviews. It was difficult to synthesize all of the information. In order to distill the important ideas, my teammates and I documented key points and built an affinity map.  By looking at the data as a whole, we were able to connect themes and build personas that were representative of our users. 





I developed three personas based on the responses to our survey and interviews. They represented a wide variety of ages and fitness abilities. I wanted to convey that our product is for all types of people and health data tracking can be beneficial for many types of users. 

How Do You Design a Habit?

Once I understood our user, it was easy for my teammates to define our product. We needed to design a product that was engaging, positive, and habit forming. What we didn't know, is what it would look like or how to demonstrate the app through static, flat screens.

Sketching and Ideation

Design Studio

Where do you start when you don't know where to start? For my team, we started with a design studio. By sketching as many iterations as possible in a short amount of time, we were able think through navigation, content and layout in new and creative ways. By explaining and defending our iterations, we were able to choose the strongest designs. 

Incorporating a Chatbot

Enter Arnold the trainerbot

We decided to direct most of the interaction of our app with a chatbot (or in our case, a trainerbot). Incorporating a conversational aspect to the app would make the app engaging, social and hold users accountable in a positive way. Based on our user research and Under Armour's current app, I knew that users were motivated by celebrity trainers. While we envisioned users selecting their own celebrity coach or a generic trainerbot, for presentation purposes, we went with Arnold.

My Role I understood from user interviews that users are engaged with fitness apps when the app provides timely and frequent feedback. I came up with the idea of a chat bot that gave users timely feedback and positive encouragement.

Explaining User Interaction by Telling the User's Story

user Journey

Once the app had an established navigation menu and set of features, I needed to map out how the user would move through the app, record data, view progress, and participate in the social aspects of the app over time. I created a user journey for our persona, Brian. By building the story of Brian's routine and opportunities for interaction with the app, I was able to narrow our scope and define the interactions we needed to show to demonstrate how Brian would use the app.

Putting all the Pieces Together

prototyping with paper

My teammate was unsure of how to finalize the user flow and build a prototype for our app. I helped him with prototyping by sketching out specific interactions on paper and quickly prototyping and iterating in Marvel. By using paper and mapping out the interaction on a mobile phone, we were able to discuss, build, and iterate quickly and collaboratively. 

Incorporating Big Data 

The brief asked us to consider data aggregation when designing the new app and consider how this would factor in to Under Armour's development of wearables including smart fabric. As a team, we designed features based on user research that would improve the usability and engagement of the app:


The app tracks users' activity and learns when they exercise, where they go, and how they feel. By tracking this data, the app can feed the information back to users in a way that matches their habits and preferences. For instance, if you rated that you felt great after a run in a park on a sunny day, the app would begin suggesting runs on trails when the weather is nice.



During user interviews, I found that overwhelmingly, young women found competition as one of the biggest motivators to use fitness apps. I wanted to incorporate a social and challenge feature into our app. In the app, you are able to find and challenge friends, or challenge them from a newsfeed that shows recent activity. 




When you set up the app, it will ask you to follow your contacts from other social networks. Once you begin using the app, it will show you where your friends are exercising. This serves two purposes: inspiring you with new activities and locations and allowing you to challenge your friends.



Badges and LEveling Up

In order to keep users engaged over time, I wanted to include elements of gamification. The app learns your baseline fitness level and then rewards you as you exceed those expectations. Once a user has reached a milestone, they earn a badge. Once they surpass the next milestone, they are eligible for discounts for Under Armour products. This feature integrates the physical Under Armour products as a touch point. 

My Role
While my teammate did the majority of the wireframing on this project, I spent considerable time thinking about the user flow. When we needed to narrow scope and build the prototype, I used the user research and persona to frame the conversation and ensure our product matched the users needs.

Making the Pitch

For our final presentation, my team created a prototype in Invision using Sketch wireframes. I framed our presentation around telling Brian's story. Using Brian's user journey as a framework allowed us to explain the product, integrate user research, highlight our competitive analysis, and walk the audience through the various touchpoints of the product. 


Lessons Learned:

1. Storytelling is an effective method to explain a product. Our design solution was heavy in user interaction. It was difficult to find an effective method to present the product. Telling a story and using a persona and user journey as tools for presenting our work, left a clear and lasting impression with the audience. 

2. When you don't have the resources you thought you had, narrow scope. One of the biggest challenges our team faced was that one team member was not able to keep pace with the demands of the project or the performance level of our team. Once we realized we had less capacity to complete the project, we had to narrow the scope of our project. We tried our best to complete a smaller scale project while still producing high quality deliverables, but the night before the presentation we felt as if we did not do enough. This was an important lesson to learn because projects frequently have to adjust scope based on changing resources.

3. Challenge your teammates and peers. My team had a very strong presentation and final concept. This came from our team dynamic of challenging each other to defend our ideas. As a team, it can be difficult to strike balance between being supportive and pushing each other for the best possible design solutions. But when a team demands high quality, well thought out ideas from each other, it creates a better overall product.