How to make home workouts more inclusive

I came up with the idea of a more inclusive workout app while being confined at home during the Covid-19 lockdown. With the pandemic having no end in sight, working out at home with digital apps could be the only way that many people can stay fit. Therefore, it is imperative to make them safer and more convenient for a higher percentage of the population. Personally, I often felt limited by a physical ailment — plantar fasciitis, but not many apps on the market addressed the discomfort. My research started from my own ‘pain points’ both in the literal and figurative sense of the word. I wanted to learn whether this issue was confined to myself or if other people had the same ‘pain points’, meaning that there were needs not being met and an opportunity for improvement.

Research Finding

I started by interviewing 6 women in the 20–40 age range using userinterivews.com and Zoom. Below are the key findings from the interview.

It would be nice if the app allowed me to eliminate the exercises that hurt my neck and remember my preference. — participant2

Since the finding on the engagement was primarily about the content itself, I focused on developing design ideas around the findings on constraints and wishlists. Through the ideation and feature prioritization process, I came up with three core features — recommendation of exercise sequences based on areas of discomfort, ability to either duplicate or remove a particular exercise and a menu that lets you decide the sets and reps of an exercise — and developed a low fidelity prototype.

High-Fidelity Prototype & Usability Testing

I tested the low-fidelity prototype with a newly-recruited participant through a remote moderated testing session. Based on the feedback, I built a high-fidelity prototype and made necessary adjustments according to accessibility guidelines available on the web.

I recruited another 12 participants and ran an unmoderated usability testing session using Lookback. Even though the majority of participants were able to use three core features fairly easily, several of them were confused about some icons and navigation.

Interestingly, in the high-fidelity usability testing, 33% of participants expressed delight about the fact that they can modify an exercise sequence while 25% expressed frustration about the inability to select more than one area of discomfort when they answered the preference questionnaire. This finding validates my initial hypothesis that the needs of those who are suffering from ailments are not being met by current fitness apps. In order to make multiple choices possible, however, I would have to design more screens according to different scenarios, so I chose to iterate on more fundamental features where around 60% of participants encountered issues of some kind.

Particularly, it seemed that people do not feel the need to repeat a certain exercise (if so, they can increase the reps instead), but rather, they want to remove one that could be painful or too hard for them. Therefore, I removed the duplicate feature and combined the two customization screens so that users can manipulate exercises on one screen without moving back and forth. I expect this change will result in decreased time on task.

Takeaway

I could not recruit as many users as I would have liked and conduct a large-scale survey due to constraints on budget and time, but I became increasingly appreciative of the importance of user testing as I went through the process. However hard I think, there is always an angle that I cannot see. It was eye-opening to learn that even If I can talk to only one user, that can bring about far better results than relying solely on my own ideas.

For a more detailed design process, you can refer to my website at https://www.gaeun-karen.design/workout-app.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

Product Designer. Currently a graduate student at the Center for Digital Media, in Vancouver, Canada