I’m passionate about products and services that enable individuals to live healthier lives. I conducted a usability study as a way to dive deeper into the world of behavior change, and as an exercise to help me improve as a designer.
My goals were to:
- Understand and identify usability issues in the MyFitnessPal iOS application through user research
- Create and validate potential design solutions
- Communicate my thinking and process
- Learn more about the most popular health tracking application
I used a variety of design techniques to categorize and improve user pain points and was able to demonstrate a significant increase in comprehension and task completion. You can find a comparison of the current application and my design solutions towards the end of this article.
With over 165 million users, MyFitnessPal felt like a solid starting point to help me understand how a product can help individuals create and maintain new health habits. I set out to learn what customers love and dislike about MyFitnessPal, and how usability might be further improved.
The first step was to conduct guerilla usability tests. I identified core tasks that MyFitnessPal users complete and headed to the Westfield mall in San Francisco to conduct testing with 5 wonderful strangers on their lunch break. I asked each individual to perform tasks related to food tracking and progress, and asked that they verbalize their thoughts throughout the test.
Based off my usability testing, I wrote a job story using the Jobs to be Done framework. This technique helped me wrap my head around customers’ situations, motivations and expected outcomes when hiring the application to achieve their health goals.
The next step was to review and sort my insights. First, I used affinity mapping (grouping ideas based on similarities) to identify common pain points.
Next, I created a 2x2 matrix to understand what issues might be both important to the business* and to the user.
I used empathy mapping (grouping ideas based on a user’s actions and emotions) to dig deep and understand what was happening for users when they experienced each pain point. What did they say and how did they act? Were they frustrated with themselves or the application?
“Ugh! Why do I keep tapping “Create a Food” instead of using the search to find a food item?”
Organizing my insights helped me narrow it down to two major pain points.
Pain point 1: Individuals are confused and not confident about how to search for and add a new meal item.
Hypothesis: Emphasizing the search function on the food tracking page would allow users to identify the search action swiftly and confidently. I would know this is true when users were able to locate search during user testing.
Pain point 2: Individuals were not able to locate their food progress page.
Hypothesis: Moving food progress information to the “Progress” tab would allow users to easily locate and understand their progress towards their nutritional goals. I would know this is true when users were able to locate food progress during user testing.
Now that I identified two major points, I created task flows to understand exactly where the user flow was breaking down and further analyzed the existing app screens where customers experienced trouble.
I sketched several potential solutions and conducted comprehension tests with colleagues who fit the user testing demographic and job story. I incorporated their feedback before creating hi-fidelity mockups. I moved forward with one solution for validation.
Prototype and Validate
Next, I jumped into Sketch and InVision to craft my prototype. I tested version 1 of my prototype on 5 new individuals.
Version 1 — The good news: individuals were able to confidently locate and understand their food tracking progress.
Version 1 — The bad news: searching for and adding a new food item was still extremely confusing for individuals.
After testing my first prototype, I found that the changes I had made were not significant enough to draw the user’s attention to search. In fact, search was competing with thirteen other possible actions on the “Add Food” screen creating a very high cognitive load for the user.
At this stage, my objective was to make search as clear as possible for new users while keeping the other core functions on this screen intact. In my research, I found that as a new user, you may not yet understand what “multi-add” will do, or what the location icon does, so how might we reorganize and reconsider hierarchical importance of actions on this screen?
I sketched, prototyped, and tested an additional five iterations until users were able to successfully and efficiently enter their meal items.
Here is a recap of the pain points I identified from user research, my proposed design solutions, and the success rates before and after implementing the new design.
Through user research, I discovered that users expressed confusion and frustration when trying to add a food item to the MyFitnessPal tracker and also had trouble understanding their health progress. My suggested design solutions aim to match users’ mental models (who associate nutritional goals with “Progress”) and reduce cognitive load (updating hierarchy on the “Add Food” screen) which increases users’ ability to complete the task at hand. Improving the user experience for these tasks would mean users are more easily able to locate and search for food items, understand their success, and create and maintain healthier habits and lives. For MyFitnessPal, this would mean higher engagement among new users, which increases the Lifetime Value of those customers.