Team-up. Face-off. Get Fit.
Exert is a fitness/health mobile gaming app developed by RallyAll. They had started development 18 months and had pivoted a few times prior to my involvement.
There were challenges with user participation and retention.
APPROACH & KEY INSIGHTS
• in-depth UX expert review
• comparative analysis of other apps
• in-depth gamer interviews
• Users are highly competitive they want data that will help them win
• Users want total control of their experience they want to have a say as to which people could join their teams and who they could kick out
• Stay at home moms with young children was the key demographic
• Exhibitionists many users enjoyed performing their exercises in public places
Our findings also influenced business strategy explained in the Learnings section.
Increase in engagement by 200%
Increase in retention by 25%
Exert underwent a couple of pivots. The first was after my heuristic review. All extraneous features were stripped from the app which resulted in a massive increase in participation.
Once the participation numbers were up, I focused on designing flows and wireframes that addressed user needs and concerns.
CONTEXT & CHALLENGE
Exert is a health & fitness mobile gaming app. Teams compete against one another for points.
The challenge was simplifying the user experience to increase engagement and retention without relying too heavily on an onboarding process.
Our client’s business objectives
make exercising fun and accessible
retain and grow their user base
scale their product
How might we provide a fun gaming platform for users to get fit through exercise?
*Or perhaps I should say "rough design process" since NOTHING about UX is linear... lol
It is good practice to start with a discovery phase. However, because the team was short on funding, it was their priority to show an increase in engagement and retention numbers. To provide a stop-gap measure, I gave design recommendations based on my UX expert review, an Instructional Design review and a comparative analysis of other gaming apps.
I recommended that all extraneous features stripped from the game; to focus on the core value proposition before testing other features. The team performed this pivot based on my reports and recommendations and saw immediate gains in user engagement (200%) and retention (25%).
This increase in user engagement brought in more funding and provided me with time to dig deeper into the needs of the user base via surveys and in-depth interviews.
Exploration of the current app included
A heuristic/expert review of the app
A current sitemap of the app
conduct a comparative analysis with other gaming and social messaging apps
Surveys and interviews of current beta testers to gain an understanding of their needs, habits, and goals.
My research was guided by interview and user goals:
Determining what needs this app fulfills
Gauging the user's gaming habits
Exploring their current exercise habits
Exposing their social media habits
Ascertaining their competitiveness
Uncovering the importance of the social aspect of mobile gaming
Quickly understand the rules of the game
Receive feedback on their progress
Win games, have fun, and get fit
Surveys were sent to all beta testers and 8 interviewees were selected based on app activity and their lack of inhibition in sharing their opinions.
"I like knowing how many points I'm contributing to the team and how many points my team is earning, but I don't know how the other team is doing unless an admin is popping in to tell us. I want more info about our competitor."
"I like receiving notifications for the exercise. It reminds me to get up and take a walk around."
"It's demotivating to me if team members don't pull their weight."
"If I get an exercise notification in the middle of a BBQ, I will do the exercise right there and then."
"I'll do exercises while in line at the grocery store and began conversations with other shoppers."
Since there was no other app quite like Exert, we analyzed the apps of sectors that had the most relevance. Namely, social gaming apps, social messaging apps and exercise apps.
They're highly competitive individuals
Users want full control of their experience
Many felt an obligation to exercise and rack up points for their team
They're already into fitness
The vast majority of the women are stay-at-home moms with children under the age of 8
The user is of average or below average in mobile tech-usage
Many users wanted to learn more about their teammates as well as the members of the competing team
Many users have a slight exhibitionist streak
These findings provided direction for app functionalities/features and long-term strategy.
I brought the CEO in with me to do affinity diagramming. He was excited by the end of the session as he realized that the information could be translated into app and company strategy.
Personas gave us a way to empathize with the user and anticipate their needs.
Storyboards gave us a way to predict how a user would interact with the app given its new features.
The information architecture was hammered out using open card sorts and validated with tree testing.
Flows of the various user actions were diagrammed out.
Gamer Journey Map was created to analyze each step of the user's decision-making process and the company's SWOT analysis. From this, we devised plans to enhance the user's overall experience on the Exert platform.
IDEATION & ITERATION
Guidelines were generated based on the user insights
Give users control over who to invite to their team, when to leave their team, the freedom of kicking someone off their team, and controlling the quantity and timing of app notifications.
Find ways to provide useful data to the players so that they can gauge their and their competitor's progress.
Make the app social
Give opportunities for users to shine and show off
I began with sketching wireframes and performed usability testing.
The first sketches were ideas we threw around, such as, what would it look like if members had their own walls? How do we display team members? How do we allow team members to get to know one another better? How can you keep track of team member activities? (below).
The scoreboard was the centerpiece of the app as it displayed competitor data and current war standings. It also motivated users to compete with their own teammates to rise to the top of the pack.
The team profile screen was the other important page of the app as it would further drive social engagement. Much of the testing for this screen was based on interactions and being able to exert control over which teammates were part of the group.
The player profile screen was not seen as important as the other screens, but was tested to see if users could determine how to invite (poach) another team's member.
There was a balance to be struck between user-centeredness, what could be quickly turned into an MVP, and leadership/funding priorities. Features & functionalities included:
Informational scoreboards to give users insights as to where they stack up against the other team, what strengths and weaknesses they and their opponent has
Data on individual players to determine whether or not this is a member they want to invite to their team
An individual scorecard to search for any additional points they can score for their team
Ability to invite friends to the app/their team
Ability to kick members off their team
Ability to control the notifications that the app sends them
The chat screen is the default screen that shows the current battle score and where the social interactions happen. It follows standard messaging layout to minimize confusion. Players can check out the profiles of other players on the team and they can check the profile of the competing team.
Other communication screens include the
inbox where you are notified if you have been invited to or removed from a team
search where you can search for a team or a member by name or ID number
invite where you can invite others to the app via your native mobile messenger
The team profile popups include
member screen which displays overall statistics of the team and the members of the current war. From here you can view the profile of the individual team members.
special challenges for the team to perform as a whole
The player profile popups include
profile screen which contains the player's stats and allows other teams to poach the player or the member's current team to kick them out of the clan.
player activity displays any special challenges the player has undertaken and their video uploads
The tasks screen include
Today's challenges which have all the tasks for the day and displays the player's progress.
Special challenges which have any special challenges that may include global challenges.
The tutorial screen pops up when a tutorial video is uploaded. It comes with a countdown timer for the activity.
The Team Scoreboard screen is where the important statistics can be found.
The overall war score is at the top for visibility.
Since each war lasts 7 days, there's a left-right scrolling calendar that allows you to see the week's progress.
Today's battle score is in the middle as are all team members from both teams.
Each member's placement is score-dependent, encouraging team members to aim for the top spot while discouraging team members from slacking off.
At the bottom are team statistics where you can see which areas need shoring up and seeing which areas the opposing team may have a weakness.
The Global Scoreboard ranks all teams in the game. You can click on a top team to see their statistics and members and ask to join their team.
The main user base was already fit and highly competitive. There was a large stay-at-home contingent. Many of these people also happened to have an exhibitionist streak. These are certainly not characteristics I had expected to find amongst the user base. The key to keeping these people engaged was catering to that exhibitionist competitive nature. This included promoting cross-app competitions with a video component and a way to upload content to user's social media feed.
From the UX side, it was really important to convey the importance of UX research, even if it means that wrapping it in a crispy layer of design to make it more appealing. For companies that pay an hourly salary, it is easier to explain the ROI of research in terms of developer hourly rates.
Throughout my professional relationship working with Lucretia, there have been several skills that have impressed me and added great value to our organization. The first is her ability to quickly understand the problem at hand and propose quality solutions. She is able to think outside the box and provide a unique perspective that adds tremendous value to the conversation. Secondly, she takes initiative. At our organization, she was instrumental in the process of interviewing users and discovering their core problems. She then assimilated those learnings and created high quality designs to help us solve those needs more effectively. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, she is very easy to work with. She integrated quickly into the culture of our company and was a great team player. I highly recommend Lucretia!
Todd Kuslikis, RallyAll Cofounder & President
Lucretia is very detailed oriented and is a very logical thinker. She did a great job helping us understand what our customers are looking for and turn that feedback into action items, wireframes, user flows, and ultimately a roadmap. She's very creative and proactive in her approach and would be a valuable addition to any team.
Josh Barker, RallyAll CTO