Adding Meditation and Rest Days to Apple’s Activity App.
As an avid user of the Apple Watch Activity App, I have found the gamification aspects of the app to be effective at motivating and forming new habits. I was interested in creating new features that prioritised relaxation as a benefit overall health and well being. Apple already has a history of encouraging users to think of whole body wellness with their stand goal, which reminds wearers to stand for one minute every hour for twelve hours during the day. In addition, the Breathe App, which comes preinstalled on the watch, is designed to help users focus on their breath using haptics that follow the rhythm of inhalation and exhalation. Meditation has been scientifically shown to improve sports performance in addition to having many other mental wellness benefits. Incorporating a meditation goal marries the two existing watch apps and promotes a whole body approach to wellness.
All Apple Watch users or people interested in integrating meditation into daily life alongside exercise goals.
This was a speculative project for my own amusement, and part of coursework for DesignLab.
I looked at two categories of apps to see how each one performed on the watch as well as on mobile. Areas evaluated included tracking, data input, and gamification.
All apps evaluated track similar types of fitness data. Fitbit seems to be the most robust since it includes the sleep tracking. Google Fit may integrate with a meditation app which makes it stand out from the others. Nike Run Club has many ways to engage in the community of users as well as friends which sets it apart from the others.
There are a lot of meditation apps on the market and they seem pretty similar as far as functionality. The big difference is in the guided meditation content. None of the apps are using much in the way of gamification beyond tracking streaks, minutes meditated, and number of sessions.
To find out how users are currently using the Activity App, I created a survey and posted it on Reddit in an Apple Watch subthread, on two Facebook fitness groups, and to people in my general social sphere. I gathered responses from 19 people who have an App Watch and use the Activity App. The questions were about Activity App usage as well as Breathe App usage and Meditation Habits. Read the full report and survey here.
In order properly implement the new meditation goal, I researched how gamification works as well as how to effectively apply the principles. I then looked at how gamification is applied within the Activity App.
After my own first hand experience at how motivating and addicting the reward system on the Apple Watch could be, I was curious about a random selection of people’s responses. Reddit (a platform which taps into the core drives of social Influence, empowerment, and meaning) is known for it’s dedicated user base where people feel free to share things they might not share face to face. I spent some time looking through the subreddit /r/AppleWatch and /r/AppleWatchFitness to see how people spoke about their interaction and daily experiences with the Activity app.
Below are some screenshots showing how people are relating to the Activity App.
You can read the full report on Gamification here.
Mindfulness apps are increasingly popular. However their focus seems to be on offering many different types of meditation rather than encouraging a regular habit through gamification. Each app I reviewed had a section where you could review your past sessions and track your progress, but that was all.
Mindfulness has been shown to have effects of focus, awareness of the present moment, increased ability to handle stress, performance monitoring, as well as physiological effects to heart rate, blood pressure, and the immune system. Mindfulness is being incorporated into the workplace to increase companies agility and ability to generate innovative ways of doing business and solving problems. Our society has had an emphasis on increasing activity, hard work, and discouragement of rest and relaxation. Stress has become a way of life.
The Activity App is highly effective in getting users engaged in long term regular goal achievement and building habits. According to my research a high number of users who engage with the app strive to achieve all goals on a regular or daily basis.
I believe integrating an additional goal of mindfulness, even for as little as one minute, could help provide a more holistic experience for users. A mindfulness habit is just as important getting regular activity, or being aware of how much sitting a user does. Furthermore, our modern day non stop activity and lack of focus on rest and relaxation is having a negative effect on stress levels, which directly affect overall health.
Additionally, adding in a Rest Day feature would be highly desirable for users as they are already asking for it or feeling negative effects from feeling free to take a rest day without maring their Activity App stats. A Meditation Goal and Rest Day feature would be inline with encouraging relaxation for overall health.
I began by looking at the flow for specific tasks to identify the screens that would be needed and the process to get to them. This seemed like the best approach for designing for the watch, since the way users interact with a wearable is much different than a mobile device. I needed to specify how users would physically interact with or arrive at each screen before I began designing the different parts.
This flow combines the user activities while outlining the screens needed.
Using pencil and paper, I quickly tried out a few ideas for how to integrate a new goal into the Activity Icon. A few things needed to be considered :
Sketching quickly helped me sort out how to make space on the small screen for the additional goal achievement data graphs that needed to be added. I felt it was important to keep each section on the screen without scrolling as much as possible. Lastly, I also used sketching to detail the screens needed to add in the rest day feature since there is no other system like this currently in the Activity App.
After working with pencil and paper paper, I took my ideas into Sketch to more precisely see what was possible given the size and space constraints. The Activity Icon is also used in very small sizes on the watch as well as in a calendar view on the phone. I wanted to maintain the clean and appealing look of the calendar view, in particular when a "perfect month" has been achieved. My preferred method of integrating the new goal was to create an additional nested ring. I was unsure if there was really enough space and whether it would be readable at small sizes so I tested several options.
In addition to sorting out how to integrate an additional goal into the Activity Icon, I also needed to work out how to display the goal progress data screens. I felt it was important to keep each data display section on one screen, as it is now. To know if this was possible, I began working in Sketch.
The Activity App currently shows a weekly summary of the one goal users can change : the Move goal. In keeping with the system, it seemed like showing the summary of the new goal (which users would also be able to edit) was important. I explored three different ways to display these two weekly summaries : as two separate screens, as one long screen with two graphs stacked, and finally as a combined graph. In the end, the most elegant solution seemed the combined graph.
I also needed to name the goal. At first the name chosen was the Breathe Goal, but user testing uncovered that this name was confusing in such close proximity to exercise goals. Users thought this had something to do with oxygen intake and breathing. After brainstorming, the goal was name the Mind Goal.
The new goal needed a compatible colour that was readable at small sizes on black. The colour purple was chosen because it worked well with the colour progression of the current Activity Icon. We chose a bright hue that matched the vibrancy of the blue and green. This colour also kept the text readable at small sizes. In addition to these considerations, purple was chosen because it is a relaxing colour associated with magic, creativity, wisdom, peace, and devotion. Among yogic circles it is the colour of the third eye chakra at the top of the head, associated with meditation.
Here you can see a few of the screens that were developed for the prototype. Specific activities that were tested included changing the mind goal, viewing the combined weekly summary, accepting rest days, the new increased Breathe app durations, and some notification screens.
The rest day feature functions as such : after a certain number of days of achieving all three goals, the user is able to unlock the rest day option via a notification on the watch. On a rest day, they still need to close the rings on all four goals in order to maintain consistency and the feeling of achievement, but there are some changes. The move goal is automatically decreased, the mind goal is increased, and the exercise ring "minutes" can be accumulated using workouts that focus on rest and relaxation rather than exertion. In addition workouts like restorative yoga would be pushed to the top of the list in the native workout app on the Apple watch. The last change would be that the Breathe app increased the duration capacity of a session from the current cap (5 mins) to 20 minutes. This would allow users to use the Breathe app for longer sessions of meditation. Using the Breathe app or a third party meditation app accumulate minutes to close the Mind Goal.
We performed two rounds of in person usability testing - once at the mid fidelity stage and then again at the high fidelity stage to test the solutions. All testers owned an Apple Watch and were regular users.
In the beginning, I hypothesised that users were highly motivated by gamification aspects of the Activity Ring, and that there would be some interest in a new daily goal centered around relaxation and mental well being. The challenge of this project was how to integrate an additional goal and data set into such a small space, while maintaining Apple's branding. Designing for a wearable was something I wanted to explore since it's so unique and an emerging field. In the end, I believe the design solutions I came up with were successful. These are features I would love to see integrated in a wearable.