Apple's Activity App
Adding Meditation and Rest Days to Apple’s Activity App.
Apple Watch App
As an avid user of the Apple Watch Activity App, I have found the gamification aspects of the app to be effective in motivating and habit forming. 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. In addition, the Breathe App, which comes preinstalled on the watch, is designed to help users focus on their breathe using haptics that follow the rhythm of breathing. Meditation has been scientifically shown to improve sports performance, in addition to having many mental wellness benefits. Incorporating a meditation goal marries the two existing watch apps, and promotes a whole body approach to wellness.
- Create a new daily goal that encourages whole body wellness
- Evaluate whether a meditation goal would be desirable among users
- Respond to user requests to a feature for a rest day that doesn’t decrease overall app effectiveness
- Perfectly recreate Apple’s UI
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.
- Competitor Analysis
- Gamification & Meditation Research
- User Survey
- User Personas
- Reviewed user behaviour and discussion on Reddit
- User Flow
- Task Flow
- Site Map
- New Icons and
- Ideation and Sketching
- High Fidelity UI
Test & Iterate
- High Fidelity Prototype
- Usability testing
- Refined According to Results
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.
Summary of Findings
All apps evaluated track similar 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 an a lot of 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.
- 17 out of 19 people checked the Activity App daily. Only one person said they never check the app, and one person said they only check a few times a week.
- Almost every respondent said they were motivated to close all three rings every day. This finding was much higher than I expected, but show that the app is effective in engaging users and encouraging the development of new new habits.
- A number of people mentioned that they'd like an option for a rest day. They also wrote about feeling pressure to close all three rings but felt it was an important to have a rest day in their weekly exercise routine. This finding encourage me to find a way to incorporate a rest day feature into the new goal.
- A little less than half of the respondants did not use the Breathe App.
- Most respondents use the Breathe app when they are reminded. A number of people said they use it when feeling stressed, but only two people use it for meditation.
- None of the respondents track their meditation habits, and only one person uses a third party app to meditate.
Gamification and meditation Research
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.
The Core Drives at Work within the Activity App
Epic Meaning & Calling
In general, Apple has a cult of personality that people have already bought into. There is also the desire to belong to the culture of the fit and healthy. The Apple Watch is marketed in collaboration with Nike, which also has a strong brand recognition and following.
Creativity & Feedback
The new additions of Trends gives users feedback on their results and allows for creativity in improving their trends. The feature to congratulate and encourage friends let's them express creativity and feedback to others.
Ownership & Possession
Users can collect awards. The Activity App has an easy and well designed way to view both the collected and potential awards. The feature to see the award for a challenge before it is accomplished is especially interesting.
Social Influence & Relatedness
Users can connect with other friends with Apple Watches to view each other’s activity, receive alerts for workout accomplishments, send messages, and challenge each other.
Scarcity & Impatience
Activity seems to do a good job of setting challenges that are just slightlybeyond reach. The daily goals can be accomplished in a day but some, likethe stand goal, take at least 12 hours to complete. The monthly challengesare based on data from past months, so they are either built to encourage(and easy to accomplish) or challenge (and feel just beyond reach).
Development & Accomplishment
Users have daily, monthly, and weekly challenges and goals, as well as Limited Edition challenges. The algorithm seems to set monthly goals which can be achieved by adding a little extra effort each day so that users are challenged but still feel they are accomplishing something.
Seeing The Drives in Action
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 interactionand 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.
Here is an example of a user sharing an award from the Activity App for closing the Move Goal for 1,007. Not only has this user engaged with the app for over 1,000 days, but they also effectively maintained the daily goal and shared their progress.
This is an example of how motivated users feel to collect the monthly awards.
Here we can see how effective the Activity App is at engaging and challenging users. This user is disucssing their feelings about feeling bad for not participating, but also feeling too pushed by the constant challenge.
Justification for Adding an Additional Mindfulness Goal to the Activity App
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 habit building. 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, in current society, the 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 not having. A Meditation Goal and Rest Day feature would be inline with encouraging relaxation for overall health.
The user persona was developed based on the research done on Reddit threads and the user survey.
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 :
- Should the new goal be an additional ring in keeping with the current system, or a new element on the side or in the centre of the rings?
- Was there room for a fourth ring, and would it be readable at small sizes as well as maintain the feeling of space in the centre?
- Additionally, whatever was chosen need to be not only readable at very small sizes, but also clean and eye pleasing, in keeping with Apple’s aesthetic.
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
Brainstorming the Activity Icon
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 adding the new goal was putting with an additional nested ring, but I was unsure if there was really space and whether it would be readable at small sizes, so I tested several options.
Mid Fidelity Prototype
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. I also needed to work out how to show the weekly summary.
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 be able to edit, was important. I tried three 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.
New Icons and Activity Graphic
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.
High fidelity wireframes
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 unlocks the rest day option via a notification. On a rest day, they still have need to close the rings on all four goals in order to maintain consistency and the feeling of achievement, but there are be 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 in 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.
Activity Home Screen
New Menu Item
Change Mind Goal
Rest Days Unlocked
Rest Day Option
Start Breathe Session
End Breathe Session
Mind Goal Achieved
Test and Iterate
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.
Mid Fidelity Testing
- People were confused about the title “Breathe goal”. They thought it had to do with oxygen volume while exercising rather than relating it to the Breathe app.
- Readability of the purple was questioned.
- Users were not familiar with how to access the Activity menu (hard press on the Activity ring icon) even thought they were long time Apple Watch users.
- The goal title was changed to Mind Goal.
- The purple color was changed to be more fluorescent and bright, more inline with the green and the blues already used in the Activity.
- Add a reminder screen in testing to help users easily access the menu. This is how users are most likely already accessing the menu screen if they are not familiar with the hard press entry point.
Hi Fidelity Testing
- Users found the new goal title clear.
- While one person did not like the new purple colour, everyone else found it easy to read.
- The cue in the testing prototype helped people navigate correctly to the menu, rather than distracting from the testing.
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 and these are features I would love to see integrated in a wearable.
High Fidelity Prototype