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features

Usability: How usable is your product?

Your fit tech product might be a game changer, solving problems or creating new possibilities for clients, but none of this will matter if it’s not easy and enjoyable to use. Industrial designer Nick Chubb explains why usability is key, and the factors to consider when designing your new product

Published in Fit Tech 2021 issue 2

Usability is all about the quality of interaction between people and products. It’s a key part of what makes a product successful and an aspect of product design that deserves detailed consideration.

Think of the interface on a fitness tracker, the strap design of an HR monitor, the seat adjustability on a cycling machine, the assurance of wireless earphones or the grip design of different handle attachments on a cable machine.

Ever felt like some products and pieces of equipment feel safer to use, more comfortable, more premium, effective or simply more intuitive? A lot of this comes down to effective usability, and the way we approach it during the design phase can help deliver better products that enhance user experience (UX) as much as possible.

Experience beyond safety
Anticipating the safety needs of a product in the fitness sector is really important. Good usability design eliminates risk. However, safety is only one half of usability. The other half is not so much about meeting regulatory requirements, but building in pleasing user interactions from the very beginning and making the product more satisfying to use.

We know that in today’s world of tweets, comments, online reviews and forums, positive word-of-mouth within the community is essential if a product is to have long-lasting success in the market. There are many factors that contribute to a successful fit-tech product, but a commitment to enhancing user experience and truly understanding user needs at their very core is a foundational part of that.

The impact of good usability
When usability is applied poorly during the design process, this creates what we call ‘use errors’. A use error is any situation where the outcome is different from the intention. Wherever we can, we’re looking to remove potential use errors.

Let’s say you went to reduce the intensity of something, but ended up turning it off completely, which wasted time and interrupted your activity. Or you complete a workout only to realise your HR monitor wasn’t connected properly.

In other cases it could simply be a matter of comfort or just not understanding how to use a product. These can create a different outcome from what was intended by the user and result in frustration and annoyance. In other circumstances, as mentioned, some use errors could result in serious harm.

Important considerations for good usability design:

1. Drop your feelings for the current format
This is more to do with mindset, but an important one to embrace. To design a product with the best UX possible, the overall format and architecture of the product must be driven by insight and a total understanding of the context of the product’s use. This ensures that the user experience is prioritised and can be enhanced with the freedom for the design to go in any direction, rather than being restricted by any existing beliefs or chained down by a desire to stay close to the current format of established products.

Innovation doesn’t tend to happen when there’s a strong feeling to lean towards many characteristics of historic models, without a clear user-centred justification. A strong desire to question every aspect of what went before is more likely to result in great product design.

2. Every stakeholder must be appreciated
To enhance the user experience as much as possible, it’s important to consider every type of user. We call them ‘stakeholders’, which isn’t just the people who are invested in a financial sense but includes anyone who is affected by the product.

For instance, who uses it? Who cleans it? Who assembles it? Who delivers it? Who maintains it? Who sells it? Who doesn’t use it but has to live with it? The list goes on. The products with the best user experience consider all interactions from all stakeholders, not just those involving the primary user.

3. Anticipating the entire experience journey
When every type of user has been considered, mapping out the experience journey for each user and listing all interactions in as many different use environments as possible is a good exercise to go through. Having this visibility of all interactions helps to see the bigger picture and also helps identify opportunities to simplify user steps in the experience journey.

This is difficult to do when you don’t have all the information analysed and mapped out. This approach is proactive and can bring significant value. The reason it’s so valuable is that poor user experiences usually find their way into products because the task of doing a detailed analysis either doesn’t get done or gets pushed back in the development process until usability issues start to present themselves. By this time, it’s too late and you end up fire-fighting and making decisions quickly in isolation without the proper time for thorough analysis and robust thinking where you consider how one decision impacts other aspects.

4. Think about human senses
Another key element in usability is to consider all human senses and their limitations. Missing the sound of an alarm on a product could be linked to the age of the user group, the potential of hearing loss or the volume of background noise in the environment where the product is used.

Another example could be memory. If there are too many steps to remember in a user task or too much information needed to be recalled when moving from one screen to the next in a digital app, then this can cause use errors.

Fit tech products must seek to be as inclusive as possible. Physical fitness can still be of incredible importance to people who suffer from blindness, deafness and other disabilities – therefore inclusive design is also an important part of effective usability.

Refining quality through iterative development
Usability should be considered at all stages during the design, so that use errors can be reduced and interactions can be improved. Some of the ways we do this is through affordances that give cues to the user such as shape-coding, resistance forces, size differentiation, universal symbols and orientation cues, etc. Refining the quality of interactions through expert review of prototypes, user trials, interviews, observations and a full commitment to understanding the areas for improvement through a rigorous process of development is paramount.

As new technologies become available, brands in the fitness industry will be faced with the challenge of truly understanding whether this technology has a meaningful application for their users or not. If it does, a deep consideration of usability is incredibly important for the adoption of that new technology, to ensure it meets user needs in a positive way and doesn’t introduce hurdles and resistance through poor usability design.

Nick Chubb is the lead industrial designer at IDC, designing consumer products, electronics and medical devices for some of the world’s leading brands. He has a 1st Class Masters Degree in Product Design and acts as product design advisor at Arts Thread | www.nickchubbdesign.com
Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
Gallery
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Editor's letter

Two-way coaching

Content providers have been hugely active in the fit tech market since the start of the pandemic. We expect the industry to move on from delivering these services on a ‘broadcast-only’ basis as two-way coaching becomes the new USP
people

Laurent Petit

Co-founder, Active Giving
The future of sports and fitness are dependent on the climate. Our goal is to positively influence the future of our planet by instilling a global vision of wellbeing and a sense of collective action
people

Adam Zeitsiff

CEO, Intelivideo
We don’t just create the technology and bail – we support our clients’ ongoing hybridisation efforts
people

Anantharaman Pattabiraman

CEO and co-founder, Auro
When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen
people

Mike Hansen

Managing partner, Endorphinz
We noticed a big gap in the market – customers needed better insights but also recommendations on what to do, whether that be customer acquisition, content creation, marketing and more
interview

Mathieu Letombe

We’re ultimately bringing health monitoring technologies from the doctor’s office into the home, to help patients and their physicians make life-saving changes

Refining augmented reality

London boutique The Refinery has created an avatar-led digital fitness offering called ALFI, which utilises augmented reality (AR) to demonstrate movements. Zoe Bertali, one of the co-founders of the gym, tells us more

Jessica Ennis-Hill: founder of Jennis

Jessica Ennis-Hill is on a mission to close the gender data gap in health research. Her app, Jennis CycleMapping, is designed to help women understand their cycles and how to train during each different phase. Steph Eaves speaks to Ennis-Hill to find out exactly how it works

How usable is your product?

Your fit tech product might be a game changer, solving problems or creating new possibilities for clients, but none of this will matter if it’s not easy and enjoyable to use. Industrial designer Nick Chubb explains why usability is key, and the factors to consider when designing your new product

Put on your red light

Red light therapy promises a variety of benefits, including better recovery, skin rejuvenation and increased energy, but is it all too good to be true? Fit Tech spoke to Bryan Gohl and James Strong of Red Light Rising, and Wes Pfiffner of Joovv to find out more
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Adrian Hon

Zombies, Run! is one of the most enduring fitness apps, with half a million users getting active while engaging in ‘missions’ against the zombie apocalypse. Its co-creator spoke to Steph Eaves about the power of story

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Funxtion: A vital connection

NonStop Gym, Switzerland’s no frills gym chain, has appointed FunXtion to create its member training app

Monitoring mental health

New technology uses advanced machine learning to monitor patients’ mental health between visits to their medical providers
people

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With Facebook paid online events, publishers can charge viewers to attend a video livestream on their Facebook pages or a third party video service
people

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Rezzil was able to have an injured player learning his new manager's philosophy, positioning and playing style – all from a seated position
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Featured supplier: Uptivo: Individual and group heart rate tracking
Uptivo is an all-in-one digital solution for fitness clubs, fitness boutique studios and personal trainers that provides powerful tools to schedule activities, manage member payments, and monitor heart rate both for remote and on-site classes.
Featured supplier: Founder of dynamic yoga platform launches cinematic wellbeing classes for luxury spas and hotels
Matt Miller, founder of leading yoga training platform Broga has announced the launch of Earth+Sky – a collection of cinematic virtual wellbeing classes filmed in breath-taking locations around the world.
Company profile: InBody UK
InBody provides products that are accurate, medically rated holding a CE mark and certified to ...
Company profile: Gympass
On a mission to defeat inactivity, Gympass is a corporate wellness solution that builds mutually ...
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Mywellness helps you assess customer needs, provide great workouts and programmes, guarantee a training spot on the gym floor, offer group training, track indoor and outdoor workouts - even with 3rd party apps. Read more
Get Fit Tech
Sign up for the free digital edition of Fit Tech magazine and the free weekly Fit Tech ezine
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Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Exercise equipment
Matrix Fitness: Exercise equipment
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features

Usability: How usable is your product?

Your fit tech product might be a game changer, solving problems or creating new possibilities for clients, but none of this will matter if it’s not easy and enjoyable to use. Industrial designer Nick Chubb explains why usability is key, and the factors to consider when designing your new product

Published in Fit Tech 2021 issue 2

Usability is all about the quality of interaction between people and products. It’s a key part of what makes a product successful and an aspect of product design that deserves detailed consideration.

Think of the interface on a fitness tracker, the strap design of an HR monitor, the seat adjustability on a cycling machine, the assurance of wireless earphones or the grip design of different handle attachments on a cable machine.

Ever felt like some products and pieces of equipment feel safer to use, more comfortable, more premium, effective or simply more intuitive? A lot of this comes down to effective usability, and the way we approach it during the design phase can help deliver better products that enhance user experience (UX) as much as possible.

Experience beyond safety
Anticipating the safety needs of a product in the fitness sector is really important. Good usability design eliminates risk. However, safety is only one half of usability. The other half is not so much about meeting regulatory requirements, but building in pleasing user interactions from the very beginning and making the product more satisfying to use.

We know that in today’s world of tweets, comments, online reviews and forums, positive word-of-mouth within the community is essential if a product is to have long-lasting success in the market. There are many factors that contribute to a successful fit-tech product, but a commitment to enhancing user experience and truly understanding user needs at their very core is a foundational part of that.

The impact of good usability
When usability is applied poorly during the design process, this creates what we call ‘use errors’. A use error is any situation where the outcome is different from the intention. Wherever we can, we’re looking to remove potential use errors.

Let’s say you went to reduce the intensity of something, but ended up turning it off completely, which wasted time and interrupted your activity. Or you complete a workout only to realise your HR monitor wasn’t connected properly.

In other cases it could simply be a matter of comfort or just not understanding how to use a product. These can create a different outcome from what was intended by the user and result in frustration and annoyance. In other circumstances, as mentioned, some use errors could result in serious harm.

Important considerations for good usability design:

1. Drop your feelings for the current format
This is more to do with mindset, but an important one to embrace. To design a product with the best UX possible, the overall format and architecture of the product must be driven by insight and a total understanding of the context of the product’s use. This ensures that the user experience is prioritised and can be enhanced with the freedom for the design to go in any direction, rather than being restricted by any existing beliefs or chained down by a desire to stay close to the current format of established products.

Innovation doesn’t tend to happen when there’s a strong feeling to lean towards many characteristics of historic models, without a clear user-centred justification. A strong desire to question every aspect of what went before is more likely to result in great product design.

2. Every stakeholder must be appreciated
To enhance the user experience as much as possible, it’s important to consider every type of user. We call them ‘stakeholders’, which isn’t just the people who are invested in a financial sense but includes anyone who is affected by the product.

For instance, who uses it? Who cleans it? Who assembles it? Who delivers it? Who maintains it? Who sells it? Who doesn’t use it but has to live with it? The list goes on. The products with the best user experience consider all interactions from all stakeholders, not just those involving the primary user.

3. Anticipating the entire experience journey
When every type of user has been considered, mapping out the experience journey for each user and listing all interactions in as many different use environments as possible is a good exercise to go through. Having this visibility of all interactions helps to see the bigger picture and also helps identify opportunities to simplify user steps in the experience journey.

This is difficult to do when you don’t have all the information analysed and mapped out. This approach is proactive and can bring significant value. The reason it’s so valuable is that poor user experiences usually find their way into products because the task of doing a detailed analysis either doesn’t get done or gets pushed back in the development process until usability issues start to present themselves. By this time, it’s too late and you end up fire-fighting and making decisions quickly in isolation without the proper time for thorough analysis and robust thinking where you consider how one decision impacts other aspects.

4. Think about human senses
Another key element in usability is to consider all human senses and their limitations. Missing the sound of an alarm on a product could be linked to the age of the user group, the potential of hearing loss or the volume of background noise in the environment where the product is used.

Another example could be memory. If there are too many steps to remember in a user task or too much information needed to be recalled when moving from one screen to the next in a digital app, then this can cause use errors.

Fit tech products must seek to be as inclusive as possible. Physical fitness can still be of incredible importance to people who suffer from blindness, deafness and other disabilities – therefore inclusive design is also an important part of effective usability.

Refining quality through iterative development
Usability should be considered at all stages during the design, so that use errors can be reduced and interactions can be improved. Some of the ways we do this is through affordances that give cues to the user such as shape-coding, resistance forces, size differentiation, universal symbols and orientation cues, etc. Refining the quality of interactions through expert review of prototypes, user trials, interviews, observations and a full commitment to understanding the areas for improvement through a rigorous process of development is paramount.

As new technologies become available, brands in the fitness industry will be faced with the challenge of truly understanding whether this technology has a meaningful application for their users or not. If it does, a deep consideration of usability is incredibly important for the adoption of that new technology, to ensure it meets user needs in a positive way and doesn’t introduce hurdles and resistance through poor usability design.

Nick Chubb is the lead industrial designer at IDC, designing consumer products, electronics and medical devices for some of the world’s leading brands. He has a 1st Class Masters Degree in Product Design and acts as product design advisor at Arts Thread | www.nickchubbdesign.com
Sign up here to get Fit Tech's weekly ezine and every issue of Fit Tech magazine free on digital.
Gallery
More features
Editor's letter

Two-way coaching

Content providers have been hugely active in the fit tech market since the start of the pandemic. We expect the industry to move on from delivering these services on a ‘broadcast-only’ basis as two-way coaching becomes the new USP
people

Laurent Petit

Co-founder, Active Giving
The future of sports and fitness are dependent on the climate. Our goal is to positively influence the future of our planet by instilling a global vision of wellbeing and a sense of collective action
people

Adam Zeitsiff

CEO, Intelivideo
We don’t just create the technology and bail – we support our clients’ ongoing hybridisation efforts
people

Anantharaman Pattabiraman

CEO and co-founder, Auro
When you’re undertaking fitness activities, unless you’re on a stationary bike, in most cases it’s not safe or necessary to be tied to a screen, especially a small screen
people

Mike Hansen

Managing partner, Endorphinz
We noticed a big gap in the market – customers needed better insights but also recommendations on what to do, whether that be customer acquisition, content creation, marketing and more
interview

Mathieu Letombe

We’re ultimately bringing health monitoring technologies from the doctor’s office into the home, to help patients and their physicians make life-saving changes

Refining augmented reality

London boutique The Refinery has created an avatar-led digital fitness offering called ALFI, which utilises augmented reality (AR) to demonstrate movements. Zoe Bertali, one of the co-founders of the gym, tells us more

Jessica Ennis-Hill: founder of Jennis

Jessica Ennis-Hill is on a mission to close the gender data gap in health research. Her app, Jennis CycleMapping, is designed to help women understand their cycles and how to train during each different phase. Steph Eaves speaks to Ennis-Hill to find out exactly how it works

How usable is your product?

Your fit tech product might be a game changer, solving problems or creating new possibilities for clients, but none of this will matter if it’s not easy and enjoyable to use. Industrial designer Nick Chubb explains why usability is key, and the factors to consider when designing your new product

Put on your red light

Red light therapy promises a variety of benefits, including better recovery, skin rejuvenation and increased energy, but is it all too good to be true? Fit Tech spoke to Bryan Gohl and James Strong of Red Light Rising, and Wes Pfiffner of Joovv to find out more
interview

Kilian Saekel

By putting focus on tapping different lights and sounds while doing gruelling planks, you stop focusing on the pain

Adrian Hon

Zombies, Run! is one of the most enduring fitness apps, with half a million users getting active while engaging in ‘missions’ against the zombie apocalypse. Its co-creator spoke to Steph Eaves about the power of story

Digital community

Matt Stebbings of SLT Group talks about the creation of their Community Portal, a new platform that aims to help anyone to get active, whether that’s inside or outside of SLT’s facilities

Funxtion: A vital connection

NonStop Gym, Switzerland’s no frills gym chain, has appointed FunXtion to create its member training app

Monitoring mental health

New technology uses advanced machine learning to monitor patients’ mental health between visits to their medical providers
people

Devi Mahadevia

Facebook director of sports and fitness partnerships
With Facebook paid online events, publishers can charge viewers to attend a video livestream on their Facebook pages or a third party video service
people

Andy Etches

Founder and sports director, Rezzil
Rezzil was able to have an injured player learning his new manager's philosophy, positioning and playing style – all from a seated position
interview

Preston Lewis, Black Box VR

We’ve had to create training experiences that show users how to grab handles in the virtual world that are mapped to our real-world machine
More features
Technogym
Technogym