Beyond the Scale
Projects to improve outcomes for members through new technologies and health science.
The ChallengeUpdate the Weightwatcher’s web and app experience for millions of current members—leapfrogging the legacy applications of the previous user experience. Integrate fitness trackers, connected scales, and other new technologies into the customer’s digital experience.
My roleWorking through Slalom Consulting, I was experience design lead on multiple projects, all focused on Weightwatchers’ core food and fitness tracking experience. I worked with designers, PMs, engineers, and health innovation experts from both Slalom and Weightwatchers.
Throughout 2015, Weightwatchers had an abandonment problem. Millions of members still participated in the core weight loss program, while struggling with web and app offerings. Digital had never been the focus of the membership experience, and Weightwatchers was losing members to fitness startups such as Fitbit and MyFitnessPal. The projects I was part of helped rebuild the digital side of the member experience with users in mind.
Maintaining the customer base was critical to the platform’s value. A core value of Weightwatchers is in-person meetings. We did not want to perpetuate an attrition situation wherein members who pioneered their own tech solution would drift away from their meeting network. We needed to develop that allowed members to do everything they need to do quickly and easily within the digital experience. High-level user stories were along the lines of:
- As a member, I want to see my day’s fitness activity reflected in my dashboard.
- As a member, I want to weigh myself at home using a digital scale connected to my account.
- As a member, I want to see how my food choices at lunch affect what I can eat for dinner.
- As a member, I want to learn about changes to the Weightwatchers points calculation.
As a member, I want to be able to connect to my weight loss coach through my app.
Each of these was a phase of work and generally followed this sequence.
Wearable activation prototype.
We accelerated fitness tracker integration, the most critically-needed feature, to market. Many members were using Third-party fitness trackers from Fitbit, Withings, Jawbone, or other brands. But they had no way to connect these devices to their Weightwatchers experience. Users were forced to switch between Weightwatchers and their tracking apps. We developed a cross-account activation portal as a simple web app. Members could now have an experience that integrated the most popular wearable brands. The app delivered the back-end connection that allowed fitness activity to sync to member legacy apps. But it also included a basic dashboard of fitness. Seeing activity from a fitness tracker provided users tangible rewards: a day of high physical activity might result in an evening reward a member with the opportunity for a dessert or a second glass of wine.
Next was a quick implementation of connected scales. These had a similar activation process. For users who purchased these devices, this helped transformed the “weighing in” experience. It could be more nearly automatic, and able to be done at home — all digital magic.
Detailed food tracking and dashboard improvements followed. With basic food tracking already part of the digital experience, the essential elements—weight, food, activity—were in place. We then started the development of an improved health dashboard design, and developing features for more complex food tracking: favorites, recipes, and other nuanced features.
My focus was on UX design. I worked with UI designers and engineers to develop and maintain a visual style guide. My domain was screen architecture: I used the guide’s design elements to construct the necessary app features within screen flow documents.
I was the researcher for my team's work. I initiated and conducted user research and tests with members to gauge the desirability and usability of new features. I ran in-person sessions as well as digitally-moderated web tests. This afforded the ability to screen for active Weightwatchers members and ask a few contextual questions before the user test.
High-touch apps are challenging to use as well as design. Food tracking was traditionally a paper-and-pencil affair. Converting this to all-digital wasn’t straightforward. Most apps require very little of a user. An app that demands to be interacted with, several times a day, in a very high-touch manner, and over a sensitive area of personal behavior leaves a lot of opportunity for abandonment and neglect. A member missing entering a meal, developing a backlog and negative associations, was at risk of slumping in their dietary vigilance. Design principles such as clarity and positive voice played a massive part in creating successful interactions.
This was a great project to practice user empathy through participation. Who doesn't want to be in more control of their diet and fitness? I joined the client as a member, genuinely dogfooding their current offerings as well as those of competitive products. For the duration of this project, I was rarely seen wearing fewer than three fitness trackers on my wrist.
Later in the engagement, my role changed. I began to travel to New York to support Weightwatchers design and product leadership. Instead of developing new features, I helped integrate elements from various workstreams into a coherent strategy, and helped develop key new features—integrated coaching, new food points calculation—that would be launched to customers as the Beyond the Scale campaign.
Beyond the Scale launched in late 2015, just in time for the holiday diet season. Weightwatchers' digital offerings were now an asset instead of a liability, and its organization could now focus on new products rather than legacy maintenance.