Motivational Design for Fitness Apps

I was excited to see this article on NPR:

Most Fitness Apps Don’t Use Proven Motivational Techniques : Shots – Health News : NPR.

I’m clearly biased here, but I agree that a current gap in health appsĀ is that many solutions have beautiful technology or solid science, but rarely both. I get that struggle; the two pieces often require different skill sets. Smaller shops in particular may not be staffed to address both needs in creating their apps. Unfortunately, engagement suffers when the design is poor, while efficacy suffers when the science is missing.

David Conroy makes a great point in this article that many apps collect data but fail to reflect it back to users in a meaningful, actionable way. Motivational design principles would suggest that if feedback doesn’t actually help users improve behaviors, they won’t find long term value in it.

The other interesting comment by Conroy has to do with lapses in behavior normalizing over time–he suggests that if you skip workouts, after a while, you re-baseline at a low activity level. I have a slightly different take on this. I believe that if a fitness app doesn’t engage users long term, users take their attention away from the app. Their behaviors regress not because the users normalize transgressions, but because they simply stop attending to their activities in a mindful way.

What do you think? Have you found fitness apps that do a good job blending design and behavior change?