How might we overcome the anxieties involved with the metrics and numbers associated with food logging apps and encourage healthier and more frequent tracking habits?
A wearable application for the Apple Watch that simplifies the food logging experience by introducing a novel way to log food through visual estimation.
Interface Design Lead: Created information architecture, designed wireframes, sketched low fidelity interfaces, and prototyped medium and high fidelity interfaces.
Interaction Design Lead: Took the lead on designing all interactions for the wearable platform and created a new method to test wearable app.
UX Research: Conducted interviews, designed surveys, conducted usability tests
Context and Problem
Over the past few years, there has been a trend towards choosing healthier foods and consuming cleaner diets. Various studies conducted across the globe show vast improvements in diet quality as people become more health conscious. More and more people are turning towards food tracking apps as a way to instill better dietary habits, leading to the rise in popularity of apps like MyFitnessPal.
However, over time, the major apps have started to divert from the primary focus of food logging by adding a plethora of features leading to clunky interfaces and overwhelming experiences that make it difficult for users to use them for the primary task of food logging.
We believe that food logging applications today are over-designed and the clunky interfaces discourage users from logging food frequently and leads to lower long term user retention. There is a need for a simplified food logging experience that addresses the needs of users who want to be able to quickly log food without diving into the exact calorie counts or macronutrients, leading to a more mindful food logging experience that encourages positive behavior.
Mid Fidelity Prototypes
High Fidelity Prototypes
Testing and Feedback
Research and Findings
We conducted semi structured interviews with people to learn about how they use food logging apps and synthesized our findings through an affinity mapping session. From there we did a competitive analysis of the most popular food logging applications in the market. We then took our research to create a survey that helped us collect quantitative data.
Semi Structured Interviews
9 interviews were conducted with a diverse set of users both in person and remotely. We looked into the features they used, what they took away from past logging experiences to understand their behavior so as to gain insight into the problem space. We then synthesized the information in the form of an affinity map.
"I put off logging because it's time consuming"
"Tracking led me to food-related obsession and an eating disorder"
"I have a hard time understanding the portion sizes I'm eating"
"I have a hard time estimating quantities since I don't use a scale"
"I don't trust the accuracy of calorie counts provided by the app"
"MyFitnessPal has too many redundancies that makes food selection difficult"
"I have trouble tracking food I eat at restaurants since they're usually not listed"
"I get overwhelmed by all the information and I don't understand most of it"
"I'm not motivated to track calories long-term"
We tried to replicate some of the pain points gathered earlier to better understand the users' frustrations. We did this by exploring the top 3 food tracking apps in the App Store:
We wanted to learn about the various features each tool offered, the number of steps required to log a meal, and what the users said about their experience. Here's an example of logging a pepperoni pizza in MyFitnessPal.
Calorie Counter and Diet Tracker
Vast library of food items
Large amount of redundant information due to crowdsourced data
10 clicks needed to log 3 slices of pizza
Food Tracker for Weight Loss
Users can snap a picture of the food and let algorithm identify it
Algorithms frequently misidentify food
7 clicks needed to log 3 slices of pizza
Diet and Macro Tracker
Recommends personalized meal plans
Provides words of encouragement and positive reinforcement from nutritionists
10 clicks needed to log 3 slices of pizza
To further explore the problem space, we sent out a survey to users who currently track calories, or have tracked calories in the past. We got 81 responses in total consisting of both quantitative and qualitative information. Here's a link to the survey.
79% reported logging food/calories exclusively
15% log macronutrients in addition to calories
75% use MyFitnessPal
60% reported being inconsistent at logging
11% reported logging on wearable device
Common issues include "time consuming", "tedious" and "forget to log after eating"
Based on the data we collected, we wanted to target users in their 20s and 30s who would describe themselves as "health conscious but not health obsessed". We also wanted to appeal to people who have never used a food logging app in the past. I used this information to create two personas.
Watches what she eats without worrying too much about metrics
To log food without metrics
A simplified food logging process that isn't tedious
Logging food on apps takes too long and has too many steps
Doesn't always remember to log meals after eating
Wants to get in shape but doesn't know where to start
Weight loss through diet
A calorie tracking experience that encourages good eating habits
Is overwhelmed by the complexities of current tracking apps
Tracking food in detail becomes stressful and causes anxiety
We ideated on three divergent design alternatives, covering three unique concepts on different platforms.
A phone app that utilizes the concept of portion sizing to help users eat the recommended portions of food personalized to their needs. The app helps educate the user on portions, gives food recommendations based on their goals, and allows them to log their meals easily.
Portion Sizing Breakdown
An Apple Watch app designed to make food logging a quick and painless process by introducing a novel way to log meals via visual estimation. Encouraging users to log meals before eating could lead to improved logging rates.
An Amazon Alexa skill that lets users log individual ingredients as they add them while cooking a meal. After logging all ingredients, the screen would display an overview of the total calories and nutritional breakdown of the meal.
Logging Experience on Amazon Echo Spot
Design Selection Criteria
We now needed to gather evidence and converge on a single idea based on our divergent alternatives. We brainstormed the benefits and drawbacks of each design based on the following factors defined by our research:
Novelty of interactions
We took advantage of a poster session where we presented the ideas
and got feedback from the HCI faculty and peers at Georgia Tech.
From the feedback we got on the poster and the pros and cons analysis, we decided to pursue the wearable app concept. Through this concept, we wanted to address the frustrations and pain points identified through our research earlier.
Minimize steps needed to log food
Simple and intuitive interactions
Encourage food logging before meal consumption
Abstraction of metrics where relevant for a less stressful experience
Wearable App Concept
The goal of this app is to make the food logging process quick and simple by introducing an exciting logging process that would motivate users to log meals for frequently. The concept of estimating portions based on the contents of the plate encourages users to log before eating their meal, leading to fewer missed logs. Replacing input parameters like portion sizes with visual alternatives takes away some of the anxieties involved.
Minimize steps required to log food
Novel logging method involving multimodal interaction with digital crown
Simplified interface makes it accessible to more people
Multimodal search methods catered for different environments
Leveraging Apple Watch's advanced haptics for a more inclusive experience
The following storyboard shows an example use case of a user logging food at a restaurant.
Using voice search, he looks up "pepperoni pizza"
Before digging in, he launches the food logging app on his Apple Watch
Alex orders two slices of pizza at his favorite restaurant
He adjusts the number of slices by rotating the digital crown
After logging the two slices, he is now aware of what he's consuming
Alex can now happily
enjoy his pizza
Apple's WatchOS relies heavily on the digital crown, and we wanted users to feel at home when using the app. The affordances of the digital crown encourage users to rotate it as a way to scroll through pages. We wanted to extend this interaction further and test with users to see if it felt natural. We also wanted to utilize the advanced haptics and plan to test it with high fidelity prototypes later.
Adjust quantities on screen (clockwise to increase, counter clockwise to decrease)
Vertical scroll on screens with lists (food items, search letters)
Feedback on digital crown when it is rotated (crown haptics available on Series 4 and later)
Feedback on the watch body when during certain selections
Prototyping and Testing
Interactive Medium Fidelity Prototype
I designed the information architecture and then created medium fidelity wireframes in the form of an interactive prototype in Sketch to test the concept with users.
I used this information layout to wireframe the app with an interactive Sketch prototype.
Since the use of the digital crown is essential to the experience,
we simulated it via intuitive screen taps highlighted below.
Try logging three slices of pepperoni pizza on our prototype!
To make the testing experience more natural, we designed a rig that simulates wearing an Apple Watch and allows the participant to run the prototype via Sketch Cloud on a phone strapped to their forearm.
We tested with a total of 5 participants. To address inclusivity, we included participants who had never tracked foods before but were interested to do so, as well as people who hadn't owned an Apple Watch before.
For logging 3 slices of pizza, participants took 32 sec on our prototype and 1 min 38 sec on MyFitnessPal (our prototype required 1/3rd the time to log)
A few users didn't know how to adjust quantities with the digital crown
Users wanted an option to hide the metrics in the post log screen
Users liked having fun facts at the end of the logging process
Some users wanted to be able to navigate back to home page after logging
High Fidelity Concept Iteration
Using the feedback from the usability tests, I iterated on the design with a high fidelity prototype. I used Apple's Human Interface Guidelines to guide the visual design of the prototype.
Added an "Accessibility" option for multimodal quantity adjustment
Visual adjustments to the progress bars to make the information more apparent
Added a Settings page and notifications support
Better affordances for navigation
The following features highlight the core functionality of the app.
1. Accessible quantity adjustment based on user's preference
2. Simplified metrics with the option to display details
3. Intuitive Multimodal Search
Here's a link to the prototype:
Given the time, we would like to use the prototype to conduct another usability study, hopefully resulting in a more robust and polished app. If we were to proceed with building and publishing the app, one of the biggest challenges we foresee is the creation and implementation of the food database. Each item would require unique visual elements as well as categorization of ingredients for the user to be able to edit easily.
We would also like to expand on the voice search feature to be able to include quantities along with the food being searched for, which would allow for even faster food logging.