As a student, I’m often looking out for opportunities to gain some experience conceptualizing and designing applications end-to-end. In one of my searches, I came across a brief from Luke Jones on the great site designchallenge.xyz. The gist of the brief: create a workout timer specifically for high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. I have an interest in weightlifting and exercise, so the brief stood out to me as a great starting point.
I’ve tried out a fair amount of different fitness apps. There's a huge amount out there, but in my experience, it’s rare to find one that hits the mark. It’s common to find either complicated, bloated applications that try to do too much, or tools so stripped down that you have trouble getting the intended functionality out of them. Either way, the experiences leave something to be desired, and it’s easy to feel daunted by the apparent complexity of the culture surrounding fitness.
With this in mind, and using Luke’s brief as a jumpoff point, I arrived at a core design question:
How might one design a tool to help make high intensity interval training more accessible?
I started by doing a bit of work to contextualize the problem. I needed to identify some key considerations:
The value of this app can be divided into two main categories.
The target demographic can be identified generally in a few ways.
To understand the user’s context and needs, it helps to establish the environment in which the tool in question might be used.
Potential conditions include:
What does this mean?
After identifying these considerations, I started some ideation in order to understand how this tool could work.
I developed some rough ideas about how the tool could tackle both initial goals: ease of use and habit-forming utility. I decided that dividing functionality into two main categories—individual timers and progressive programs—would let both casual and frequent users get the most out of the app. The individual timers would allow for quick-start individual workout sessions, while the programs would increase in difficulty over time and track the user’s progress as their abilities strengthen.
I looked for a few precedents before delving too far into the design process. I made sure to look for examples of products that did a good job of distilling the habit-forming process into smooth and easy flows. Some of these examples include
These products all included some elements which I found to be effective in encouraging healthy habits. Headspace in particular does a great job of gamifying accomplishments to nudge the user into forming lasting habits. I kept it in mind when moving forward.
Creating a system map helped me to get a more defined sense of the big picture for this product. I could see where the key interactions would take place and where some main user flows needed to be developed, especially the onboarding flow, the program and timer creation flows, and the workout timer flow.
I started to wireframe the application, using the system map as a jump-off point and keeping in mind the insights I learned. As I developed the wireframes, it became clear to me that the onboarding process I had built in the system map was far longer and more complex than it needed to be, so I trimmed it down to a simple prompt to add a new timer.
After wireframing, I started developing a visual language to keep things consistent across all the elements in the product. I wanted something that felt slick, energizing, and modern while retaining a welcoming and encouraging voice.
I also used the clear and friendly icons from Feather Icons in the design.
Here’s the final result: HI.IT. It's a simple, habit-forming interval timer that gently helps users meet their fitness goals.
HI.IT has two core functionalities: Timers and Programs. Timers are simple interval training timers, alternating between a light interval, a hard interval, and breaks if desired.
If the user likes, they can turn a timer into a Program—a timer that adjusts its length and difficulty over time as the user grows accustomed to the original pace. Programs will gently remind users of their fitness goals and increase in difficulty in order to ensure that the user is always pushing themselves and growing.
HI.IT allows the user to set the light interval, hard interval, and break length of their workout. It then plays out seamlessly, allowing the user to focus more on their training and less on their phone.
Keep track of the progress you make and see in real time how you’re accomplishing your goals. Check the calendar to see which days you’ve trained, or see some more in-depth stats about your current streak, your total workout time, and more.
Taking on this project was a great exercise in self-led work. I was able to set deadlines for myself and make sure that I was using a workflow that felt appropriate and justified.
I’m happy with the way I was able to distill the experience of a flexible interval timer into a straightforward and accessible product. I’m also satisfied with the visual design of the piece. The people I’ve asked about it tend to agree that the interface is tasteful and clearly communicates its purposes.
During the project I learned about the importance of building a design system and sticking to it, even if the task at hand is relatively simple. The visual cohesiveness of this project surpasses much of my past work, and I credit this to a visual system that was more comprehensive and thought out than I had used previously.
Of course, there’s also a lot that could be improved. There wasn’t enough in-person data collected during the design process—doing a few more interviews and some user testing would help to better identify peoples’ needs and shed some light on any issues in the design. I also think that creating some user flows early on in the process might have helped me to avoid spending time fleshing out a long onboarding process when something much shorter was warranted.
Ultimately, I’m happy with the product I created. I think that I successfully conceptualized an application that makes interval training more accessible, and I integrated some habit-forming features without going overboard. After a bit of user testing, I’m confident that HI.IT would have a satisfying experience for users.