An app for personal change

Have you ever want to change something in your life? Have you tried to give up a bad habit or start a good one? Me too. Changing your behaviour is a difficult task, and I’ve often looked outside myself for help, whether that be experts, books, online courses or apps.

I’m always looking to improve myself. Whether that’s to look better, feel better, be more organised or quit a bad habit.

I’ve used many great apps for personal change. One of my favourites is Strava, a personal fitness app which allows you to record your exercise sessions to share with the world, compete against others and so much more. Another app I love to use is Insight Timer. It’s a meditation app that can be used simply as a timer, or you can choose from an enormous catalogue of free meditations to try, and it can truly benefit your well being. I’ve used Myfitnesspal to track what I’ve eaten, and I connected it to Strava so I could use my exercise data to effect my dietary data. All of them really help, and these apps were my inspiration for Change-yo-life app.

“Personal change is challenging, but can be enjoyable and achievable with the right guidance and support.”

This was my guiding principle behind the design of the app. I wanted to design an app that would support you throughout the journey of getting from day one to realising your goal. I wanted to make it a fun and engaging experience. This way, you’ll want to keep coming back, and sticking to your goal won’t seem like such a chore.

The process

The final prototype was arrived at by going through a 7 step process starting with Need finding and concluding with user testing. I have outlined each of the individual steps below.

Need finding — interviews

I started the need finding process by interviewing a group of four people to find out what they needed/wanted to change in their lives. After gathering up their responses, I categorised their answers into 5 buckets:

Personal change categories

I then took into the account of the reasons why they failed to achieve their desired goal:

Reasons why people fail to achieve their goals

I made a list of tools used by the participants to bring about personal change:

Tools for change

Need finding — observations

I observed 3 participants using their favourite apps, and was specifically looking for design opportunities and breakdowns in the process for them. Two of the participants goals were fitness related (weight-loss and the ability to run 5 kilometres). The third participant wanted to improve their self confidence.

From these observations, I determined that users will use a multitude of channels for one overall goal, for example using a notebook or app to track diet, using another app to track their exercise and another one to tell them when to run or walk (when doing “couch-to-5k”).

This gave me the impetus to work toward an app design that takes into account all of the required elements of realising goal, and making each type of goal an individual “journey”.

Ideation — storyboards

To kick-off the ideation process, I started creating storyboards which helped to visualise how a user might use the app, and what needs they have.

Storyboard 1
Storyboard 2

Ideation — Prototypes

Drawing the storyboards helped me to conceptualise screens and build paper prototypes of the app.

Paper prototypes

Paper prototyping was very helpful to quickly come up with ideas and requirements for the app. I put the paper prototypes through their paces, and tested them with a handful of users. Doing so gave me invaluable insight and feedback, which helped me change and modify the prototype on the fly, and improve the design before going to the next stage.

Ideation — user needs

Each step of the process so far: interviewing, observing, storyboarding and prototyping culminated in being able to write a solid set of user needs. I wrote these in the form of job stories, and I would use these to identify features that would be required for the app design.

Here’s a couple of examples of the user needs I have written:

“When I start using this app, I want a way to choose between different journeys so that I can achieve positive change.”
“When I am on a journey that requires exercise, I want a way to record the exercise so that I can know later on that I completed it.”

Ideation — inspiration

Looking back to previous apps I had used such as Strava, and also looking outside of the app world, I documented what inspired me most about each of the apps, and what features I would like to incorporate in this design.

Mario Bros map

Super Mario Brothers — I love the way you can see the journey mapped out ahead of you, and I would like there to be game-elements such as points, badges and rewards for completing activities.


Headspace — I like the sense of progression and a ‘path’ that’s set out before you. I like the video instructions too. It doesn’t necessarily fall short, but where I think I can add something is the ability to track any goal, including fitness goals.


Strava — One of my favourite fitness tracking apps. I love the recording functionality, the social implementation and the overall look of the app.

Insight timer

Insight Timer — I love the sheer selection of meditations available, and the sense of community on there. Where it falls short, is it’s too open-ended, and there aren’t enough “paths” on there for people to get on.

The Daily Motivator

The Daily Motivator — Ralph Marston has been running this website since 1995, almost every day putting up some inspirational post related to emotions, feelings, relationships, ambitions etc. An great place to go each day for some motivation!

Ideation — heuristic evaluation

The paper prototype was evaluated by another UX peer, and she identified a few dead ends I hadn’t identified myself. This further refined the design that I would start wire framing at this stage in Sketch.

Paper Prototype

Development plan

With a solid concept and prototype in hand, I started putting together a development plan. The plan included an itemised list of tasks that needed to be completed to realise the final prototype. It included creating a site-map, each individual screen that needed to be designed, user testing and final polish.


With the development plan in hand, and the paper prototype to work off, I started building out each of the screens using Sketch.

Using Craft plugin for Sketch, I synchronised the app screens with the Invision project that I created for this app design, to produce a working prototype.

Sketch design

User Testing

I organised a few friends to use the prototype and got some feedback which was useful, and cheap! It meant I could take care of the “low-hanging-fruit” without finding these issues later on with paid user tests. I videoed them (I asked them to sign consent forms beforehand), and I used the video for further review after the tests were completed.

User tests

I identified some flaws with the design, some minor, some not-so-minor and I then updated the design with changes. I asked my friends to use the updated version of the app, to see if I had addressed the identified issues accordingly.

A/B Testing

One of the items I picked up from reviewing the videos of the user tests was that users kept trying to tap on the icons, so I decided to make the icons more button-like, and include a modal dialogue when the user tapped on them.

Final Polish

After A/B testing, I made the necessary changes based on the testing, and tidied up loose ends on got the prototype ready for build.