Designing for growth

Our process for thinking about growing from 1M to 10M users

Serendipity is a funny thing. After embarking on a two year journey building Glimpse (and a few other apps), it was time for a break. I escaped the startup world for a European adventure to clear my mind and get re-inspired for my next move.

After spending some time London, Copenhagen, Berlin and Istanbul, my journey brought me to Amsterdam. Back in 2011, when I was first building Phoundit, I met this amazing Dutch contingency of builders at SxSW. So naturally, I hit up friends like Paul to get beers and catch up on the latest. For years, I’d been inspired by his company’s vision for a more active and healthy world.


If you haven’t tried Human, it’s pretty straightforward: The app reminds you to move 30 minutes everyday. Every minute of moderate walking, running or biking activity counts towards this simple #daily30 goal on Human. Using game mechanics and motivational comments Human makes it easy to stay motivated along the way, every day. It’s a fantastic way of using technology to positively change offline behavior.

After catching up Paul, he suggested we work on a project together. Human was in a unique position as they were already growing quickly with over 1M downloads and 1.5B daily activities tracked, 1B from 2015 alone.

Our challenge: How do we get to our next 10M users?

Anything was on the table from re-imagining the iOS experience to building a v1 for Android.

Ha, so much for a break from startup world. Where to even start? We’d ultimately find our solution at the intersection of user research, brand development and rapid prototyping.

Talk with existing power users

Upon returning back to New York, we recruited several “Superhumans,” otherwise known as local power users to learn more about how Human fit within their lifestyle. If we were going to design the next killer feature, we first had to understand why our best users love Human and how the app fits into their day.

Step I: Homework assignment

Before meeting our power users, we had them fill out a little exercise: What does your day look like?

They filled out a daily planner, illustrating moments like when they wake up, eat breakfast, starting working, break for lunch, exercise, etc. Designing for behavior change is hard, and we wanted to make sure a new user experience would fit within their daily routine.

Step II: Deep dive interview

Visualizing what their day looked like was a great way to start the conversation and probe on patterns we were seeing as we talked to more and more users.

We ran exercises like having user rank use-cases from most to least relevant, to help figure out how to position Human moving forward.

Examples of ranked use-cases, assembled by our power users

Lastly, we asked all research participants to send us screenshots of where the app sits on their phone, so we could have a better idea of how they use the app throughout their day. More often than not, it was buried in a “health folder.”

Examples of where Human lives on our power user’s phones

Step III: Distill insights & observations into high-level learnings

Creating new user personas

After research, we crafted a new user to design for — The Everyday Achiever.

For Everyday Achievers, activity is already a core part of their routine. They are momentum addicts who hit their #daily30 before lunch time. Our biggest learning: They worry they aren’t doing enough.

They use apps like Human to better understand their daily activities, so they can feel good about it.

Our design challenge was to help our users answer the question, “Am I doing enough?”

Translating user needs into a brand story

I’ve always respected how Josh Elman associates growth with a bigger brand story. Ultimately, if you want to grow, you have to make it easy for people to tell their friends/family about what your product. He uses this simple framework to think about how your product’s message spreads.

Purpose: Why do people use your product?
Inception: When potential users hear about your product, what makes them think “I want this now!”
Adoption: When new users start using a product, what makes them stay?

As a team, we took a step back to answer these questions after talking with users and evaluating the competitive landscape. What did we learn?

Today’s fitness app don’t speak users’ language.

For example, when was the last time you told a friend, “See you 5 steps?” Instead you’d say something closer to “See you in 5 minutes.”

Here’s how we’d imagine Human fitting into our users lives:

Purpose: Human helps you understand your daily activity levels by speaking your language
Inception: Human gives you a better sense of where you stand in the world
Adoption: Human shows you relevant leaderboards to fit your lifestyle

Our challenge: How can we use our rich dataset of over 1.5 billion activities to create benchmarks that help users understand how they compare to people like them?

This would ultimately help our users answer the question, “Am I doing enough?”

Feature: Human Pulse

After weeks of prototyping and iteration, we landed on Human Pulse, an easy way to see how your daily activity stacks up to people like you.

Toggle between your city and the 25 people closest to your locations to see how you compare. Can you keep up with the rest of your city throughout the day?

We also show you how your daily activity fluctuates over the last 48 hours, and where you stand compared to the average Human in your area. These location based leaderboards are available exclusively in major cities on iOS and Android.


In just a few days, Human has received over 20 mentions in the press, and has risen to #1 in Health & Fitness category in The Netherlands and into the top 150 in the US! Now the fun begins, as we get to iterate on user feedback. Please do reach out at @Human on Twitter to let us know what you think!