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Best Practices: Health Apps

Almost everyone’s New Years resolution involves hitting the gym and eating healthier. Even in my own home, the copious deliciousness of the holiday season has inspired the women in my family to once again begin “counting points”.

Gone are the days when a pencil, notepad and calculator were needed at every meal to count the calories; goal tracking health apps can now do that for you. Many health websites have moved to include mobile platforms as Users want to access tools which are:

Convenient: As our phones are glued to us at all hours of the day, it is the perfect channel to track what we eat or what foods we buy. One of the first health apps I downloaded on my iPhone was MyFitnessPal which inspired me to track my calories because of the novelty of the tacker component which allows you to scan and store barcodes of the foods you consume, cutting out most of the legwork.

Simple: Something I repeatedly hear throughout projects is “break it down”. Simple layouts that demonstrate progress are popular among Users as it provides an “at a glance” view subject to little interpretation. Alerts and reminders are also popular for this reason; however, they can deter Users from engaging directly with the affiliated website so it is important to provide updated and valuable content on the website if you want to keep them engaged on that platform.

Guiding: When Users are using goal tracking health apps they are in a mindset to evoke change. This means that they are open to suggestions and actively seeking solutions or tools to help them achieve the desired results. The new Weight Watchers 360 program health app includes a new “Spaces” tracking component which includes a “routines section” which helps Users contract healthy habits.

Personalized: Customized information is coveted by Users as it is more effective in producing incremental results. Users want to see progress, so it is a good idea to provide a baseline or way to assess their current situation. Once a baseline is established, tailoring incremental solutions to meet a particular lifestyle will lead to attainable results. When Users can see improvements to their baseline, it provides motivation and a sense of accomplishment.

While monitoring what I eat and shedding a few pounds may also be included in my list of things to achieve this year, my biggest goal for 2013 is to advise clients not just on usability, but on how to effectively provide Users with content that is valuable and offer insight on how features can effectively drive engagement.

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