Image by Conscious Design
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My Stretch Minder:
The mobile app health coach voice assistant

A voice-guided immersive multimodal experience to help users maintain their long-term mobility and stay healthy. A Stretch Minder feature addition.

My Role

Sole UX Designer
Sole Conversation Designer

Project Timeline

4 months

Tools

VoiceFlow

Draw.io

Whimsical

Project Overview

 

Background

Stretching is essential to keep the muscles flexible, strong, and healthy (www.health.harvard.edu). Working adults in the US are typically sedentary 10.5 hours per day (www.sciencedaily.com). Over 15 percent of Americans have health issues related to physical inactivity throughout their life. Throughout the country, the estimate of inactive constituents ranged between 17.3 to 47.7 percent (News-medical.net). Many doctors recommend daily stretching exercises to maintain a healthy range of motion in the joints and avoid mobility-related issues later in life.

Problem

People tend to forget to stretch and move around during the workday, particularly those with disk-related jobs. Even with readily available stretch workouts on YouTube or exercise apps, the average user will not use these resources daily.
 

Lack of retention can be attributed to friction points, such as class length or the physical interactions required to navigate the interface. For example, the mobile screen is small, but the screen must always be in view for the correct completion of a pose (you can't look away even if the stretch requires facing away) or the mobile phone being placed too far away to easily tap the screen to skip or replay a pose.

Solution

In order to help users feel more inclined to complete the recommended daily amount of stretching, I designed a solution that helps working professionals exercise, stay engaged, and stay motivated through a hands-free multimodal app experience.

Design Process

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User Research


Research Goal
To gain a better understanding of the impact of communicative (text, audible) content on people's behavior regarding exercise streaming. Questions to ask: What are users' exercise habits? How much does visual design impact the amount of verbal/textual information to be communicated? How much do users currently rely on physical commands in exercise app interactions?

Pain

  • Lack of curated content. Search (scroll) time for a stretching session on a Youtube video or exercise app is long (average search time is > 10min).

  • The Stretch session itself feels too long, not convenient for a short break from work during the typical workday.

  • Stretching poses are communicated with rich visual content (i.e. video or Gif images), which require a lot of attention, high cognitive load.

  • During the stretch session, there are no shortcuts for app navigation (app feels too segmented, no intuitive flow).

Gain

  • Short videos or gifs quickly show stretch poses, saving time for the user to figure out how to follow the content especially when the textual explanation is unclear.

  • The ability to save an exercise (like creating a playlist in Youtube) reduces the time to select from uncurated content.

  • On-the-go (mobile) content availability reduces barriers to usage not only at home, but at the workplace, and other locations.

 

Competitor Research

I focused the competitive analysis step of my design process on similar apps that already exist with the highest ratings in the app store: StretchMinder, Start Stretching, and Stretch & Flexibility at Home Exercise.

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Stretch Minder

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Start Stretching

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Stretch & Flexibiity

Pro: 
  • When the content is bite-sized, the whole journey can be completed in a very short time. Specific portions of the exercise can be clipped and prioritized.

  • Video and Gifs for visual accessibility, with audio guidance. 

  • Base features are free, can also upgrade for Pro features

  • Apps provide a timer to guide users for the optimal minimum length of practice, the length of the exercise is also adjustable.

  • Personalization, through the collection of exercise preferences, lifestyle (level of activity), and personal motivation for stretching.

  • App reminders to remind users of their health goals.

Con​:
  • No voice interactive commands to access tutorials.

  • Skipping/next pose reached by touch only.

  • YouTube sessions are lengthy, searching for a new session is overwhelming and could be distracting (YouTube ads).

  • Other Voice Interactive Stretching App.

Voice App Analysis

There are several Alexa stretching skills that are available for free on Amazon. However, most are not conversational and do not provide more value than a visual-based mobile app. The apps were selected from different star rating bands (3.5-3.9, 4.0-4.4, 4.5-5). The skills are: 6-Minute Full Body Stretch, Guided Workout: Stretch, Workout Coach, 5 Minute Posture Improvement Stretching.

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6-Minute Full Body Stretch

4.5 rating from 210 reviews

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Guided Workout:  Stretch

4.0 rating from 19 reviews

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Workout Coach

4.0 rating from 97 reviews

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5 Minute Posture Improvement Stretching

3.5 rating from 9 reviews

Pro: 

  • Some skills have defined bot personalities, with a relaxing female voice.

  • There is a system prompt to confirm intent before launching the exercise.

  • Short onboarding, allows users to understand what they can expect of functionality.

  • Simple “help” instruction and fallback.

Con: 

  • Not conversational. Not many slots built into the skills.

  • Some skills don’t support the “Skip” or “Next” command.

  • The pause command is functional, but “Resume” does not return the user from the point they left off at. 

  • Few exercises to choose from. No curated content.

  • Exercise length is not adjustable. 

  • Skills have not been built for smart displays as well. No supporting visuals. 

Key Takeaway

Users need a short-length stretching guide, with an easy way to interact with the app without wasting time to search or get distracted by a physical command (i.e tapping the screen). Users also need a way to keep the habit going through a daily routine.

Solutions Breakdown:

 

Stretch Minder App Summary

Stretch Minder is a stretching app that provides a reminding function with an adjustable length of a stretching session. It also displays simple Gif graphics and audio to demonstrate the pose.

The Challenge

To command the app, users need to get out of their pose and physically interact with the screen. It reduces the ease of use and creates distraction, which prevents them from continuing to stretch.

What could be done better?

Adding a VUI along with the mobile screen experience can relieve users’ most common pain points. It will increase ease of use and convenience to access commands from a distance while allowing users to continue to perform their stretching. Adding a consistent point of interaction (bot personality) can also be used to encourage repeat engagement, mimicking a health coach to support users’ health goals.

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U: Alexa, Open Stretch Minder

U: Upper body, please.

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S: Hi Pam! Nice to have you back. Do you want to stretch upper body or lower body?

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User Persona:

Target Audience: 
  • People who stay in the same position for prolonged periods of time.

  • Mobile and web app users.

  • Ages 35-60 years old.

KISHA LOYDE

I’m a busy person. I work from home and run my household. Sometimes it feels like my days are about taking care of other people’s needs, but I also want to carve some time out for myself, and my health. 

 

I have sensitive joints and don’t really enjoy heavy workouts, so I want to do some stretching as a daily routine. I want to be able to follow an exercise easily, without fumbling with my phone. I also need it to be quick since there are other tasks that need my attention.

Needs:
  • Bite-sized content

  • Reminders 

  • Easily accessible content, to quickly choose from without needing to search

 

Main Features of the Voice Application
  • Save poses to “favorites”

  • View all exercises in a list with short-cut access to poses

  • Instant profile access to set reminders

User Flow:

Open all exercises list and select a stretching pose.

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U: Hey Alexa, open Stretch Minder and show all exercise pose

S: Here is the exercises list. What do you want to do today?

Conversational Repair :  Error Handling

Hints & Discoverability

Stretch Minder may have limited ability for some functions, such as duration to perform each body part stretch. The system will handle this “out of range” error with a suggestion of the maximum possible duration.

Hints & Discoverability

To guide users when there is a "No Match" input, the system will try to disambiguate the user’s request and provide details if needed.

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S: Sorry, we can only spend 6 minutes on a stretch here. How long should I set the time to?

S: Sorry, my AI isn't that advanced yet. Best stick to the upper body, lower body, or simple body part. What do you want to start with?

S: Hmmm, I don't have a specific exercise for that. Which exercise do you want to try? We can do arms, shoulders, hips, or legs.

Accessibility

Voice First Approach with Visual Interface 

Voice interaction increases the intuitiveness to navigate along with the visual display. This can be easily seen for a simple task such as viewing all "Upper Body" stretches, “Save to favorites”, or “Skip” the pose. The voice interaction is accommodated with audio instruction to help users cut through the process and easily access the point they need.

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S: Want to share why you’re skipping?

U: No reason.

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Sprinkle Personality through voice manipulation

Stretching is typically a low-intensity, calming activity people rely on to relax their muscles and their mind. Users will want to feel at ease and encouraged to participate in stretching. To assist with this goal, I used SSML to enhance the tone, speed, and emphasis to my dialogues to reflect these characteristics in the voice assistant supporting the interaction.

<prosody rate="medium"> <prosody volume="soft"> Welcome to Stretch Minder. <break strength="strong" /> I'm your stretch assistant. <break strength="strong" /> Seems like this is your first time here. <break strength="strong" /> Before we start, what is your name? </prosody></prosody>

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S: Good choice! Let's start with neck rotation. Make sure you’re standing tall and relax your arms on the side of your body.

U: Skip!

Prototype:

Voice Flow​

This project uses VoiceFlow to demonstrate the conversation flow between the system and user. It also shows the ability to interrupt or “barge in” the system at any point. The system will recognize the barge-in to appropriately respond back.

Conclusion:

​Key Learnings
  • Start small. Don't over-complicate the flow and process. Focusing on a narrower use case will help develop the first iteration of the flow faster.

  • Don’t build for “all”. It’s distracting to build for too many platforms. I wanted to try to add a diverse set of features to my experience and it made me focus more on the tool than the script, which slowed down my project.​

  • Add more prompts to handle turns and no match utterances. Also, program more conditions to make the conversational flow more robust.

 

Final thought

The outcome of this project is to help users cut through the search process, and connect to their stretching habit easier.
 
The multimodal interface will be a great benefit to add to any exercise app for reasons of inclusive design, as it can assist users with visual impairments or physical handicaps.