Effects of Prescriptive Design on the Usage of a Walking App



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Walking is the most ubiquitous physical activity. Natural walking opportunities, however, have been declining in developed societies. This decline has been linked to the rise of obesity. iPhone and Android health and fitness apps aim to reverse this trend by motivating people to be more physically active. The core philosophy in many of these applications is to overwhelm the user with information and promote user competition.

In this thesis, we present a walking app design that is antithetical to the main trends. This new design is based on minimalism, where targets are set in a prescriptive manner and competition takes a secondary role. Specifically, the app gives to the user a daily caloric goal to consume by walking. The formula that computes this goal is based on the user’s food intake, Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), and Body Mass Index (BMI). Our hypothesis is that authoritative directions conveyed with single-minded simplicity have better chance than prevailing methods to keep the user engaged. Results from a comparative study render support to this hypothesis.



Physical activity, Design, Usability study