Walk For Water
For this two-week individual project as part of my MA, I was tasked with redesigning and reframing an activity tracker with a 'positive design' twist. The goal was to conceptualise a radically different approach which encouraged exercise and supported people in engaging and maintaining healthy levels of activity while also feeling good about themselves. In this day and age activity tracking seems to be less about our psychological needs around wellbeing and moreso around duty and competition. Walk For Water is an app designed to get users walking while at the same time raising some much needed funds for deprived individuals who don't have access to clean water. For every 6 kilometres walked, users accumulate €0.50 to be donated to water projects of their choosing. If users reach the 42 kilometre per week target, what they have raised (ie. €3.50) is matched and donated by the app's sponsors on their behalf. Overall, the aim is to make people feel good knowing they're walking a bit more while also helping those in need. Check out the video below.
The concept of positive design was new to me but having investigated it in more depth I found it to be really interesting. The holy trinity of positive design is design for virtue, design for pleasure and design for personal significance and I tried to keep those in my mind throughout this project. The Positive Design Reference Guide by Delft Institute of Positive Design is well worth a read.
From there, I started looking into fitness and activity trackers. I wear a Fitbit and I really like it but this project made me question why I like it and what about it I like, which I thought was good. According to the HSE, people are supposed to be walking 10'000 steps a day but we (Irish people) are coming in at about 5'500 steps a day on average, so we're a little off the mark.
For these kind of projects, I find myself referring to the UN Sustainable Development Goals quite a bit. One of the 17 goals commits to ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages. While reading into that goal I also came upon another where they commit to ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. It was these two sustainable development goals which ultimately framed the design of Walk For Water.
With the above two goals in mind, I began researching some more in-depth details regarding water shortage and availability and came upon some harrowing facts, seen below.
I felt as though there was an opportunity to integrate fitness and exercise with water sustainability in some way. That being said, I came across two apps - Charity Miles and Carrot Rewards - which I thought were doing some good stuff. Charity Miles allows users to pick a charity to support and with every mile they move - be it walking, running, dancing, cycling etc. - they earn money, which comes from a corporate sponsorship pool of repurposed advertising budgets, for that charity. The term altruism sprang to mind when I heard about Charity Miles - acting out of concern for another's wellbeing. It was this altruistic approach towards exercise which I liked a lot. Carrot Rewards, on the other hand, encourages users to exercise and take wellness quizzes to earn points which can be redeemed in the likes of supermarkets, restaurants and cinemas. Again, I appreciated this different angle toward fitness and exercise. Rewards for others or for yourself could be a great motivator but at the same time, users may lose interest over time and this was a massive consideration to take into account. Although the likes of the Ice Bucket Challenge did terrific things and raised massive amounts of money toward ALS research, I wanted the output of this project to be something with the potential to last and be interacted with for a long time.
From there I began sketching out ideas around the area of exercise and water. I got all my thoughts out on paper and up on the wall before creating multiple lo-fi, paper prototypes (and some mid-fi ones too) which I tested and iterated with people.
For this project, the testing aspect seemed less about features and functionality and the hierarchy of the information architecture and moreso about the actual concept itself and its logistics. Similar to the Charity Miles app I mentioned earlier, I had this idea where people could exercise and raise money for water projects of their choosing but I was battling with whether people would engage with the concept more if the money was coming from them or from corporate sponsors or a mix of both. In order to get a wider opinion of things, I sent a message to a few of my friends, family and former work colleagues to gain some further insight. Some of the responses I got actually ended up dictating the final concept.
The onboarding stage of Walk For Water was quite important. When registering, users are given some background on the app and how it works. In a few lines, it is explained to the user that they are being asked to walk 6 kilometres per day, totalling 42 kilometres per week. For every 6 kilometres walked, they raise €0.50 for the water project they'll select shortly. If they reach the 42 kilometre per week target, what they've raised (ie. €3.50) is matched and donated on their behalf by corporate sponsors of the app. From user testing, I found this option of a target-met-donation-matched approach to be the most advantageous. Following this, users are then asked to input their details or link a social media account.
My aim from the start was to get people more engaged and included in the support and donations that they're going to be giving, so I wanted to give users the option to pick the water projects they wanted to support and get more information about them if they wish. Everyone might not be that engaged, which is fine, so the option to have a project chosen for them is there too. The script of the app changes slightly based off the option users pick.
From there, the user is then asked to add payment details, which can be a bit risky before building trust with an app so they can do so later if they wish and proceed into the app. In the adding payment flow, users can add a card or their Apple Pay or PayPal accounts and also specify the frequency in which their donations would come out, be it weekly or monthly.
The first time the user signs in or opens the app on a new week they're met with one of the below screens - a summary of their previous weeks activity notifying them that a donation has been made, if applicable to their chosen payment frequency when onboarding or a summary of their previous weeks activity with a requirement to add their payment details if they didn't do so when onboarding, before they can proceed further.
After the user signs in or registers, they’re brought to their Dashboard. From here they can see their activity in terms of distance they’ve walked or money they’ve raised. Users can tap on the different points on the graph to get a 'bouncing' info box to appear. In the middle of the screen, there’s a short note about various features of the app. The idea here would be that the information would update and refresh regularly and just act as little prompts. For 'Distance Travelled', the user can change their view from weekly to monthly to yearly while also seeing a running total which is constantly updating down the bottom of the page.
If the user swipes, the view changes to 'Money Raised' and this is shown as monthly or yearly only - there’s not a day-by-day breakdown. The reason for this is that it would probably show €0 raised for the majority of the day which could be quite deflating and make users not want to engage. Similarly though, there’s a running total down the bottom of the screen too.
Walk For Water does not count your steps, there's plenty of other apps and devices out there to do that. It's all about the distance you've travelled, in the hope that users would empathise with the distance people who don't have access to clean water must walk everyday and the money you've raised for said people.
From the hamburger menu users can do the following:
- Go to their Dashboard
- Check the various messages they'll receive
- Change the project they're supporting as well as finding out more information about the various supportable projects
- Invite friends or family to join Walk For Water
- Make an additional, separate donation
Appropriate messaging will be key to keeping user interest and engagement. Users will get messages confirming when donations are made as well as getting weekly updates about their own progress in terms of distance travelled and money raised while also receiving monthly newsletter-style messages specific to developments of the water project they're supporting.
In this project we were advised to take a concept-first approach while conducting research in parallel. It was a stance I had not taken before and I thought it was great. In certain/many instances there is a need for a full-on, intense research phase at the beginning of a project but, where possible, I would like to think I'll be applying the concept-first approach again in the future.
For a two-week project I was very happy with the output but there are some aspects I would've liked to develop further were more time allocated:
- Conducting more research into the feasibility of corporate sponsorship.
- Develop more 'pleasantly intrusive' push notifications.
- Include more specific details about the projects people can support.
- Further build-out the various messages users would receive.
- Conduct more research and user testing around the idea of turning this into a 'team-app'. Would people like to be able to see peer-progress or should this stay as an individual thing?