What is Noom?
Noom is a mobile app for users suffering from or at risk for chronic illnesses, including diabetes, hypertension and comorbidities, the simultaneous presence of two or greater chronic illnesses in a patient. Each Noom patient uses the app to log and track their food and exercise, and is matched with a human coach with whom they work over the course of their 16-week health program. The human coach monitors the user’s dietary patterns and exercise habits, and works with the user to develop health goals that can lead to weight loss and potentially reverse the chronic condition diagnosis.
Mobile health and fitness apps tend to have lower retention rates than other apps categories, with retention rates falling to about 30% by the 90 day mark. With Noom, successful outcomes of a program depend on a user returning to the app on a daily basis to log food and exercise, and speak to their coach. Low retention rates are problemtic and can lead to poorer outcomes.
As it stands, the Noom app does not contain an onboarding experience. Upon downloading and first opening the app, the user is required to enter basic demographic and health information, such as age, gender, height and weight. The user then creates an account, and subsequently lands on a dashboard-type screen with several moving parts and is expected to know what to tap on, and in what order, to begin learning to use the app effectively.
The goal of this project was to develop an engaging first-time user experience that both teaches users how to navigate and use features of the app, and that also begins to drive behaviour change from the initial use, and thus to prove the value of Noom to the user. This provides an incentive for the user to return to the app at a later time.
Understanding the User
Considering the age and gender of the population for which the app is to be designed is of importance, because users of different groups interact with technology in distinct ways. I conducted a demographic analysis using a random sample of data from recent pilot projects, and found that Noom users in the sample range from 18 to 76 years, with an average age of 37.2 years, with a standard deviation of 12.2 years. That is, 95% of users fall between the ages of 25 and 49.4 years.
After this analysis, I watched all recorded user tests in which people complete the signup flow and land on the home screen. At this point, a fairly large number of users were very unsure what to do next. I also took the existing Home screen, and put it through some usability tests aimed at discovering what it is that people tend to click on when they see it for the first time. I displayed the results as a heat map to see where clicks were centered.
From this test, the most salient and attention-grabbing item on the screen is the task to log meals. This makes sense, because it is at the top of the task list. Additionally, people coming into a health and fitness app expect to track their meals using the app, and are eager to begin exploring this feature. While the meals task was the item most clicked, 46% of testers clicked elsewhere. This test indicates that users coming into the app have different behaviours and are trigered by different elements on the screen. The onboarding solution should not be too prescriptive.
I conducted some research into common patterns and best practices when onboarding users to a new app, particularly on mobile platforms. I sketched two potential methods: coach marks onboarding and an interactive walkthrough. Through more usability testing and an in-person user test with two prototypes, I determined that a combination of the two would lkely be best, since at some stages of the onboarding process, the user should be shown how to interact with UI elements of the app, while at others, they should have the opoprtunity to explore on their own, once they are familiar with the interface.
With some additional research speaking to the Noom coaches, I discovered that users who tend to have the most succes with their health program are those who speak to their coach early and commit to a health goal, sometimes as simple as going for a walk around the block, or drinking one less sugary drink a day.
I worked this into my prototype by asking users to commit to a goal for the first few days of their program, and checking in every day to let us know if they were successful. Even if they had not managed to stick to it, the app must continue to give positive reinforcement and encourage them to keep at it.
The screens below are a sequence from the proposed new flow. The full prototype is available here.
Users are greeted with a Welcome task that opens up a full screen modal with friendly text to encourage them to stick with Noom. Closing this returns users to the Home screen where they find another task entitled “Find your way around”. Tapping on this task opens a gopher-style modal with an animation showing the correlation between tapping on the “Home” button in the top left of corner to open the navigation drawer. Tasks continue appearing to introduce progress bars, food logging, the food colour system, reminders to log meals, and finally a task that asks users to select one of a list of small lifestyle changes they can make in their first week. A list of four suggestions for small habits to change was developed by speaking to the coaches about what their users first tried to change in their health journey.
This solution was subjected to further user testing, via in-person user tests, in which users were asked to think aloud while completing specific tasks. Users found the copy throughout the onboarding process to be “friendly” and “open”. Users were able to better navigate elements of the app after having followed this flow, so it was deemed a success in this regard. Finally, users felt encouraged to begin making lifestyle changes, no matter how small, which was a very positive outcome as a result of this onboarding process.