UI/UX for motivating running behavior

Duration: 2 Weeks



My Responsibilities

User Interviews
Usability Testing
User Flows

Team Members

Taylor Owens (myself)
Samantha MacDonald
Phil Seo
Bridget Nelson

Research: Defining the Problem


runkeeper-appRunkeeper is a mobile app that allows users to track their running activities. For this project, I was in a group of four. After meeting with the Runkeeper product team, we were asked to reimagine the onboarding process with the goal of reducing cold starts after downloading the app. We were also asked to create multiple concepts for the start screen.

The Challenge

Our influence over users daily habits is limited. We can’t force people to run if they do not want to but we can try to motivate them.

User Interviews

We first sent a survey to find people who purchased groups of online tickets within the last few months. We then conducted 21 interviews (in person and via telephone) divided between the team. Our goal was to learn what prevents runners from running. We then synthesized the data by affinity mapping as a group.

From these interviews we found runners:

  • They fall into a New Persona (Rusty Runner) – users who used to have a running routine but no longer follow one.
  • They Compare their Running Abilities – users feel intimidated they are not as good at running as they should be.
  • They Celebrate Small Wins – users feel accomplished when they reach milestones that they set for themselves.
  • Runners see running as part of a routine – users frequently spoke of a routine as what qualifies someone as a “runner” vs. a newbie.
  • Having a supportive community motivates – users cited the running communities as the reason they started or continue to include running as their routine.

In action interviews

A personal challenge was as a former asthmatic I have never run in my life. My team also needed to find more new runners to interview. Our lack of access to new runners proved to be a challenge to find within running groups because they are typically made up of people who frequently run.

After researching running groups, I found the “Running Club for People Who Can’t Run Good Group” on I joined the group and completed my first two-mile run. From speaking with the members, I learned new runners face many of the obstacles other runners do. However, they often talked about a lack of experience impacting their ability to improve there running. Therefore, they benefit the most when they are part of a supportive community they can ask for advice.

These inaction interviews proved to be invaluable for the rest of our project. I had a better understanding of who are users were and what challenges they faced when getting motivated to run.

The Problem

The idea of going for a run or starting to run can be overwhelming based on users running experience.

Our Solution

Get users motivated to go for their first run by personalizing their suggested running activities. We will know this to be true when users go for their first run within a week of downloading the app.

Design: Creating the Prototype


We first developed our three personas. The new and existing runners were already personas provided by the Runkeeper product team.
The Rusty Runner was a persona discovered and developed by my team.

New Runner PersonaNew Runner Persona (view larger)

People who do not run frequently or have never run before. They view running as a way to reach a personal goal.

Rusty Runner PersonaRusty Runner Persona (view larger)

People who used to run frequently and have stopped for various reasons including vacations, injuries and overall lack of motivation.

Existing Runner PersonaExisting Runner Persona (view larger)

People who frequently run. These can be marathon runners or those who cross train for other sports.

User Flow

To better understand where we could adjust the onboarding I created a user flow of the current onboarding process.

Current Onboarding User Flow
Current Onboarding User Flow (view larger)


Once we had an understanding of what motivates people to run we began to draft different ways the app could reflect our findings.

Onboarding Questions on whiteboardOnboarding Questions (view larger)

We first whiteboarded all the paths a user could take depending on which options they selected during the onboarding. We used some of the terminology already found in the app. However, we added a few options and screens to personalize the start screen.

Start Screen SketchesStart Screen (view larger)

To better customize our notifications we created two screens that would ask users when they run and remind them to run at the next opportunity. Users also stated they enjoyed celebrating small wins. To support this finding, we sketched new visualizations for the goal screen.

The “Unicorn” Question

I then determined we needed a question asked to all users that could easily identify our three personas. The question I came up with was:

“What is your running routine?”

Our team referred to this question as the unicorn question.

The idea of a routine was a phrase used across all interviews. A new runner would not have a routine, a rusty runner had a routine, and an existing runner currently does. Depending on a user’s answers we planned to personalize the frequency of notification and the language.


The Runkeeper team provided us with their original Sketch files for the current onboarding screens. My team mocked up the onboarding questions using these screens and then developed new mockups for the notification and start screens based on our sketches. I created four different versions of the start screen so we could test each on its performance.

Usability: Testing the Prototype

We then imported our Sketch files into Invision to create a clickable prototype.

The prototypes included three main features:

  • A series of onboarding questions used to personalize the start screen.
  • Notification settings used to remind users about their next run.
  • New start screen with “goal badges.” Users could earn their second badge once they completed their first run.

We were able to conduct usability tests with twelve individuals and three iterations of the prototype.

View Invision Prototype

Takeaways: What We Learned

Users felt there were too many choices. When presented with more than four options users often missed choices. Users couldn’t find options even when our test moderators repeated it. Users also told some answers were too similar to each other. Therefore we reduced the number of choices and moved them to later screens. This change proved to be more successful in the following tests.

Users did not recognize that the onboarding questions created the goal badges. After completing the onboarding users were presented with a start screen that displayed customized goals. However, they did not recognize the onboarding questions set these goals. We changed the photos to the same icons used as the goal badges to see if users saw these icons repeatedly if they would understand the connection. Our test show this was a mixed response. Some testers understood, and some did not. Further testing would be needed to solve this.

Users wanted to minimize their goals within the start screen. When presented with the goals displayed on the start screen many users wanted a way to hide the goals screen. When shown the goals in a tab view, users liked the ability to click on their goals instead.

What I would do next

  • Explore how the insights gained from the onboarding questions can be used to personalize the frequency and tone of notifications within the app.
  • Test if users respond better to a horizontal goal visualization. Some testers did not understand that the goals were linear.
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