Going beyond activity tracking apps: Bellabeat’s reimagined experience

by Stefan Manojlovic

Hello everybody!

This is the first time I have ever written a post of this kind (and no, it is not sponsored). I would like to share a few lines of pure love towards a product. Maybe product is the wrong word, lets call it reimagined user experience. I am dedicating this post to a Croatian start-up company called Bellabeat, specifically talking about the Leaf.

Bellabeat is a well-being and physical activity app that tracks steps, sleep, meditation, cycles and stress. It focuses on daily goals and it helps keeping track of your progress. Overall, it is targeted for a female audience. For me, the Bellabeat Leaf was not a “love-at-first-sight” kind of thing. It was more a “I want you, but we can’t be together right now” type of relationship. Finally I caved and bought the Bellabeat Leaf after months of hesitation.

Why did I hesitate?

Firstly, I was held back by the price of these kind of gadgets. I am not talking in the range of very expensive Apple watches, but still talking a price range of 80–200$ a device. There are also free apps like the Facebook Moves, but the limitation with these is that they show data with just infographics or metrics. What does it mean for me to walk 10.000 steps? What will I get with that? The goals these apps set are not personalised and the data represented is not meaningful. Secondly, I didn’t know how I felt about activity trackers in general. I felt no need to join the exceeded need for people to measure their own steps. No thank you! However, the novelty effect of this designed piece of technology is booming. As mentioned on Wearable: “trackers industry is set to almost triple from one valued at $2 billion in 2014, to $5.4 billion by 2019”. This finding really spiked my interest. Because if something is trending, there will be many companies who have the intuition to ‘jump into the wagon’ to the way of success. Such as Fitbit, Misfit, Habito, Jawbone, Garmin, Mio, Moov, Xiaomi… and my list goes on and on and on.

Some logos of already known activity trackers

Being in the tech field, I see many companies and products ‘hopping on the wagon’, only to fall off a bit later.. For me, it is not about ‘jumping into that wagon’, but about if this technology helps and supports the user at the end of day. This is the point where it hit me: The Leaf was more than a tracking device. Not only is an amazingly designed smart jewellery, but it also makes activity fun and personal.

So here is my story. I could talk about this for days, but I will introduce you to 4 main points I would like to address with this article. The Leaf, which is a tracking device for activity, sleep, stress and cycle, is doing a good job from a user experience perspective.

1. Devices that track data are not sexy, the Leaf is

Look at the Leaf! No really, please take a moment at look at it. Finishing details, shapes, colors, materials, size. This is just amazing. I don’t where the concept of the Leaf came from, but it just makes sense. The kind of designs, which combine ‘looks and feels’ with ‘functionality’ for me are the best ones. Compared to other trackers, it does not have a screen! Thank you Leaf for that, thank you for increasing people’s acceptance to technology just by removing screens. Sometimes innovation can be in the anti-innovation (shout out to Serena)! Plus, it is fashionable and it comes with different sorts of utensils to play around. Devices that look sexy and work well, that is the right way to go!

Another point is that for me (and according to Time Magazine) walking and running are definitely not sexy. Dancing, scuba diving, surfing, those activities sound cool. What Bellabeat does is offer the baseline of walking and running, but extending with a wider range of physical activities. For example, I use it to track my yoga workout.

Add activity screen.

2. Match between the system and the real world

The system speaks the users’ language, with words, phrases and concepts familiar to the user. It feels friendly, nice and pleasant. Research has shown that it is not only me who thinks a personal voice is needed in technology. More research is conducted on the subject of AI (artificial intelligence) and personalised technology every day (just think about Google’s personal assistant in the Pixel).

Sleep feedback — goals and recommendations.

3. Personalisation is key

I believe that among other UX goals (like usability, user friendliness, etc.), personalisation is KEY. We should stop thinking that one size fits all. Standardisation is the past, personalisation is now. Bellabeat is targeting its products for a more female audience (but this did not stop me in buying the Leaf!). Among multiple features in the app, users can also track their menstruation. Brilliant idea! This conforms to the wide range of the audience, making it very standardised within the group, but personal among other groups. In addition, the Bellabeat uses personalisation to learn from the user’s data. Personalisation is important in order to boost user’s motivation, build loyalty, create a long-term engagement, and so much more. We need to personalise the user experience. For example, one of the most powerful screens (and my personal favourite) about the whole concept is definitely the one below: — “Leaf is learning from you”.

Personalisation is very difficult to do, but personally is the key to UX, the ultimate goal, the cherry on top, the icing on the cake.

Daily overview and feedback messages (left) and my favourite screen (right)

4. Positive reinforcement

Among personalisation, in order for the design to trigger or advocate behaviour change we need to use positive reinforcement. Usually in activity apps (where people don’t always comply to physical activity or lack easily in motivation), positive reinforcement helps the user by giving a virtual tap on the shoulder. What is actually tricky about this topics is the misuse of positive reinforcement. I believe that only thorough user research we can explore the right balance, or maybe even the right combination. For example — what I personally appreciated is actually not just positive reinforcement, but the its combination with context.

(btw I was called “Queen of activity” … and I secretly enjoyed it.)

Positive reinforcement in combination with context (running)

I could write more on how Bellabeat does a good job. Of course, there is always room of improvement, for example — as a user — I did not feel I have a complete control over the app. I could only track when my goal was achieve but I could not increase it. I reached my goal after 20 min of walking, and I wanted to challenge myself to do more (after 2 months I discovered the setting was somewhere hidden). I want to set-up bigger and realistic goals. The list could also go on.

To end this incredibly long post, I would like to recommend the Leaf as a user but also a user-experience professional. If you are hesitating to buy one (like I was) I hope this article helps you make up your mind. Or whichever device you buy, make sure it suits and supports your needs in the best way possible. Who knows what the future holds for Bellabeat, but I believe that they pretty much nailed the needs and wishes of their users, by creating the Leaf and Bellabeat app.

I hope you enjoyed the read. Btw, have you seen their newest release, the SHELL? I can’t wait to buy it… oh, but wait.


Twitter: iStefan08

LinkedIn: https://nl.linkedin.com/in/stefanmanojlovic