This article was written by Erik van Mechelen, based on the Octalysis framework designed by Yu-kai Chou
The main takeaway from Yu-kai Chou’s Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards is that design experiences, particularly those involving gamification, need to be designed for humans. That’s why Yu-kai refers to them as human-focused.
Fitness should be human-focused too. It’s not only about getting you outside and moving (like Pokemon Go), but about improving health and fitness and getting tangible results over time. I would add, for the long term. It’s pretty easy to build a product that works for 1 or 2 or 6 months, but there are precious few that people will use for beyond 6 months.
Here are the top 10 fitness apps to watch (or use!) in 2017.
As always, I’ll refer to the 8 Core Drives of Octalysis. As a bonus, I will mention a few Game Techniques along the way, too!
Edit: There are a LOT of fitness apps. Tell me which ones I missed in the comments or on Octalysis Explorers on Facebook!
I’ve written about the Fitbit before, but it’s safe to say it remains a prevalent among regular users and athletes alike, from urban commuters to runners and bikers.
Game technique: Fitbit does pretty well with Progress Bars (GT#4, CD2) for steps and Leaderboards (GT#2, CD2/5) in its social challenges.
What could make it better: There isn’t much social creativity (for collaboration or competition) in the app. I’d love to see MiniQuests in a social environment built in, or maybe even Protector Quests (GT#36, CD4/8) combo’d with some kind of streaking effect (like your streak is threatened unless you do a random curiosity workout challenge!).
Shape Up for the XBox one uses motion sensor technology and animated environments to elevate competition via challenges. If you watch the above video, you’ll get an idea of how spouses can use it to stay fit in their home.
Game technique: Visual Storytelling (GT#77, CD1/2) gives motivational boosts in realtime.
What could make it better: There is little in the way of personal body management and the Alfred Effect (GT#83, CD4). Here’s a review with a similar sentiment:
I was never asked to input weight, height, body frame, male/female, etc… I’ve played other games on my Wii that have done this where you can track tons of stuff like the above as well as meal information and such.
Skimble gives you a digital personal trainer through a trainer marketplace. Your digital coach offers video courses so you can learn and stay on track. Based on your preferences, the trainer offers additional workouts as you progress.
For the accountability of a personal trainer at less cost, Skimble has become one of the leading apps for Android in fitness.
Game technique: Accountability gets high marks. Effectively, this is Mentorship (GT#61, CD5).
What could make it better: While chat is nice, a trainer physically with you would give even higher mentorship and correction of form and further motivation. I could see Refreshing Content (GT#73, CD7) being a problem unless the trainer really knows what they are doing and knows each trainee really well.
Strava is for runners and bikers for map-like tracking.
One premium feature allows your trusted contacts to know where you are with a link to the map. This reminds me a little of tension-filled adventures in the new Zelda game, where Link can actually die of starvation or drowning (in the new Nintendo Switch version).
My older brother goes on 4-hour bike-rides and 2-hour runs (or longer), and I do sometimes worry about whether he will get home safe, especially when he is pushing his body so hard and has the added danger of being on roads in the dark.
Game technique: With Premium, you get the license to go on “dangerous” quests with the safety beacon to loved ones. I’m actually not sure what to call this!
What could make it better: Mint is really solid, but they could improve their family plans for even more CD5.
RunKeeper is pretty simple, but an effective way to log runs in duration, average pace, and calories burned.
Game technique: The Schedule (GT#?, CD2) lets you monitor your runs against your planned runs, just like Seinfeld marking off his calendar.
What could make it better: I’d love to see user-generated routes and trails and challenges (especially since there are over 30 million people on the app!).
5. Rithmio Edge
Rithmio is a wearable stat tracker for weight lifters. In its simplicity of design, it actually does what it advertises pretty well. It pretty much does three things:
- In-workout rep tracking
- Post-workout log
- Muscles worked activity tracking
Game technique: I like the simple implementation of Progress Bars (GT#4, CD2). Nothing too fancy. The wearable adds a visual cue.
What could make it better: For what it aims to do, I don’t see any obvious improvements.
MyFitnessPal is a calorie counter and fitness tracker. I’ve heard that the macros and nutrition stats aren’t perfect (so check multiple sources), but otherwise it does a great job of incorporating streaking and other progress tactics. I like that nutrition is combined with exercise.
Game technique: Measurement! By knowing exactly what you eat and when, users benefit over time through that knowledge. Step-by-step overlays (GT#6, CD2/3) are effective in Onboarding.
What could make it better: Just personal preference, but I’d be a fan of adding Lost Progress (GT#81, CD8) to deter users from eating junk food.
Fitocracy is a fitness social network at its core that helps everyone get to the next level of fitness. It does this through the combination of community, knowledge, and gamification. – Richard Talens (Co-founder)
Still going strong after several years, Fitocracy has built quite a human network of people and continues to invest in gamification to improve the experience.
Game technique: The fitness assessment, nutrition, built-in workouts (Head Start), and accountability through community use a variety of techniques and core drives.
What could make it better: For $1 per day, you can hire an accountability coach. I think they could improve this pricing model to keep more people hitting their fitness goals for the long term.
2. Cycle Meter
Cycle Meter is a really simple cycle app.
Game technique: I like the History feature, showing stats for individual rides and comparing against other rides. This is effectively Dynamic Feedback (GT#12, CD3) because desired actions give feedback. You could argue this is a necessary game technique for any fitness app.
What could make it better: Like many of these apps, I’d love to see more techniques playing to Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity & Feedback.
1. Pear Personal Coach
^^^That’s a pretty inspiring video.
Pear combines a heart-rate monitor with an earpiece to get digital trainers in your ear through artificial intelligence.
Game technique: Mentorship (GT#61, CD5) is at the heart of this app’s motivational touch.
What could make it better: I think I’ll need to try it to find out 🙂
Personalization and creativity/curiosity will be the winning formula
When it comes to long-term health and fitness, I believe some combination of personalization (to your body and your needs) with motivation through creativity (new routes and places to visit) and curiosity (you never know what challenges you’ll face today) will be a winning combination for fitness apps. I hope to try more out soon.
Reply below and tell me what I missed!