Project Overview

Class project: User-Centered Design (HCDE 518)

Time: Sep 2016 - Dec 2016

Team: Diane, Josh

My contribution: User research & testing, lo-fi prototype, visual design, interaction design

Lighten Up is a mobile app that motivates prediabetes people to engage in more physical activities. By tiering activities into different levels, it encourages users to start small and make progress.


The Problem

Since the object of the course is to design a health related product, our product manager Diane, who works in UW School of Medicine, proposed prediabetes as a prevalent health issue in the States. After diving more into this topic and statistics, we believe it is a topic we want to make some changes about.


Define users

High-risk group 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), high risk groups fall into these categories:

1. Anyone from 45 to 64-year-old who also:

  • overweight (according to CDC at-risk weight chart)
  • and/or get little or no exercise

2. Anyone over the age of 64

Risk evaluation questionnaire

To gain a deeper understanding of the data, I distributed 10 self-evaluation questionnaires of prediabetes risks to people of different ages. The results verified the data. Also, we found those who are over 65 are very likely already seeing doctors about health issues, and following instructions, which means they don't really need our intervention. 

Target User

Finally, we scoped down our target user to middle-aged (45-64) people who rarely exercise or are overweight – those are the people who need our intervention the most. 


User Research

To understand the need of our target group, we conducted user research through interview, "draw the experience", and persona.


We conducted interviews with 10 target users about their exercising and eating habits, as well as their view of health in general. We found that although most of them are aware of their health status, they don't take action to make changes.

– What prevents you from achieving health goals?

Lack of motivation, insufficient health guidance, lack of time/money,

– What may help you achieve your health goals?

Support from family and friends, expectation for a better self-image.


"Draw the experience" – imagine a healthier life

Asking participants to visualise an experience through drawing helps us understand their perception, even hidden thoughts, towards a topic. We asked 3 target users to draw a healthier life for themselves.

People were very interested in this "task", and gave more devotion than we expected. Here are a few drawings from one participant: 


From these drawings, we found some recurring themes:

  • A holistic view of health – value metal happiness as well as physical fitness
  • Emphasising the bond with family and friends
  • Considering everyday activities, e.g. yard work and housework, as part of keeping fit (it became our inspiration)


Based on the research, we created three personas to represent our primary user, secondary user and negative user.




We brainstormed various ideas and used affinity diagraming to sort them into groups. Then we sketched over 20 potential ideas in paper.







Compare & select ideas

Out of all these creative ideas, we discussed about how effective and feasible each is. In the end, we decided to focus on how to encourage more physical activities for people to reduce risks. To achieve this goal, we selected the following ideas:  


Victory album


Users can upload pictures of themselves in the activities

The system will generate an album and videos for them


Visual impact is strong, especially when it's totally about the user him/herself. People feel achieved when seeing their own past memories, and are motivated to create more.

Tiering activities


Sorting physical activities into different levels

Everyday activities (vacuuming, dish washing)

Moderate activities (dog walking, raking leaves)

"Traditional" exercise (jogging, treadmill)


Users are encouraged to start from small and familiar things


Consult professional

After the concept is set, we consulted medical professionals and recent biomedical literature to ensure that any recommendations we make to users would be evidence-based.



The wireframe is composed of three sections: registration process, record daily activities, and celebrate completion of activities.



Paper prototyping

We printed the wireframe and tested this paper prototype with 9 people (both target users and design students) and gathered their feedback.



Overall, they like the concept of Lighten Up. Some problems identified are:


Iteration highlights 



Lo-fi prototype

I made the lo-fi prototype based on our discussions.

Visual Design



Here is a demo video I made from Principle.


  • In this class project, I got to understand how UCD isn't a fixed process from research to prototype. Instead, we choose the best combination out of all these tools according to the real scenario of a project. UCD is the means, not the end.
  • During user research, I got to meet and talk with many target users, with whom I usually had no close contact with. Listening to their stories and getting to know their lives makes me realize how important it is, as a designer, to step out of my own bubble and empathise with people. I feel empowered to design things for