How a lovable app we didn’t build changed this app builder’s life
As I often say to our clients, successful apps have the right combination of utility and delight. With a good idea — and great execution — you can create a digital product that’s truly lovable. When you build an MLP (minimum lovable product) and not just an MVP (minimum viable product), you get app magic.
And maybe something even life-changing. Like my recent experience using the Weight Watchers app. There are many apps and websites ArcTouch has built that I’m proud of. But my relationship with the WW app is different. I’m just an ordinary user — with an extraordinary outcome.
This is the story of how a lovable app experience helped me lose more than 34 pounds in four months. And counting.
The ‘COVID 15’ doesn’t sum it up
The pandemic has affected everyone in different ways. Besides catching (and recovering) from COVID, I put on some unwanted weight. It might have been due to inactivity while being in various states of lockdown. It could have been the stress of managing our business during complicated times. Or maybe anxiety, as I tried to help my children cope with isolation from their schools and friends.
Whatever the cause, I gained the “COVID-15″ (or the “Quarantine-15” as some have referred to it) — and I wasn’t alone. One recent survey shows that 42% of Americans gained an average of 29 pounds during the past year.
I’ve been overweight to some degree for most of my life. As a kid, shopping for back-to-school clothing often required a trip to the Husky section of the store. But by December of 2020, I was 192 pounds. According to the Body Mass Index charts — for my height — I was obese. I didn’t feel obese and wouldn’t have described myself that way. But I didn’t feel good about this. So I decided that losing weight was going to be my (only) New Year’s resolution. I signed up for WW in January 2021.
Software and the ‘Interaction of Things’
Around here, we get excited about new technology and “smart” devices that can improve our lives. However, devices on their own aren’t really smart — and certainly aren’t life-changing. That’s where well-designed software comes into play. Smart product integrations through lovable apps (like our 3M Filtrete Smart filter work) complete the digital experience. These connected devices may help deliver on the promise of the IoT (Internet of Things), but really those successes are driven by the “Interaction of Things.” The WW app is a shining example of a whole product experience that ties different connected devices together through great software.
This is not the first time I’ve tried to diet (I know that WW doesn’t like to call it that anymore, but that’s what it is). The real challenge is the time and effort to accurately track what you eat — the foods, the portions, etc. My previous attempts were paper-based and cumbersome and barely lasted a few days. The WW app makes dieting effortless. It includes a barcode scanner — and a massive database of food information, with details about foods shared by the community — that makes tracking the food you eat fast and easy. There’s also voice support so you can log what you eat simply by saying, “Hey Siri, track a food.”
The WW app’s barcode scanner makes meal tracking effortless.
I purchased a connected body weight scale. I weigh myself weekly (as recommended by WW), and the scale automatically syncs with the app. I also linked my Fitbit so the WW app could track my physical activity and sleep patterns. I also bought a digital food scale that — while not a connected device — allows me to weigh my food to add it to the app.
Now I had an ecosystem of connected devices — including my phone — all working together to help me follow the program.
The app itself is what really completes the experience. The app suggests individual foods and recipes. It recommends exercise and meditation activities. It helps me be more mindful of my inactivity — nudging me to get up and move around — which is especially helpful during long stretches of Zoom meetings.
It acknowledges my successes and small victories, with a healthy dose of gamification like earning badges, accumulating points, and challenges to maintain “streaks.” And it provides the extra motivation and encouragement I need when I have missteps along the way.
The WW app’s gamification features — points, badges, and “streaks.”
Like my weight, there’s still room for improvement
The WW app isn’t perfect. There are things that I would love to see improved. Here are just a few:
- The process of saving frequent foods, ingredients regularly used in recipes, or leftovers from meals to be tracked later is not intuitive — and in some cases, not even possible.
- The app includes an extensive list of popular restaurant brands and their menu items in the food database. But without any sort and filter options, it’s cumbersome to pick the healthy items to order easily. When we order from a restaurant, I’m now usually that guy holding up the line while trying to scan through the app.
- I’d also like to see support added for Amazon Echo for tracking food. This seems like a no-brainer since many people have Echo devices in their kitchen. If Weight Watchers wanted to explore this, I know some top Alexa developers I could introduce them to ? .
That said, the app does the most important thing I want it to do — it makes it easy for me to follow the program. To focus on the journey and not the mechanics of staying compliant. To borrow an e-commerce term, it’s removed the “friction” for me to get on the path to good health. And stay there.
The real goal of my weight-loss journey
My weight-loss journey is still very much a work in progress. But I’ve already surpassed my expectations and am on my way to achieving my New Year’s Resolution. I’ve lost 34 pounds in four months. The medical charts consider me overweight at anything above 150 pounds, so I hope to lose about 15 more.
My progress to date with the WW app — more than 30 pounds lost!
However, my goal isn’t really about losing weight. I wanted to feel better. Without a doubt, I do. I have way more energy. I’m sleeping better. My wife says I’ve stopped snoring, so she’s sleeping better, too. I even feel like I’m able to focus and think more clearly at work. Ironically, an app that we didn’t build is helping me build better apps.
More importantly, I wanted to make sure I’m around for a long time. As a father of two teenagers, I want to do everything I can to be there for college graduations, first jobs, weddings, grandkids, and many other life milestones.
My journey isn’t over. Even after I hit my weight-loss goals, I plan to continue using the WW service to reinforce these lifestyle changes. Because thanks to some “smart” devices, I’m on a better path. The truly smart part, however, is a lovable app. The Weight Watchers app powers the experience that makes this lifestyle change… almost easy.
At ArcTouch, we say an app provides an opportunity for a company to forge a meaningful connection with a customer. WW took this opportunity seriously and built an app that’s both useful and delightful to use. It changed my life — and now I’m a customer for life. That’s an app success story.