Motivational apps track every move you make. They promise to help you sleep more, eat smarter, look better – YOU 2.0 through your mobile device.

But how can application design actually help you reach goals? It must merge thought-out user flow with smart content to decide the key moment where users act instead of turning off.

Here are some design ground rules for these self-trackers.

Don’t Lead with Big, Scary Data

A big part of data apps like Lark for tracking sleep patterns, and Up and FitBit for tracking activity, is the psychology these apps employ to actually change our behavior.

Designers must picture themselves as the user facing the app, asking, “Is it helpful to see everything I’m doing wrong right up front?” This small piece of up-front data feedback can play a huge role in whether or not a user will act on the information or pass it off as a gimmick.

“You slept very well” is a great example of something we get instantly, and then can choose to dive deeper into the information to see exactly why. The statement synthesizes the graphs and charts, making contextual sense for users without scaring them off from the start.

So rather than that first screen overwhelming users with data, a smart, natural progression is leading through a logical series like:

Ask How They Feel → Give Appropriate Data to Explain → Offer Path for Improvement

Make the Support Offerings Personal

Is tracking yourself just about obsessively nerding out on data? Well yeah, partly. But it can also provide something you’ve been missing in your wellness routine: personalized coaching.

Goal-tracking design should reinforce the concept of apps serving as custom mobile support centers. If busy users can instantly tap into their very own sleep specialist, nutritionist, or exercise coach, added tailoring may be what keeps them clicking.

Use Social in a Smarter Way

This doesn’t just mean throwing in Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest buttons with a cheesy profile pic. If you’re aiming to reach a goal, then what helps more than some healthy competition?

Up, which connects to a wristband, partners with brands like 24-Hour Fitness and GE for fitness challenges, and a support network where users can create teams and check for tips. And apps like FitBit and RunKeeper let you create private groups to race against friends and motivate each other.

Take Data Even Further

Goal-tracking apps assume you can’t improve without knowing where you’ve been. For apps to transform cold data into action, that’s where design is most crucial to keep us coming back.

From helping improve vs. just showing data, to interpreting figures with a logical progression, to building something where people form a community – their design offers even more potential.

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