In early 2017, Burn 60’s owner met the principles of AthliOS, a fitness software developer, at CES. AthliOS was searching for a studio partner to develop a tech-powered boutique fitness franchise. During our first meeting, the two teams clicked, and we joined forces on an exploratory journey to imagine what the boutique studio of the future would look like.
Our goal was to utilize AthliOS’ platform to solve the problems that plague our industry.
As the project lead for Burn 60, I was in charge of research, ideation, and design. For two years, I worked hand-in-hand with AthliOS’ team of software engineers to materialize our solutions.
During the research phase of this project, I studied the behaviors of first-time users as well as extreme users to better understand the factors that promote or deter a relationship with our product. By putting myself in their shoes, I was able to connect with them on a fundamental level and discover valuable insights from their latent needs.
My first research initiative was to dig deep into our clients’ psyche. I interviewed current clients and combed through years of survey data to learn what they were saying and not saying about the Burn 60 experience. I then synthesized the data into three categories: Personal Motivations/Realities, Treadmill Experience, Floor Experience.
AthliOS had pitched the idea of creating a treadmill UI and group training screen from the get-go, so I framed my insights within the lens of their platform. But I made sure to keep an open mind throughout the entire process.
To guide the design process, I categorized our client-base into three avatars and outlined their motivations, wants, and values. To strengthen their profiles, I led a meeting with trainers and studio managers to investigate how our business connects with each segment. This exercise helped me to understand where Burn was succeeding and failing.
I began the competitor analysis by holding a meeting with trainers, managers, and front-desk staffers to determine where Burn 60 currently stood in the industry. We substantiated our beliefs by visiting the competition. During each visit, we focused on how different tech implements affected the workout experience. We then compiled our feedback and determined what Burn 60 did well and poorly in comparison to the competition.
After synthesizing our field research, we established three problems with the Burn 60 experience that deterred first-time clients from returning:
We do not give our trainers constraints. As a result, they design workouts that are incredibly complex and difficult. It was clear that our competitors had developed training methodologies with the goal of clients working out 3-4x a week.
The average studio we visited offered 3-4 pieces of equipment while Burn 60 offers 14. We also found that interval-based studios had standardized the format of their workouts. For example, a common Barry’s class structure is 10-10-10-10. A familiar Burn 60 class structure is 3-6-5-2-3. These additional layers of complexity create a stressful environment for first-time clients.
The leading studios in our category mimic nightclubs. The lights, technology, and grade-A sound systems create an immersive environment that connects with the millennial generation.
The next step was to create hypothetical value statements for each avatar that communicated how a technologically enhanced Burn 60 experience would satisfy their motivations and needs.
For The Extreme Athlete who wants to be in the best possible shape, Burn 60 is a high end boutique fitness workout that offers a performance-driven, team-based, fun and effective workout experience. Unlike Barry’s Bootcamp/Orange Theory, our product offers tailored performance goals, advanced training classes and performance tracking technology.
For The Fitness Enthusiast who wants to stay healthly/fit, Burn 60 is a high end boutique fitness workout that offers a performance-driven, team-based, fun and effective workout experience. Unlike Barry’s Bootcamp/Orange Theory, our product offers an immersive, tech-driven fitness experience that holds you accountable and rewards your accomplishments.
For The Parent who wants to stay healthly/fit, Burn 60 is a high end boutique fitness workout that offers a performance-driven, team-based, fun and effective workout experience. Unlike Barry’s Bootcamp/Orange Theory, our product offers tailored runs and routines based on your fitness level and ability that will get you the results you want.
For three days, I led a collaborative brainstorming session with the AthliOS team. I made sure to defer judgment and promote wild ideas. One of the crazier concepts we developed was an augmented reality trainer in the mirror! On day three, we switched from the divergent to the convergent thinking stage. I categorized all of our ideas into three segments and color-coded them by feasibility and the effort necessary to build.
We decided as a team that the treadmill UI and group training screen would have the most significant impact on our current studios. Our goal was to build an MVP and test the hypothesis: “Would ramping up the immersive experience and improving communication of the workout increase first-time client conversion?”
This first iteration would not include any personalized data. To do so, we would need to rebuild our entire CRM. I put off the development of these features until our concept was proven.
The problems with our treadmill experience were established during the research phase--the runs are not scalable to all fitness levels, and they are difficult to follow. The design principles below would serve as the guiding light during this sprint:
Using the concept of “serious play,” I created an experience blueprint to study the details of the user’s interaction with the treadmill and trainer. By focusing on the emotional elements connected to the interactions, I was able to identify meaningful moments and touchpoints within the workout to introduce delightful experiences. I purposely left the treadmill screen blank to promote free thinking when leading brainstorm sessions.
With the experience outlined, I was able to convert the user’s needs into requirements and define the core features necessary to deliver the experience.
Throughout the research and ideation phase, I quickly mocked up low-fi prototypes to communicate my vision for the product. We realized early on that every state change needed to be a single touch interaction. Sweat + running + touchscreens = poor usability. During my research, I was shocked by how many treadmills on the market required two or three touches to change the speed/incline.
This was the first interface I ever designed, so uh, ya, it’s not that pretty. But it did do a great job of satisfying the user’s needs and design principles. By offering multiple speed options and using the data stored on the treadmill we were able to deliver a “pseudo” personalized experience without developing a new CRM. A huge win!
We set up a treadmill in the office and invited super users and people unfamiliar with the brand to test the interface. I was ecstatic to find that people understood how to use the interface instantly and LOVED the speed hotkeys.
Unfortunately, this product has not made it to market. The budget needed to retrofit our current treadmills with 20” displays was astronomical. We decided as a team to put off further development until studio expansion plans were finalized. At this point, we pivoted to the group screen, which would have no installation cost.
Even though the project was put on hold, I never stopped refining the product. Later in development, I ran low-fi user tests using the design below to gain insight into whether users prefer pop-up hotkey or touch-pad interactions. I found that the majority of users preferred the touch-pad design because they felt that they were more in control of their speed throughout the run.
The floor experience problems we set out to solve at the beginning of this project were:
Our primary goal was to design a system that increased the amount of time trainers spent interacting with clients. Fitness is a relationship business, and the stronger your client-trainer bond is, the more engaged your client base will be.
After mapping the floor scenarios, an interesting pattern emerged. I titled it: “The Trainer Triangle.” We realized that 80% of the trainer’s actions forced them to return to the trainer stand. As a result, the trainers remained in close proximity and rarely ventured out into the center of the room. The result of this pattern was a great experience for the clients close to the stand, and a poor experience for everyone else. It was during this exercise that we discovered the need and inherent value of controlling the class from a portable device.
Working hand-in-hand with our team of master trainers was crucial in converting the requirements into wireframes. During our collaborative sessions, we discovered the need for two distinct screens to support the trainer’s workout design.
The trainers had a significant influence on how the system would be controlled. I originally wanted to use a timer to govern the experience. My thought process was such that using a timer would reduce the trainer's interaction with the control, increase personal attention, and make sure classes never ran long (which has been an issue). In reality, there were too many variables at play. The final design would empower the trainers to start/stop class at their will.
Early in the ideation phase, we were dead-set on designing a screen that used animations or videos to showcase the exercises. Competitors had already deployed similar concepts, so the team hit the field to investigate.
We found that the experience at these studios was completely different from our own. The clients moved around the room like lemmings with their eyes locked on the screen. The trainers, in response, were disengaged and void of passion. It seemed that there was a delicate balance at play–the more information you include on the screen, the less engaged the trainer becomes.
We wanted the trainers to remain at the center of the experience. As I’ve stated previously in this case study, the fitness industry is a relationship business. It was at this point that we decided to position the screen as a visual aid that supports the trainers, not a tool that replaces them. Future designs would not include animations or videos.
In my first attempt, I built three screen views that reflect the different states of the Burn 60 workout. The core functionality of each page aligns with our users’ needs and motivations:
During this phase of the project, I learned the importance of running simulated field tests. My first impression of the screen in our office was promising. I thought, “wow, I’m a wizard; I hit my mark on the first try.” I set up a series of field tests with trainers’ workouts thinking the results would validate my prowess. I was mistaken; there were clear flaws in the design.
Designing separate views for circuit and time-based exercises allowed me to restructure the layouts to support more extended text fields. During the testing phase, clients said that the screen helped with their pacing--they knew how much time was remaining and what was coming next. To build upon this insight, I introduced progress bars into the design. I also added our signature scoreboard sound to the end of each interval to better communicate state changes.
The new screen design required an icon for each piece of equipment in our studio. To avoid legibility and contrast issues, the style is simple, bold, and monochromatic.
The goal of the trainer control sprint was to solve the following problems:
With the core requirements already established, we focused on the trainers' pre-workout experience. To create a completely integrated system, the trainers needed to be able to build, upload, and schedule workouts remotely.
I recruited three of our senior trainers to engage in this portion of the project. I wanted to understand their mental model for designing workouts and the class-management tricks they’ve picked up over the years. When I presented the low-fi mockups below, they became defensive. In their opinion, the technology we were developing was offensive to their craft. They believed an experienced trainer could walk into any gym, read the room and perform on the fly--amateurs plan their workouts. The root of their frustration was creative control. For the past 14 years, they’ve been able to design workouts without any constraints.
What made them buy-in? Their own clients’ feedback. I ran a series of test workouts with all three trainers. They were shocked by their clients' praise of the group screen. It was at this moment that they realized what we were trying to do--make their lives easier and deliver a better workout. From that point forward, we were able to put our differences aside and make decisions based on what mattered most, the client.
To help communicate our end vision to stakeholders, I mocked up a low-fi prototype of the control’s scheduling features. No work was done beyond this point–it would not be necessary for the MVP.
The trainer control MVP is stripped of all secondary features. It only allows the trainer to start, pause, fast-forward, and rewind the workout. The trainers on the team had issues with this. They wanted the ability to change individual exercises on the fly. We explored this functionality, but the dev-hours needed to execute would set back the launch date 2-3 months. I decided against it. The lessons we would learn out in the field would provide more value.
After three long months of development, the trainer control and group screen MVP were complete. We transitioned out of the design phase into the final testing period.
The Burn 60 Plus MVP made its debut at the Woodway booth during the 2018 International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) convention. We ran eight workouts a day for three days to showcase our work to the industry. The product was brilliant!
After IHRSA, I set up a month-long test to gather client insights.
The majority of feedback was positive and helped us focus our efforts before launch. After analyzing the footage, we found that trainers were spending more time in the center of the room, interacting with clients!
The most significant functionality issues occurred during two-group classes. The “load-up” phases in between exercises threw off the trainers--they lost track of time and missed treadmill cues. When we deleted these phases, the issues resolved themselves.
Designing the product is only half of the battle. Just as much effort was spent educating our trainers on how to format their workouts for the screen and run the class. It was a considerable behavior change for them and caused a lot of frustration. We found that it was best to work in groups of three. I set up multiple training sessions where I would have them build and run through the workouts under my watch.
To make their lives easier, I created a makeshift prototype of the workout builder and scheduler using Squarespace and Google Sheets. It's not perfect, but it helped keep the process organized.
We launched Burn Plus October 2018 at Burn 60 West Hollywood. It has been so gratifying hearing clients take the words out of my mouth when communicating its value. There is still much work to be done, but the team is up for the challenge!