Designing for Drop Fitness: An Interview with Product Manager Daniel Whittesley

Of all of the challenges that come with data visualization, the process of selecting the most important metrics to display in an application can be the most difficult. From team to team, the process of choosing metrics to include can range from being highly codified and researched, or completely creative, impulsive, or flexible.  

This week, we spoke to Dan Whittelsey, the product manager at DropFitness, a health and wellness startup that just raised $1.2 million dollars in capital, about how DropFitness makes these metric-reporting decisions in their new platform.

The DropFitness platform is designed to be a vertically integrated fitness and wellness warehouse by leveraging a freemium model to gym membership by removing monthly membership and contracts, providing gym goers with more flexibility. This offers a more dynamic customer base to the gym itself, while also providing users with a comprehensive health report of all workouts and classes by measuring calories and other Apple Health metrics. The platform calculates this by using all insight ranging from food purchased using the app to heart rate improvement after exercise. For Drop Fitness’ gyms, the platform is designed to upsell users on premium fitness and wellness, services, retail, and experiences, all purchased within the mobile app.

But as Whittelsey builds a one-stop shop of nutrition and exercise performance reporting, there are an endless amount of metrics that could add to a user’s overall picture of health, whether it’s caloric intake, heart rate improvement, miles run, or weight loss. The dashboard also displays metrics for the Drop Fitness gyms, indicating total revenue, new members, and daily check-ins.

In choosing what metrics would provide the best information to Drop Fitness’s diverse customers and vendors, Whittelsey has a specific process to identify top notch reporting. sat down with him to better understand what this process looks like, and how other designers can implement it themselves.  

First, walk us through the step-by-step process of building out new platform features.

DW: No problem. The very first step as a product manager will be to meet with our Head of Experience. When we want to implement a change, we’ll talk with a lot with people to do fact findings, run focus groups, or go to studios. We prioritize features that other people aren’t doing on their own platforms.

Dashboard for the participating gyms to track ROI.

Next, we’ll develop a “feature list” of features we want to add that are obvious as well as ones that aren’t intuitive, based on the insight we got from speaking to other leaders in the space. For example, booking a class at a gym is an obvious feature we’d add, but having the option of being able to follow the instructor on Instagram isn’t as obvious.

Once we have the list, we’ll meet collectively with our CEO and he’ll approve or reject items on the list. We then meet with our CTO who will estimate the required amount of coding work to implement the features, and the time it will take.

Once it passes the CTO’s approval, I’ll develop the UX first and then look at other apps that are out there to draw inspiration from. My favorites in this space are ClassPass, Soul Cycle, and Equinox. They’re highly flawed, but compared to the competition, they’re better than what’s out there.

So that’s the process of solidifying the UX design itself, and ultimately for choosing which metrics we’re showing once we know what features we’re including. Then we do a UI development plan, which includes design.

Among the entire health space, how do you choose what metrics to visualize?

DW: First, in health and wellness, it’s important to remember there are a lot of things that are important to different people. You can make the system highly specific and customized or really pared down.

For example, we found that the most popular metric that people use to gauge whether they’re being healthy is calorie intake relative to burn.

So, say you order a smoothie paying through the DropFitness app, the system knows how many calories you’re ingesting from that purchase. That insight is coupled with the spin class you took that shows all the calories you burned and when. As designers, we can add more layers of that sort of information or we can really pare it down. By consolidating information that indicates something like calorie deficit without displaying every source of calorie in and out, people can find their small wins with each meal or workout which grows further into an idea of “Ok, I love that I can see that I’m operating at a calorie deficit.” That is an example of paring down metrics, where this metric tells a story that’s is incredibly motivating for users.

Homepage goal tracking on Drop Fitness

In addition to caloric burn, other metrics on the platform include caloric intake and protein intake, related statistics for Apple Health such as steps, activity, and body measurements. On the user side, it also displays event metrics like check-ins, time spent at the gym, the number of classes taken, and the number of personal training sessions taken.

Once we’ve decided on the consolidated metrics to display, which is much more difficult than designing them, we then begin the design process. That has a lot to do with branding and creative design choices.

When designing the platform, do you design for the full-time power user or the brand new one?

DW: We design it first for the person that we want to use it full time. In terms of the whole architecture of the app we start from the basics, the most necessary things that a person would need to use, like booking a class.

Then we design for the power user as we add complexity to the platform, rolling in data into certain algorithms that can indicate improvement for both the participating gyms’ side and the end user’s side.  

Do you have any advice for anybody looking to build a great metrics experience in their product?

DW: Seek out people that are better than you and build a relationship with them, learn from them. It’s so easy to use new software and think “I don’t know how to use it”, so leverage the intellectual capital that’s already out there. For me, it’s all about network building and relationship building.

Thanks to Dan Whittelsey for sharing his insight with us, we’re excited for the full rollout of Drop Fitness.

For more info on how Keen can help you with in-app metrics visualizations, learn more here.  

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