Using visual thinking to convey personal metrics
In 2000, the Museum of Modern Art developed a visual thinking strategies curriculum designed to help students learn to understand the meaning of art. Since then, studies have proven that individuals who take in information visually have greater ability to problem solving, deduce reasoning, and make complex observations. We are all visual thinkers. Presenting information in a visual format is a central focus of Personal Metrics centered design.
Fitbit understands that pictures don’t lie. The personal fitness company has a goal to make America a healthier nation. The concept is simple, measure an individual’s calories consumed and calories expended and then use visual cues and personal informatics to help people develop more active lifestyles.
Fitbit is comprised of a small device that you wear in your pocket, belt, or shirt. Within the device, there is an accelerometer (similar to the technology used in the Nintendo Wii) that measures your overall activity level and steps taken during the day. Then, while you sleep, it measures how many times you wake up and how long it took you to actually fall asleep. The data acquired by the device is then wirelessly sent to Fitbit’s website where you can monitor your fitness metrics website.
The power of the product lies in the use of visual cues and activity stories on the website and the device itself. Free to use, the website provides you with a dashboard of your physical activity including steps taken, calories consumed versus calories spent, and sleep patterns. In addition to the website, the sensor device has a small screen that displays an avatar, such as a flower. As your activity increases or decreases, the avatar grows or shrinks, providing an important visual cue to motivate you to change your behavior.
Providing visual feedback is critical to understanding the affects of our behavior and understanding what we can change to improve our lifestyles. As our lives are inundated with unprecedented amounts of information, companies need to find new ways to communicate with people that both engage and inspire. Fitbit’s use of visual feedback is an innovative way to convey personal informatics and provide visual cues about personal behavior and fitness.