Turning your phone into a personal trainer

I started off seeing BodyWise as an app that I wanted to build for myself. I figured if we wanted to use it and there was nothing out there like it, we’d find a group of people that loved it.

It evolved from an app we wanted to build for ourselves to a startup in the heart of the digital health disruption

The Problem

In it’s simplest form, we built BodyWise to help us to log things that we couldn’t in other apps. For me, that was things like measurements, water intake, my mood and productivity.

My co-founder Dave Banks is a personal trainer and works with our target market six days a week, morning and night. He sees them at their most vulnerable and their most empowered.

As a trainer he hates losing control when a training session is over and his clients are left to their own devices. Often they fall into bad habits. They don’t know what foods are good for them and what the can of Coke does to their performance gains from their hard training.

As much as it annoyed him, it annoyed his clients even more. The hours they spend a week dripping in sweat, hunched over gasping for air, shaking as their muscles tried to push out one final repetition all count for nothing if they went away and gave into their guilty pleasures a few times too many.

Some simply don’t know the effect of their diet and lifestyle habits. Amy doesn’t know how much sitting down at her desk for the best part of 8 hours every weekday inhibits her ability to lose the 12kg she’s set as a goal before her wedding. Craig doesn’t know how the effect of the 2 cans of coke he has before lunch effects his insulin levels and ability to break down fat.

We realised the guidance and education that smart, predictive and adaptive technology could offer people via their mobile phones.

At the same time, Fitbits and Nike Fuelbands were emerging and quickly rising in popularity. The modern Westerner is data-curious. They want to know how they’re going and know that they cant improve what they don’t measure. Measurement motivates. But measurement isn’t enough.

We wanted to lead how data could be used to educate and empower millions of people to live healthier and happier

Testing & validating the concept

After thoroughly researching the App & Google Play stores to find nothing out there that let you track more than the basics, we needed to test the hypothesis. Were we the only ones that were curious enough to track and graph all these metrics about our health and bodies?

We focused our research on validating:
  1. Whether people were comfortable tracking their health on their phone
  2. Whether people wanted to track more than the basic steps, sleeps and calories that other apps offered

We had the best source of research right at our fingertips. We went straight to Dave’s clients and with a mix of informal chats, written surveys and proper meetings, learnt what things users did and didn’t want to track and the types of people who would actively track at all.

We wanted to get outside of our social sphere and see what the general public and people from other countries thought of it. We posted it on Pre Apps, a website where users discussed and voted on soon-to-be-released apps.

We ended up in the top 5 apps ever and our mailing list started to grow with eager users.



  • There are some things that are just tricky. How much caffeine does my coffee contain?
  • Much of our target market still aren’t comfortable with using apps on an iPhone. Older demographics simply aren’t familiar and comfortable with app interfaces and non-tactile interfaces
  • Design is crucial in mobile. So much of the excitement generated in the market before & after launch was in a large part due to our bright, clean and colourful UI
Testing Version 1

As time went on we realised just how cumbersome health tracking was without use of technology to do a fair share of the heavy lifting and data collection.

We continued our work preparing for launch but started to do some deep research and thinking on digital health disruption and emerging technology.

Product Design



I’m not sure whether we needed to as the UI was very simple and easy to understand, but we guided user expectation via a tutorial.



Introducing how gestures create new functionality is tricky.

signup screen


We let users tick boxes of things that they wanted to track. Ticking a box would enable tracking of all things in that category.

Alternatively they could manually select from a list of 40+ metrics.

home screen

Home Screen

Upon opening the app you saw a list of the things you were tracking.

enter results

Enter data

Click on a health metric and you could enter data and see a little graph of past performance.

V1 Launch

We launched on August 28 with a small PR campaign, a few hundred dollars in Facebook ads and some fantastic support amongst friends and family sharing the word.

A week in, we were featured on the front page of the health & fitness section within the US App Store under new & noteworthy. This drove 15-20k users.

App Store Feature
I learnt what we were doing well:
  1. Allowing people to track things that they were otherwise scribbling in a notebook
  2. Giving them an interface that suited their design tastes
  3. Allowing people to set micro health goals (e.g. no more than 50mg of caffeine per day)
I learnt what we needed to improve on, regardless of the any technical innovation
  1. Reduce friction of manual data entry
  2. Sync with mainstream wearables to bring in the data that they collect
  3. Tell the user what was a good result and what was bad

We added a devices button the home screen and told users that devices were coming in the next version. We encouraged them to vote for their favourite devices and ended up with over 600 votes placed.

Device Research


We went through hundreds of sketches, shared prototypes with our customers and ultimately decided on a few principles:
  1. Introducing a common navigation structure at the bottom of the app. This menu splits you into the four main areas of the home dashboard, results entry, analysis of progress and PT training advice
  2. Making the app as useful as possible by dropping you into a dashboard of your metrics
  3. Simplifying results entry within a single screen rather than going back and forth between entering results as in version 1. Less taps the better
BodyWise in the Age

Our Current Focus

We do a lot, but we do little of it amazingly well.

We also bottled the launch with a lot of bugs. It wasn’t tested as thoroughly as it should have been. We’re focused on making what is there work really, really well and getting our development operations up to scratch before focusing on new features.

Of course we’ve got a strong eye on:
  • HealthKit Integration
  • Sensors in consumer wearables (including the iWatch)
  • Our training algorithms

With the UI and UX improved, we’ll release BodyWise PT, our revolutionary training program that provides direct feedback and 24/7 monitoring of your lifestyle, diet and performance.

The Results

We’ve got 40,000 users, a unique spot in the market, a great team including a nutritionist plus two personal trainers and a very strong product development pathway.

This market is blowing up. We’ve got a lot of work to do, money to raise and development talent to attract. Watch this space…

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