Running is a sport that is very beneficial for both physical and mental health. It is incredibly popular, but there are still many people that are not able to keep it up and actually go out running regularly.
During this project I try to understand the reason behind this and propose a product that is designed to change behaviour in the long term and help those people to finally keep up running.
Designing for behaviour
The first step is to understand how behaviour can be changed. The Triade model is a model that shows how this can be done. It looks at 3 factors (Motivation, Capacity and Opportunity) and if each of these factors are high then it is easy to adapt a new behaviour.
If you overlay this model with running you’ll see that running is a very low threshold sport with a already high level of Capacity (A high percentage of people is able to go for a running without needing anything that they don’t already have available) and Opportunity (You can walk out of your door and start running, any time you like).
Therefore the main focus for this project will be on motivation while retaining the right balance of the Triade model.
Motivation can be divided into 2 types: Intrinsic Motivation (arising from internal factors) and Extrinsic Motivation (arising from external factors).
Extrinsic motivation pushes you to go running to achieve a goal: get fit, lose weight, beat your friends time etc. This is the type of motivation the vast majority of products for runners focusses on.
This works well for plenty of runners but not all. Other runners might lose motivation when their goals are too far away, they simply don’t like what they have to do to achieve their goal or they think that there are other, easier options.
Designing for intrinsic motivation should be able to motivate a larger amount of runners. By making the activity of running itself more fun and enjoyable you add to the experience while maintaining plenty of extrinsic factors as added benefit.
During my research I talked to a lot of runners and ‘failed’ runners as well as starting to run myself, solo and in groups. From this I gathered that the social aspect of running can increase the intrinsic motivation significantly, the downside being that the Capacity (You need people to run with, transportation etc.) and Opportunity (You have to meet at a fixed time/place).
I created a ‘concept of the future’ video which solved this problem with unrealistic technology and used this as an interview tool to understand how users could relate to this and incorporate this in their activities. With this feedback I developed a new, more feasible concept.
I developed a simple prototype that let users record sound through their phone and send it to my computer, while I could send soundbites of other runners back to the user.
This short user test involved in the next extensive users test where I developed an iPhone app and a prototype that users could use for a month without my intervention.
With this prototype users could go running over a previously agreed upon route and leave voice messages for the other runners. They could see the location of the messages on the app and an indication of the distance to the next message on the prototype.
The messages left for them would play when they would run over the locations where messages were left.
This resulted in different interactions between runners. From telling each other about what they where experiencing during their run, warning each other (slippery bridge) to challenging each other and playing games.
The design and interaction with the product is something runners where very passionate about. I got many complaints that a lot of products started to irritate after running long distances, where not comfortable or obnoxious to use. The final design consists of 2 parts. A breathable and washable strap with conductive yarns as sensors that can operate the device with simple movements with one hand. A clip-on device that uses led lighting to indicate settings and distance/direction of the next message. The led lighting is designed to work as peripheral imaging, you can read it out without needing to look directly at it.
The final concept is product that provides a social platform for runners during their run. Both the Capacity and Opportunity of the Triade model are still high, while a stronger intrinsic motivation is incorporated. Like one ‘failed’ runner expressed; “while I never liked the activity of running, the messages distract me from the distance and time that has passed. I ran farther then I ever did before just because I wanted to pick up the last messages”.
The platform is also highly adaptable. It can be used by runner coaches to set out routes with instructions for their students to run in their own time, it can be used by a guide to provide information about structures along a running route or as a game with the goal of exploring new areas and finding the next message/clue.