Design Critique: Fabulous – Motivate Me! (iOS App)

Fabulous is a science-based app, incubated in Duke’s Behavioral Economics Lab, that will help you build healthy rituals into your life, just like an elite athlete. Users can start by picking one of four Journeys: Feel more energized, lose weight, sleep better, or focus and concentrate better. With your goal defined, Fabulous will break down users approach into simple daily steps. The app is free, but in order to have the full experience, users must pay a subscription to unlock and download all features.

Application’s Overall Design: Understanding the User And Its Motivations

Nowadays, people are facing extreme pressure and struggling to become a better version of themselves. Fabulous is specifically designed to motivate you to be more productive and have higher energy. Fabulous is more than just a habit tracker. It’s a personal coach and happiness trainer. The principle of the app follows one of Norman’s principles of design, which is to design for “human behavior the way it is, not the way we wish it to be” (Norman, Pg. 6). People are facing a lot of pressure at school or at work. Most other habit tracker apps usually make you compete with yourself to be “healthier”. Users often lose motivation almost immediately. Fabulous, however, is very intentional about creating new life changes by adjusting one habit at a time. It’s about holistic wellness and the easy/welcoming interface reflects that too. The user won’t feel as overwhelmed with change and they will appreciate the little tasks it gives for a happier man has become. It is nice that users have the option to add their own tasks to speed up the process as they’d like. Or it can be very go-at-your-own-pace. Besides, the app doesn’t just provide users with habit tracking. The app looks beyond simple tasks (e.g. exercising, cooking, calling parents, etc.) and offers meditations or yoga for different goals/situation. In the Make Me Fabulous feature, users select from a list of options on their current action/state, and the app provides them with filtered types of meditations that can suit their needs. For example, it can provide meditations for the speakers to focus or to help them prepare for a presentation. Hence, the app looks beyond why people are downloading the app, which is in this case to meditate and goes further by looking at the root cause of why they are trying to use the app.

Strength: “Flow” With A Task

As we all know, keeping a habit can be pretty tough. The app aims to immerse users in the task step by step. From easier takes to harder tasks. And for each task, there are explanations to introduce to the user why they should do this way instead of others. The wording is logical and we can see the editor really put himself/herself in other’s shoes. As cited in Norman, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi found that for people to enter a state of emersion or “flow” with a task, the task can’t be too difficult or too easy. If it’s not challenging enough, it can be boring, and if it’s too hard, it can put users off. Moreover, when it’s difficult, it can lead to Learned Helplessness. I for once believed that I couldn’t get up at 9 am every morning and finish a glass of water. However, the application provides only 3 tasks a week in order to achieve the challenge. Fabulous tracks your completion rate and makes fancy charts – calendar view, success rate view, timeline view and shows you where you are in your journey with percentages completed. Once you complete the set amount of rituals on your first journey, you will unlock the second journey. It depends on the challenge you have first accepted how many days you have to complete the ritual before you can unlock the new journey. The app also allowed users to match their desired level of difficulties. You can remove or edit your habits, reorder them and adjust their duration. It is easy to add too many routines when you set up the app initially, but it does not mean you are stuck with the bad list forever. Just tap at things and see how easily the app is customizable. Long-press the icon on the left of each habit to move it up or down the list, tap the three dots menu to edit or delete a habit.

Strength: Abandon Forcing Function

When users first download the app, many of them have a forcing function that makes users register before entering. Norman defines forcing functions as “situations in which the actions are constrained so that failure at one stage prevents the next step from happening” (Norman, Pg. 141). This function may be a failure prevention. But in many cases, the user has no idea about what the app does and what personal data it would collect when signing up. In this case, a sense of insecurity occurs when asking private questions like age or address. However, this situation does not happen when users first download Fabulous. All you need to provide is only your name. After some exploration, users can find the sign in access by clicking the little “person” icon on the top right of the screen whenever they are ready to. The app’s purpose of delaying sign up is to secure users trust and confidence.

The Gulf of Evaluation: Feedback

When using products, users face two main Gulfs, the Gulf of Execution and the Gulf of Evaluation. The Gulf of Evaluation is when users try to understand what state they are in and whether their actions were successful. The app addresses the Gulf of Evaluation by providing feedback and letting users know their actions were successful. For example, Fabulous estimates the approximate time needed to complete each routine, and once you tap that rocket button, it will offer one routine after another complete with the countdown timer, a dedicated image, and a neat soundtrack. Take a glass of water, 1 minute, graphic image of water drops, sound of the pouring water. Meditate, 12 minutes, landscape with a moon, drum as the soundtrack. Be grateful, 10 minutes, some inspirational music and a neat image. And so on. Moreover, the app has a voice to go with the UI, so certain crucial parts of it are voice-enabled. The app guides you through the completion of the ritual and calls you by name.

The Gulf of Execution: Signifiers

Users are only human, as Norman’s book states, people can get so distracted that it can cause errors and mistakes. In Fabulous, some scientific terms and reasons can be confusing and difficult to understand. When clicking unwanted bottoms for example “uncheck a habit”Fabulous will simply pop up signifiers to guide you and provide you with logical reasons lead to your right action without annoying the user. Within the app, there also are cases where the app has successfully bridged the Gulf of Execution by using signifiers. For example, Fabulous prompts users with a proposed filling term in the setting bar. This provides users with a better understanding of how the feature can be used and thus bridges the Gulf of Execution.




Motivation: Alarm and Reminder Settings

Another nifty feature is Motivation – Fabulous provides users with the tools to add reminders and set an alarm. By putting reminders on their phone or putting short, snackable quotes from famous people and sources that encourage or explain the goodness behind your routine, users are less likely to forget to finish the task. Norman states electronic reminders are invisible and thus need to be constantly on the screen to remind users. If the notification disappears immediately, users will simply rely on knowledge in the head to remind them of the reminder. The notifications by Fabulous’s reminders do not disappear from the home screen/notifications center until the user swipes it.

Weakness: Letters and Communications

Shorter letters and communications. The introduction letter seems like reading a book and no one has time for that. People would value the insights, but mostly they will lose interest due to the lengthy scientific supports. Even though the long passage also provided with the audio version, its still time consuming and somehow annoying (I just couldn’t finish it!).



Overall Fabulous provides a strong product for users to enjoy. The application has a wealth of healthy, functional routines that will help the user stick to their goal little by little. Also, it tried its best to not make users feel as overwhelmed with changes. However, its wordy explanation and sound preference could be improved in the next upcoming edition.