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6 Tips for Designing and Developing a Strong, Healthy Fitness App

Tony Scherba
February 23, 2018

So many fitness apps are like New Year's resolutions: They start strong but quickly fizzle out. One of the toughest things about creating a fitness app? Designing for constant motion. Watching a screen or tapping a precise point isn't easy when you're running, jumping, or swinging weights.

But besides touch and video, smartphones have a third modality: audio. That's the one Aaptiv is counting on. Aaptiv has trainers in your ear for everything from running and weight lifting to meditation and maternity exercises. So far, it's turning out to be a great bet: More than 200,000 people subscribe to Aaptive, earning the company more than $20 million in revenue last year.

Get Your Fitness App Into Shape

If you're making an audio training app, you might not want to get in the ring with Aaptive unless you've got a real knockout idea. But there are as many ideas for fitness apps as there are machines in the gym. Whatever kind of fitness app you're developing, following a few key tips will help it cross the finish line:

1. Make an active app for active people.

Athletes hate to be cooped up. They're hiking up mountains, biking on country roads, and running on trails. These are places where cell signals are scarce. Good fitness apps have to work online and offline, in the city and in the country. Otherwise, they'll quickly lose their most energetic users.

MapMyFitness is one fitness app that runs hard no matter the conditions. As long as the device it's operating on has a GPS chip, the app will function on airplane mode or without a data signal. The local storage option allows adventurous athletes to save their maps temporarily until they get reception again. Any fitness app that wants to be competitive should have its own way to function off the beaten path.

2. Look smart, play smart.

There's a reason why fitness clothing sells like crazy: It's more fun to go to gym when you look and feel great. It's the same with apps. A great app shouldn't just perform well; it should look great, too. Designers can work with developers to shape your product into the real deal. Xcode and Android Studio are two tools that will help designers deliver a sharp-looking, winning product.

And just like everyone has preferences for what they wear, a good fitness app should be customizable. FitBit's app is a great example. Users can tailor their objectives by modifying their daily step goal or weekly exercise sessions to meet their own needs. Just like your favorite workout outfit, your fitness app should look smart and fit perfectly.

3. Follow the CMS playbook.

Every team needs a game plan. Disorganization means defeat, so get your app's team organized. A content management system will allow developers, designers, stakeholders, and virtually anyone else involved to collaborate on content, code, images, and more.

Content management systems are often used with documents and websites, but they're also fantastic tools for back-end development. A CMS can keep the back end organized and running efficiently. When it's time to update your app, the CMS will also help you fix bugs and introduce new features without going through tedious reapprovals from Apple or Android.

4. Run hard, and don't crash.

A crashing app is never fun, but it's especially bad for fitness apps. A meditation app designed to lower blood pressure will have the exact opposite effect if it crashes mid-session. No runner will use an app that quits halfway through the course.

Before your app goes live, make sure it's strong and healthy. Fitness and health app usage has grown by more than 300 percent in a three-year span, so predict the number of people who will download your app and then double it. No matter what happens, you won't regret over-planning.

5. Make the all-star team.

If you want your app to post big download numbers, your best bet is to get it featured. When the App Store features an app, for example, downloads skyrocket by more than 1,700 percent. But unlike a pro athlete, your app can't lobby for itself, so you have to do some cheerleading on its behalf. Seek out and get in touch with the editors at Apple and Android who select them.

But chatting with an App Store team member won't guarantee your app a spot on the list. It'll still have the make the grade. A solid user experience is a must, along with eye-popping photos and videos for display in the store. Clean content and downloadable extras never hurt, either.

6. Recover, and bounce back.

Plenty of apps don't make the cut. In fact, Apple rejects a quarter of the apps that apply to be included on the App Store, citing incompleteness as the most common reason. Interestingly, irrelevant keywords and spam are top reasons why Google Play apps are rejected. It should go without saying, but don't enter the race without the proper preparation.

Every app will have its flaws, and fortunately, a bug or two won't kill it. Let your users be your app's immune system. Error-reporting tools like Sentry and Crashlytics can monitor back-end processes, alerting you any time a crash or other glitch occurs. Rooting bugs out quickly is the best way to keep your app's users happy and healthy.

Are you ready to go the distance to build the perfect fitness app? Download Yeti's free whitepaper, “The Ultimate Guide to Mobile App Design & Development,” to take your app idea from the JV league to the pros. And remember, if your app needs a personal trainer, we're always ready for a workout.

Tony Scherba is a CEO + Founding Partner at Yeti. Tony has been developing software since high school and has worked on digital products for global brands such as Google, MIT, Qualcomm, Hershey’s, Britney Spears and Harmon/Kardon. Tony’s writing about innovation and technology has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc. At Yeti, Tony works on strategy, product design and day to day operations, hopping in and working with the development teams when needed. Follow Tony on Twitter.

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