Compassionate Weight Scale
Compassionate Weight Scale
AT A GLANCE
I wanted to grow my design research skills in a health context for an interactive product.
Interviews, Literature Reviews, Market Analysis,
Survey: development, deployment, & analysis
A complete and thorough design report exploring product opportunities for weight scales to communicate weight status differently.
Research shows that weighing yourself is not actually all about the numbers; psychology, body image, and mental health play a big role as well. In other words, stepping on a scale can be a complicated, emotional experience. While there has been some recent innovation in smart/connected scales, there has not been much change in the way that weight information has been presented; almost every scale on the market communicates using numbers.
This project aims relies upon user research to demonstrate that there could be a significant market opportunity for a compassionate scale; people are open to the concept of a numberless scale to communicate weight status. While there was not time to fully develop a new product during this project, Evan and I are considering pursuing funding opportunities to prototype and test our concepts.
Self-weighing can be a positive tool for physical health, but much of the population has a complicated emotional experience with self-weighing.
How can we integrate self-compassion into a self-weighing tool to make this behavior more positive and accessible?
Research began by first defining key terminology (such as health) and immersing ourselves in existing research documenting relationships. Below is a snapshot explaining how weight, psychological factors, and health are intertwined. Needless to say, it should look more complicated than it seems, because it is. Stigma, psychological wellbeing, and physical wellbeing are all at play during self-weighing, but this is not addressed by traditional scales.
& A KEY INSIGHT
It’s easy to initially conceptualize health as how are bodies are doing physically--are we fit? Illness free? However, physical wellbeing is only one facet of health. Mental and emotional wellbeing are equally as impactful to a person’s overall health as their physical wellbeing; something that has often been overlooked in the American health system.
One key finding found while conducting this research is the emerging research documenting the relationship between self-compassion and body image. Self-compassion is an emotion regulation strategy that involves taking a kind, nonjudgmental attitude toward oneself, particularly around challenges.
One review article, across 28 studies, found significant support for self-compassion's protective role against a negative body image and eating pathology.
These studies are a key insight because it presents a design opportunity for compassionate wellness tools. A more holistic weighing tool may be able to accommodate populations that struggle with weight-focused self-compassion, decreasing the stress of the self-weighing process and leading to positive outcomes based on an individuals’ needs and goals.
IDEATION & EVALUATION
During a benchmarking analysis, we found that there was only one numberless scale currently on the market, called the Shapa. Shapa focuses on behavior change and weight loss, different from our aim in creating healthier ways to think about weight. Other than Shapa, this research hasn’t been applied to products that are available in the market. There is a space for a weight-monitoring tool that gives users the information that is useful to them without a level of granularity that can be stressful or negative.
We began ideating after conducting market research and gaining a thorough understanding of the psychological effects of weighing. Due to a limited timeframe, we decided to evaluate our concepts using a survey distributed throughout our social networks. We picked two of our most feasible and different-from-each-other concepts for survey evaluation.
The 33-question survey we designed asked questions about people’s current scale ownership, behaviors, and emotions related to self-weighing. In addition, we evaluated two concepts and asked for feedback. The same questions were asked regarding perceived user experience and satisfaction for both concepts. How they were presented to the participants is how they are presented below.
The survey helped validate some of our initial assumptions, while proving that others were unfounded. Our sample, while large, was not representative of the general population (due to convenience sampling, our sample skewed heavily female, and we can assume most respondents were highly-educated). We additionally received over 130 comments about how to improve our initial concepts. We used open source coding to identify key themes, as shown below.
People used their scales less often than we thought they did--many people do not weigh themselves more than once a week.
We found strong support for the idea that self-weighing is an emotional experience; over 50% of people said that they always feel some sort of emotion when weighing themselves, and:
While some of the time people felt positive emotions, like pride, there was a significant portion of people who consistently experienced negative emotions such as self-consciousness or anxiety.
Many people suggested the scale should account for things like muscle mass, diet or exercise to be more holistic.
There were many disparate opinions about the best type and frequency of communication from the scale, so making those features customizable would be important going forward
Concept 1 - Few people thought they would have a negative emotional experience, and no one who had experienced an eating disorder thought they would have a negative experience using this concpet. However, there were not many people who thought they would have an extremely positive experience with the pattern scale.
Concept 2- This was a very very polarizing concpet, unlike Concept 1. 17% of people thought they would have a negative emotional experience, while 31% of people thought they would have an extremely positive experience. The polarization seemed to stem from two different perceptions of a scale integrated into an everyday object--some thought it would be omni-present and they would not be able to stop thinking about it, while others thought it would fade into the background.
Is there a market for a scale like this? Yes. Americans have been buying about $270 million worth of home scales every year since 2013--demand is steady (HomeWorld Business). At the same time, consumer spending on connected digital scales has almost quadrupled since 2013, with around 9 million units sold in 2018, and connected wellness products at large raking in $8 billion in 2018, up from $3.3 billion in 2013 (Consumer Technology Association; Parks Associates). Furthermore, at least 60% of survey respondents who did not currently own a scale would consider using at least one of the conceptual scales in their home.
Looking to the future, Balance could expand to encompass a family of compassionate health and wellness focused products and services.
The Balance scale could have significant opportunity for integration with other health-focused products and apps (such as Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, Headspace, etc.). Initially, selling the scale would be the primary source of revenue, but premium features could be sold on a subscription basis, generating recurring monthly revenues. While the target customer segment still needs to be more clearly defined, the positive, compassionate relationship with these users will be the foundation of the brand.
This project helped define design criteria to integrate into the product when moving forward, as well as demonstrating proof-of-concept and market opportunity for a numberless weight scale.