Each January millions of people make New Year’s resolutions.
One of the most popular is to lose weight and stay in shape.
Gyms get packed each January, then around Valentine’s Day the “resolutionary” crowds tend to fade away.
It’s not easy to change habits but several websites try to help you build the right fitness habits throughout the year. It can be hard enough to stick to a new routine so it’s important these websites have a user experience that supports these goals.
To better understand the fitness and nutrition website user experiences, we conducted a retrospective benchmark on four popular fitness and nutrition websites:
Study and Participant Details
In July of 2019 we asked 204 participants who had visited one of the four nutrition or fitness websites in the past year to reflect on their most recent experience. We then asked 20 additional participants to attempt a task on one of the four websites using our MUIQ platform in December 2019.
Participants in the study answered questions about their prior experience with the eight-item SUPR-Q (including the Net Promoter Score). In particular, we were interested in visitors’ attitudes toward the site, problems they had with the site, and reasons they used the website.
Full details are available in the downloadable report. Here are the key takeaways.
Measuring the Fitness and Nutrition Website UX: SUPR-Q
The SUPR-Q is a standardized measure of the quality of a website’s user experience and is a good way to gauge users’ attitudes. It’s based on a rolling database of around 150 websites across dozens of industries.
Scores are percentile ranks and tell you how a website experience ranks relative to the other websites. The SUPR-Q provides an overall score as well as detailed scores for subdimensions of trust, usability, appearance, and loyalty. Its ease item can also predict an accurate SUS equivalent score.
The scores for the four fitness and nutrition desktop websites in the perception study are above average at the 69th percentile (scoring better than 69% of the websites in the database). SUPR-Q scores for this group ranged from the 54th percentile (Livestrong) to the 80th percentile (Weight Watchers).
Brand Loyalty and Trust
Looking at SUPR-Q subscales, the top improvement area for all the sites, except for Livestrong, was Loyalty. The average NPS for these fitness/nutrition websites was 7%. Mirroring SUPR-Q scores, participants were least likely to recommend the Livestrong website (-12%) and most likely to recommend Weight Watchers (19%).
The top improvement area for Livestrong was Trust, with scores falling in the 30th percentile. Lance Armstrong’s departure from the brand and negative press could have impacted users’ perception of trust in the company. Participants also mentioned worries about credibility and that some of the information on the site is inaccurate.
“Sometimes I’m not sure how much I can trust the information on the website.” — Livestrong user
“I don’t know if all the information is credible. Sometimes it seems as if the site has jumped on a trend or a recent finding too soon before its claims have been proven.” — Livestrong user
“I wish that they would list the author’s credentials right at the beginning of the article.” — Livestrong user
Participants also had issues with the amount of advertisements on the Livestrong website, as well as the number of auto-play videos.
“There seems to be very little actual information in the articles I read, mostly about food. Most of the articles have the exact same information as ones I’ve found on other websites, almost to the point of plagiarism. Additionally, I find their ‘video of the day’ that auto plays very annoying, especially considering it will be the same video for several months. My experience on the Livestrong website as a whole just leaves me with the impression that they value quantity over quality.” — Livestrong user
“The pop-ups/ads can be annoying sometimes.” — Livestrong user
Top Tasks: Finding Nutritional Facts and Recipes
The top two activities participants reported doing on the fitness and nutrition websites were looking up nutrition facts and finding new recipes or meal plans. Participants used the sites for meal inspiration and tips for healthy eating.
“I enjoy the recipes tab. It offers a variety of recipes for healthy eating that are simple to make.” — Livestrong user
“I go to the site every so often to see if they have new recipes.” — Weight Watchers user
“I check up on what foods that I should be eating from certain food groups.” — ChooseMyPlate user
Reading fitness articles (18%) and tracking diet and exercise (16%) were also frequently attempted tasks.
“I read articles about health and fitness and about random topics that I am searching for on a given day.” — Livestrong user
“I log my food intake for the day.” — MyFitnessPal user
“I will add a food to my diary or look up a certain food to see how many calories it is.” — MyFitnessPal user
To look for possible points of friction for the top tasks of finding nutritional information and recipes we asked the participants in the think-aloud study on MUIQ to locate a certain recipe or find some information about healthy eating.
After reviewing the participant videos we found that participants on Livestrong struggled to find a specific recipe for gluten-free cupcakes as shown in the video below (Download Video). The search feature on Livestrong is unsophisticated and didn’t help participants track down the correct recipe.
How Do Fitness and Nutrition Websites Impact Users?
The word “dieting” certainly has negative connotations for some people. Do these websites make people feel good about themselves? Do they actually help improve habits?
Across the websites, only 59% of participants agreed that using the fitness and nutrition websites make them feel good about themselves. This was also found to be the second most important key driver of the health website user experience (explaining 14% of the variance in SUPR-Q scores). Only 53% of Livestrong users agreed that the website makes them feel good about themselves while 64% of ChooseMyPlate and Weight Watchers users thought so.
“I feel like they are rooting for me.” — Weight Watchers user
“I like that the app gives me hope and helps me to not feel so alone.” — Livestrong user
Other key drivers of the fitness and nutrition website user experience include brand attitude (15%), ease of learning what the site does and offers (11%), using the website to help improve habits (10%), tracking meals and snacks (10%), and easily understood nutrition information (7%). Taken together, these elements explain 68% of the variance in SUPR-Q scores.
Learning what the site offers explains 11% of the fitness/nutrition website experience. In the follow-up usability study, we found that participants on Weight Watchers had a difficult time finding specific information about the plans offered on the website, as demonstrated in the video below (Download Video).
“Using the website helped me improve my habits” was also an important key driver of the health website experience (10%). The good news is that 74% of participants across the websites agreed with this statement.
“It makes managing my weight loss easier.” — Weight Watchers user
“The weight loss estimates at the end of each day’s logging encourages me to maintain a calorie intake within my goals.” — MyFitnessPal user
“It is concise and easy to understand. It summarizes the research well in layman terms, so it is very easy to understand and implement changes.” — Livestrong user
Mobile Usage Is High
Mobile usage was high for this industry: 66% of participants reported using the mobile website and 50% used the mobile app across the brands (similar to our banking analysis). Mobile app users are visiting daily on ChooseMyPlate and Weight Watchers and weekly on Livestrong and MyFitnessPal.
Actively tracking meals and workouts was a top reason to use the mobile app.
“I track the food I’m about to eat or already eaten.” — MyFitnessPal user
“I usually follow my plan via the app.” — ChooseMyPlate user
The MyFitnessPal users liked the option to “scan in” their food to simplify meal tracking.
“I like that I can track my food and search for existing foods on the database.” — MyFitnessPal user
“I like the barcode scanners.” — MyFitnessPal user
“I like that I can use it to track my food on the go and it has pretty much every food I need in the database already.” — MyFitnessPal user
Issues with the mobile apps included poor integration with other apps (such as the Health app or step counters). Participants also complained that sometimes it’s difficult to find certain foods in the database or that some foods have incorrect caloric or health information.
“Sometimes the info in the database is inconsistent with the labels on the package of the food (like calories, etc).” — MyFitnessPal user
A few other participants said that the database lacks diversity in the food database, especially for food from different cultures.
“It lacks food from different cultures such as Asian cuisine. I am Asian and have a hard time looking for food I’ve eaten because there is none in the database.” — MyFitnessPal user
“Not being able to find accurate calorie counts / nutritional information for a lot of different foods. Foods will show up in search with widely varying nutritional information. Dining out options are limited. ‘Ethnic’ food logging is even more limited. It really only works best if you only eat basic American diet foods and order the most common items at big restaurant chains.” — MyFitnessPal user
An analysis of the user experience of four health websites found:
- Weight Watchers leads and Livestrong lags. Recent users of four fitness and nutrition websites reported an above average experience (SUPR-Q scores falling at the 69th percentile). Weight Watchers had the highest relative scores at the 80th percentile, with Livestrong scoring the lowest at the 54th. Livestrong also had the lowest NPS (-12%) and the worst brand attitude and trust scores.
- Users visit for nutrition facts and meal inspiration. Participants most frequently visited the health websites to look up nutritional facts and to find new recipes. Getting inspiration for healthy meals was a top reason to visit the websites, followed by reading fitness and nutrition articles. Participants in the follow-up usability study had a difficult time finding a recipe on Livestrong due to the unsophisticated search feature.
- The websites have to make users feel good and reduce friction to improve habits. “The website makes me feel good about myself” and “Using the website helped me improve my habits” were found to be significant key drivers of the health website user experience. Unfortunately, only 59% of participants across the sites agreed that the websites made them feel good; there is clear room for improvement.
- The mobile experience is important. Mobile usage was high for this industry: 66% of participants reported using the mobile website and 50% use the mobile app across the brands, and 31% of ChooseMyPlate and 27% of Weight Watchers users visit the mobile app daily. Participants like to use the app as a way to track their meals and workouts on the go. The ability to scan in foods is important, though participants would like the food databases to be more robust.