Needs Analysis


For our Human Factors and Interface Design project, Team Soul Patch is examining the ways that personal trainers log their clients’ workouts and keep focused on their clients’ goals. We originally concentrated on scheduling because trainers have very packed schedules and are short on time. Then, we figured that trainer’s real goals and values are to help clients improve. To alleviate time constraints, we wanted to make the workout logging process easier and quicker through a mobile interface. To emphasize client improvement, we made it simple for the trainer to be reminded of the the client’s goals and how the client has been progressing. To help them facilitate communication between the trainer and client, we allowed for easy sharing of the workouts and progress charts. Our interface would ideally help personal trainers have the easiest and quickest possible experience in keeping track of past workouts and client progress to motivate their clients in achieving their fitness goals.

We first interviewed trainers

Our main goals during the course of our user interviews were to discover what challenges personal trainers faced while managing their clients. We had initially planned on interviewing people who go to the gym as our original target user group. However, we ran into a few ethical and gym policy roadblocks and decided to pivot our idea and target personal trainers as our new user group. As a user group, personal trainers were more accessible and we personally felt like there was more opportunity to create a compelling interface for them.

Fortunately, we made this decision at a point where it wouldn't be difficult for us to schedule in personal trainer interviews, despite already having done some research concerning gym users. We went into these interviews with a list of open ended questions with the hopes that we would discover an unexplored opportunity to make their lives easier. Our questions inquired about the tools personal trainers used to track their client workouts, how they motivated clients and how they scheduled workouts. Furthermore, they touched upon their motivation for their career choices and how any insecurities or feelings about maintaining a fitness driven lifestyle.

In terms of interview logistics, we conducted the interviews in groups of two and were able to interview two trainers on the phone. We went to the Wellesley BSC and a few other gyms in the Needham area. Overall, we conducted five interviews. Here are three of the more useful interviews.

Member Services Guy

  • Average health club members want personalized experiences
  • Members have to stay motivated and they are confused about what they want and often have to have their goals deciphered.
  • Members services and trainers help their clients define what “being fit” means to them individually and have to remind them
  • Members can be broken down into the following categories: Deconditioned, Former Exerciser, Current Exerciser

Local Small Gym Owner

  • Used both positive and negative feedback
  • Very encouraging during workouts, pushy in between workouts
  • Lots of branding
  • displayed her schedule on a large monitor (time seemed important to her)
  • was playing aggressive heavy metal through Pandora to set a fast pace for the session

Experienced Trainer that makes house calls

  • Started training through his fascination with a human body
  • Molded his schedule around his clients’ work schedules
  • Tried to make exercising more important to his clients
  • Clients often make appointments with him so that they can work out regularly, their only goal is consistency
  • Used texts as written record of appointment schedules
  • A lot of his on-boarding process with clients was figuring their goals out, and what they did or did not enjoy doing
  • Body language played a big role for him in terms of getting feedback from the client
  • Sometimes “tricks” clients (having them get in and out of a chair instead of doing a squat)
  • Gets frustrated when people don’t follow what he says when they’re outside of training sessions
  • Gives a lot of nutritional advice
  • He knows what most of his clients do outside of the sessions, encourages them and makes their they stay on track
  • Needs a personal assistant for his own life
  • Feels a lot of pressure to stay fit
  • Believes that trainers with integrity are those that are fit


We outlined four sets of primary characteristics

Once we’d accomplished a few interviews, we started defining users according to the characteristics most relevant to personal training. We noticed that only some of our users were actually affiliated with a gym, and that they all had diverse training styles. We believed that their professional characteristics reflect their personalities, so we used those characteristics to start persona creation.

These characteristics were split into four categories: a trainer’s motivation for training, their gym affiliation, their level of education, and their method of encouragement for clients. We sourced these metrics from our user interviews with and observations of trainers. We felt like gym affiliation and education were fairly obvious metrics, as they distinctly separate different types of trainers, but we found the most interesting diversity in the trainer’s reason for training and their method of encouragement for clients. These metrics defined our persona’s personalities, and helped us develop a deeper understanding of our personas.

Reason for training

  • Evangelical (wants everyone to be fit)
  • Humanist (wants people to be happy)
  • Opportunist (recognizes own training skill and uses training as a job)

Gym Affiliation

  • Works at a gym
  • Owns a gym
  • Not affiliated with a gym


  • No health degree
  • One health degree
  • Multiple degrees and certifications


  • Negative feedback
  • Mixed feedback
  • Positive feedback

We created three preliminary personas

To develop preliminary personas, we wrote these four metrics on the board and starting combining them, emulating the combinations we saw in our user interviews. Since we had three options for each metric, we came up with three preliminary personas: Ben the Partner, Rob the Gym Sergeant, and Mike the Life Coach. As you can see in the pictures below, these personas were preliminary. Our process in creating these personas was highly organic, as we wanted to flesh out their personalities along with their training styles, and move from that to what kinds of tools these personas may need.


Mike Spiros the Life Coach is the embodiment of a humanist trainer, who works outside a gym, has one health degree and uses a mix of positive and negative feedback with his clients. He trains people because he wants those people to be happy, healthy and fit. We wanted Mike to represent the travelling trainers we interviewed, while highlighting the problems unique to not being associated with a gym. This way, a product that worked for him would fit the workflow of the others, since his workflow took more time.

Ben Sakai the Partner is an opportunistic trainer, who himself lost a lot of weight through training and trains as a side job to make some extra money. He’s very encouraging, and bases his training sessions solely on his experience. He likes to keep his life separate from his job, and that reflects the attitude we saw from some trainers that treat training as a job. They can still connect with clients, but they tend not to lose sight of their personal lives and their personal workout goals. Since we were originally focusing on scheduling, Ben represented an interesting case since he had times in his calendar that were un-movable. Now that we’ve switched to workout and goal tracking, we aim to help Ben really dig into his client’s goals in order to decouple them from his own.

Robert White the Gym Sergeant is an evangelical trainer. He is the oldest of our personas, and it classically trained with a degree in health. He’s also the most successful of our personas, as he has his old gym. We based him on trainers that are tough on their clients and have methodologies that don’t change from client to client. He is a difficult persona to design for, since his relationship with technology isn’t as strong as Ben or Mike’s. He’s a clipboard loving person, and when we originally aimed at scheduling, his biggest problem was that no one looked at the schedules he posted in the tack board in his gym. Now that we’ve pivoted to tracking, Robert has become a less prominent persona, as we feel his problems are less interesting.

We created a list of common tasks for personal trainers

We then used this list and our personas to create a mapping between a persona and how important a task was to them (right scale) and how often they did this task (left scale).

As a group, we identified three main goals our users wanted to achieve. These goals were to facilitate scheduling, communicating with clients, and presentation of progress. In order to achieve these goals, our users must accomplish the tasks listed in the scale. These tasks were identified by walking through the process that our users might utilize in order to accomplish the goal at hand. We believed that a scale was an effective way to display these goals and tasks, as one could very simply see and understand the importance and frequency of the goals and tasks.

List of Trainer Tasks
Task Analysis


We created scenarios with the goals and tasks in mind to determine how these tasks and goals were currently being carried out by our individual users. The six scenarios pictured here illustrate either Before and Afters or illustrations of existing frustrations that we would like to tackle with our project. For example, Ben schedules an appointment with his client. They compare their schedules and decided on a date but later have to change it to unforeseen circumstances. Ben then calls around to all this clients to try to fill in the newly open slot, a very labor intensive process.

We picked the areas of interest and reframed personas

Areas of interest

  • Setting client goals
  • Communicating client's progress

We identified some of these tasks we found interesting to solve through software and we reframed our personas from the perspective of the kind of software we want to make. We used this re-framing to formally draft up our personas.

Story Boards

Once we had more developed personas, we brainstormed myriad different solutions for the problems each persona had. Initially, these solutions were around scheduling and client communication, but we pivoted to focusing on communicating a client’s goals to the trainer and helping trainers communicate progress to their clients. Keeping these goals in mind, we created three storyboards. One shows a system that a trainer can use to help find out a client’s goals, another helps trainers how their clients how their workouts are relevant to their goals, and a third helps trainers input information about each client’s workouts and sends that information to clients in a way that’s easy to consume and understand. All three ideas try to empower the trainer to motivate their client through showing the client progress and relevance to goals.

Work distribution

Cypress Noam Sharon Dana
User interviews 23% 31% 23% 23%
Task Analysis 25% 25% 25% 25%
Personas (v1) 25% 25% 25% 25%
Personas (v2) 30% 20% 20% 30%
Scenarios 10% 30% 30% 30%
Idea brainstorming 25% 25% 25% 25%
Storyboards 35% 35% 20% 10%
Website 80% 8% 6% 6%

© 2012 Cypress Frankenfeld, Dana Lee, Sharon Tam, Noam Rubin