UX Design Project (HCDE 518 at University of Washington)

A gym buddy finder app to help women feel welcomed and confident in strength training spaces.


HCDE 518 at UW


September to December 2021


Miro, Figma

My role

UX designer

Team members

Lily Liu, Mina Ryu, Yixi Liu, Ilia Savin, and Meghna Balachandran


Conducting two 45 minutes user interviews and 1 usability study, making observations using the fly on the wall method, participating in the ideation process, conducting concept testing, making wireframing, low and mid-fidelity prototyping, and iterating on designs.
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Project Overview

the product

Our team designed a gym buddy finder app to help women feel welcomed and confident in strength training spaces. On top of finding a gym buddy, people can easily navigate the gym space, learn how to use the equipment, find like-minded groups to workout and share tips, and report harassment.

the problem

Our motivation for pursuing this problem space came from conducting secondary research, which proved that sexual harassment and discomfort in gyms disproportionately affected young women.  

a. 56.37% of gym-going women have experienced harassment at the gym. 
b. Sexual harassment is 2.68X more likely to occur to women than men at the gym.    
c. 92.31% of cases of harassment against females at gyms go unreported.

Design question

Design goals

1. Help women achieve their fitness goals without distraction.
2. Help women stay safe and feel comfortable at the gym.
3. Facilitate positive interactions at the gym.
4. Help navigate the gym space keeping accessibility in mind.
5. Offer a personalized gym experience for everyone regardless of their experience level.

our design process

Understanding the user

user research Summary

#1. Survey

A total of 258 women responded to our survey. Survey respondents reported various forms of harassment and discomfort.

Q: What forms of discomfort do women experience at gyms?
A: The most common sources of discomfort were being stared at, repeated requests for phone numbers, and having photos/videos taken without permission.

#2. Fly on the Wall

Independent observations were conducted by three people in four different spaces within the Intramural Activities Building at the University of Washington between 9:30 am to 12:30 pm on a Friday. The researchers worked out in each of the spaces and took notes on their phones in between exercise sets to avoid being conspicuous and biasing the participants in any way.

From the observation, the team found that women tended to work out together in groups consisting of 2 or more people and they were similar in racial background, dress style, physical capabilities, and body sizes.

Q: How do behaviors and interactions vary with respect to gender within gym spaces?
A: Women tend to work together with friends.

#3. User Interviews

Our participants were five gym-going women between the ages of 18-35 chosen based on their responses to the screening survey. We also conducted a stakeholder interview with a local gym owner in Seattle. Notes from the interviews were analyzed using affinity mapping, and helped breathe life into our personas.

Q: Why do women change their behaviors at gyms?
A: Women change their behaviors to avoid attracting attention. They change their body language, workout schedule, exercise posture, and clothes.

User Persona

Based on the insights and findings, we created a persona to gain alignment and guide our future design decisions.


Based on research insights, we moved on to ideate possible solutions.

We synthesized all our ideas and were able to identify three main directions:

1. Build smart or wearable technology to create a personalized training experience at the gym.
2. Design a self-guided tour with an AI assistant to help women navigate the gym space more effortlessly.
3. Build a social app where women can find a partner to work out together at the gym.

Concept Testing

To validate our concepts, we each spoke to friends and a gym owner for an informal concept test. We showed our concepts to each user and asked for their feedback and opinions.

The “find a workout buddy” feature was well-received by all users and stakeholders. Users said they wanted to meet more gym-going women and that having a partner with them would give them more confidence. A gym owner and personal trainer really liked the idea because it would strengthen the gym community.


We want to help people go to the gym consistently, even if their regular partner can't make it.
Here, we created two scenarios, which defined the two main features of our design:
quick match and finding a long-term buddy

user flow

We created a flowchart to understand the path a user takes when they are finding a gym buddy on the app.

Link to Flowchart

Starting the design

digital Wireframes

Considering the user research, our team made digital wireframes to quickly iterate on our ideas.

Mid-fidelity Prototype

We created this prototype in preparation for our usability tests.

Usability Testing

Usability tests were conducted with three female-identifying students who had access to the IMA building at the University of Washington. We used the severity rating scale described below to help us prioritize and fix usability problems.

Refining the design

Issue #1. availability hard to see at a glance

2 out of 3 of our users wanted a better way to visualize how their availability matched with their potential partners. The team worked on how to make the information easily scannable.

Issue #2. awkward first message

All participants found sending the first text to a potential partner to be awkward. We redesigned to make a streamlined system for sending a request to join.

Issue #3. equipment details page were hidden

2 of the 3 participants found the drag interaction to view the entire equipment details page confusing. We changed the draggable pop-up window to a separate page to make contents easily discoverable.

design system

We created a visual style guide to increase the fidelity of our prototype.

High-Fidelity Prototype

After making these iterations based on the usability testing, we arrived at our final design solution!

Click here to interact with the prototype!

Going Forward

what we learned

1. Always ask users
After the ideation phase, we had so many great ideas. They were all our treasured ideas, and we couldn't decide which idea was the best one to pursue within our limited time frames. So the team decided to do a casual concept testing with potential users and asked what they thought about our ideas. Users had an answer to the question we could not solve ourselves. And we were able to redefine our project scope.

2. Be specific about the project scope
Although our team’s broad scope at the beginning helped us generate lots of ideas, it became confusing and overwhelming as we moved into prototyping. If we were to do it differently, we would have defined our project scope and core features earlier in order to use our limited time more efficiently.

next steps

1. Conduct another round of usability studies
If we had more time, we would have conducted one more round of usability studies to see if the changes we made after our first usability testing were effective.

2. Build on the secondary features of the app
We found that during the usability testing, participants seemed to be interested in the features associated with navigating the gym spaces. The time constraint allowed us to mainly focus on the buddy feature.