Habitry iOS

A cutting-edge behavior change app for health coaches.

The Mission

In 2014, Omar teamed up with Habitry co-founders Steven M. Ledbetter and Vanessa Naylon to work on our mission of "helping the most people to help the most people" by making products for health coaches.

Our central hypothesis was that the most effective and efficient way to help clients change their health behavior was in groups. However health coaches had no tools to work in groups online that preserved their high-touch, one-on-one approach.

A Motivation Design Problem

Most health coaches: "I need to coach more people, but I’m exhausted and have no way to scale my business.”

Most people who seek health & fitness: "Apps are convenient, but they don’t keep me motivated. If only there was a way to hire an expert I trust to keep me motivated with the convenience of an app.”

What if there was a way to scale coaching so more health coaches could help more clients, with the convenience of an app?

The Approach

Habitry took a Lean UX approach to figuring out potential customer pain points, testing potential solutions, and evaluating our ongoing efforts to iterate rapidly toward the right product.

This meant front-loading a lot of hypothesis testing with rapid prototyping, customer interviews, and mock ups.


On the advice of Angel Investor Jesse Robbins, Habitry started a series of UnconferencesThe Motivate Summits. These open, unscripted gatherings proved to be a fertile ground for exploring the non-technical approaches that health coaches were using, and the great lengths to which they were going to scale their businesses into "the other 167 hours" a week they were not with their clients.

We also conducted interviews with clients working with health coaches and people using health coaching apps in lieu of hiring a coach.


Defining Requirements

Using notes from the Discovery process, we developed personas of both coaches and clients to guide us through the ideation process. Initial customer development suggested our product would have to:

  1. Be mobile first (and on iOS specifically)
  2. Allow clients to interact with each other
  3. Provide Direct Messaging between coaches and clients
  4. Focus on a few key metrics shared by coaches and clients
  5. Be flexible enough to let coaches drive the content-creation
  6. Come coupled with a rich onboarding and education system for coaches

Motivating User Behavior

The best features in the world would have been useless if coaches didn't take advantage of them. We conducted a behavioral analysis to examine barriers and opportunities to motivate coaches to take action and maximize their odds of success from using our product. The diagram below was inspired by Dustin DiTomasso and Amy Bucher of mad*pow.

PSYCHOLOGICAL CAPABILITY Coaches lacked knowledge on facilitating habit formation with groups of clients.
REFLECTIVE MOTIVATION Coaches needed to feel the value of the Habitry iOS app to use it.
AUTOMATIC MOTIVATION Coaches needed to experience success in each session with the app to keep using it.
PHYSICAL OPPORTUNITY Coaches needed enough time in their daily schedule to launch and maintain client groups on Habitry iOS.
SOCIAL OPPORTUNITY Coaches needed a community of peers to support their motivation to keep using the Habitry iOS app.

Design Tactics

We aimed to increase Capability, Motivation, and Opportunity by selecting appropriate Behavior Change Techniques.

Improving Capability

We helped coaches support client habit formation by automating the behavior change techniques of Goal-Setting, Action Planning, Behavioral Contracts, Feedback on Behavior, Self-Monitoring of Behavior, and Push Notifications (aka the behavior change technique of "Prompts").

We educated coaches on how to create Positive Motivational Climates in their groups with the use of Autonomy Support, Competence Support, and Relatedness Support. This later became our Essentials of Habit Coaching product.

Improving Motivation

The next step was to improve Motivation.

We helped coaches to get started with as little fuss as possible by designing a great onboarding experience (Shaping Knowledge, Goal-Setting, Valued Self-Identity), habits to use with clients (Shaping Knowledge).

We also built an analytics system that generated insights (Feedback on Behavior & Re-attribution) so they could better manage their groups. For example, we did text analysis to measure changes in use of words that are markers of Basic Psychological Need support. This gave coaches insight into how well they were motivating clients in their groups.

Improving Opportunity

The final step was to improve Opportunity.

We created the Motivate Collective to provide Social Support, Shape Knowledge, and create a Valued Self-Identity for health coaches as MOTIVATORS. At the peak, there were 600+ members in the Motivate Collective.

Killer Feature: Motivating Push Notifications

In testing, it became obvious that the make-or-break feature of the mobile app would be push notifications. Coaches and their clients had both mentioned them frequently in discovery, and in 2014 people weren't quite sick of them yet.

In order to make sure we got it right, Omar looked at the research on creating motivating push notifications from Self-Determination Theory. Then he went a step further and recreated one of the study protocols. He wrote about the lessons from this experiment with Steven M. Ledbetter in How to Design Motivating Push Notifications.

The Product

With 19 Motivate Summits in 18 months and some user testing tools, we were able to watch users interact with our product and refine it. Here is a video of our first public release.


At the peak, Habitry iOS had more than 1,000 users on the platform. Health coaches were making an average of $3,000 per month on the app and clients were checking in with 72% daily adherence and 68% stuck around for a full 365 days.