The story of design at Weight Watchers
My sister is 14 years older than me. Memories of growing up with her involved mainly blue eyeshadow, tapes of Bryan Adams and amazingly teased hair. Also, Weight Watchers. I remember my sister going to Weight Watchers meetings, coming home with boxes of food and trying to battle the weight that can make one’s teen years even more horrible than they usually are.
Flash forward some years later. An opportunity came about to join Weight Watchers as their first User Researcher. My only experience of Weight Watchers was through my sister in the early 90’s and at first glance, it wasn’t exactly a company that screamed innovation. But here was the opportunity — to help design a product that millions of people consider their lifeline. My manager had recently joined from an acquisition and he came from the world of design thinking.
He got it. He knew what Weight Watchers needed to create a meaningful product and understood the value of user research.
“One of usability’s most hard-earned lessons is that ‘you are not the user.’ If you work on a development project, you’re atypical by definition. Design to optimize the user experience for outsiders, not insiders.” — Jakob Nielsen
I joined a very new and young team at Weight Watchers. We knew the Weight Watchers that our moms and aunts had used and we knew the current health tech landscape full of wearables like FitBit and apps like MyFitnessPal.
But even though we were (are!) young, we were inspired — and believed that we first had to understand the challenges, needs and goals of our members before we could design for them. For us to understand the needs members are unaware of and behaviors they are not conscious of, we decided to create personas. And in order to do this, we met our members where they were — in their home.
We traveled across the U.S., talking to members, watching how they use our products and diving into their underlining goals. In the end, we created a primary and secondary persona that helped to drive our product decisions and create an experience that maps to actual member needs and behaviors.