NSF International is an organization that specializes in product testing and certification. The nonprofit puts brands through rigorous certification testing protocols to ensure their compliance with the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) guidelines. NSF approached EchoUser to redesign their NSF Certified for Sport mobile app, which hosts a queryable database of certified brands so users can determine the safety products like dietary supplements, protein powders, vitamins, energy drinks, sleeping pills, and other performance enhancers.
Initially, we discovered much room for improvement regarding the usability of the app. We noted several missing functionalities that would address two primary use cases, 1) users inputting incomplete queries to find a specific product they’re looking for, and 2) users browsing for something new based on a need they’d like to address.
The NSF Certified for Sport database serves a variety of end users, from prominent national sports teams to dietitians, professional athletes to high school football players.
Our task was to drastically redesign the iOS app, making the search function easier to use and more user-friendly while adding some key functionalities to improve the search process.
We began by conducting eight preliminary user interviews over two weeks to understand the needs of real NSF for Sport users and how they use the app to meet those needs. From these interviews we created three lightweight personas, and disproved some of our initial hypotheses concerning the needs of these users.
For example, we assumed that athletes and dietitians would be interested in a new app function that would allow users to track the supplements they take over time. However, real athletes and dietitians we interviewed revealed that while they do track blood, urine, and overall routine, they weren’t interested in tracking supplement intake or logging detailed dietary information on an app.
After a few weeks of interviews and concept designs, we had a day-long workshop with NSF at their headquarters in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We had the client team then make paper prototypes to ideate and test concepts on each other. Before jumping into the gritty details of a full-on design sprint, we were able to learn a lot from the paper prototyping exercise alone.
The workshop allowed both teams discover what was possible to accomplish given technical limitations, and clarified to the EchoUser team what the NSF wanted out of their app redesign. The session also established ownership for NSF stakeholders over the final product designs that emerged from the workshop.
With the use cases identified in our preliminary research, we designed three critical functionalities to add to the next version of the NSF for Sport iOS app:
1st use case: a user has a product in hand and wants to check if it’s certified by looking it up on the database.
New function: we added a scan feature to allow users to scan the barcode of the product, and the app returns whether or not the product is NSF for Sport certified.
2nd use case: a user wants to type in the name of a product and view the results.
New function: we added “Power Search,” a Spotify-esque functionality that suggests products and auto-populates the results section based on the words a user begins to type with relevant categories, brands, etc. For example, if a user types “Pro” to start looking up “Protein,” the app will assemble a variety of information related to protein (or the letters “P-R-O”) that might help the user.
3rd use case: a user wants to search for a product based on its use and not its name, e.g., a certified product that serves as a sleep aid.
New function: we assembled a “Browse” function to create a user flow for goal-oriented searching. With this new feature, users will be able to explore categories and subcategories for certified products that may fit their needs.
We worked with and around the technical limitations of the database. Since so much of the database was created and categorized manually, the EchoUser team consciously decided to design the ideal version of the app first, even though some components of our designs may not be implemented until v2, v3, and so on. This was to ensure that users get the features they need, even if they have to wait for a future release.
One notable challenge we faced was NSF’s broad range of users. We aimed to be as respectful as possible of all different users, from professional athletes to high school moms buying supplements for their football player kids.
Ultimately, we were able to simplify the NSF for Sport iOS app by enhancing existing user flows, while also introducing some new ones to ensure user satisfaction, and as part of our EchoUser UX as a Service engagement with NSF, we continued to collaborate up until the product launched on the App Store.