The Challenge

At it's core, Fitbit is about encouraging people to be more active and healthy. Quantitative and qualitative research revealed that real-world social connections around sports and dieting lead to more success. And we saw the same thing on the Fitbit platform–users with more Friends on Fitbit were more engaged, had more activity, and were more likely to achieve their goals. The downside: the social layer was very shallow on Fitbit, with a vast majority of users having one or no Friends on the platform. And we heard repeatedly in research that many people on their fitness journey didn't know where to start, and felt alone in making often-challenging life changes to improve their health.


The design team created a social network from scratch around goals identified in user research—a way for users a safe space to get encouragement from "people like me" and a place to find advice from experts. Community launched to immediate success with 5.7 million users and over a million posts in the first month. Posting and engagement rates are significantly higher than on other social networks, while abuse is practically nonexistent. People are using Community to share deeply personal stories, ask for advice, and get cheerful support on their health journeys.




By the initial launch, the larger product team was widely regarded as the most well-performing at the company—with an open and collaborative relationship between Design, Product, and Engineering. The team shipped a complex social product that was polished and delightful for a 1.0 version, and shipped it on time in nine months.

Qualitative User Research

We started the process by working in conjunction with a UX Researcher and Product Manager. We reached out to users via dscout—allowing us to give them a series of missions and receive in-the-moment feedback from them. 


After identifying some baseline design principles, we sketched out the broad strokes of the platform. Because Fitbit holds highly personal information and sensitive health data, we always referenced the privacy of our users while still providing them with easy mechanisms to share their stories.

We also started with an initial list of "artifacts" users might want to share into Community and other social networks—exercise activities, photos, and badges. The design team then constructed a design framework for those sharable artifacts, and provided the larger design team with the ability to quickly construct them for their particular features in the app.

We also designed a bespoke moderation system to allow for easy reporting and moderation using human moderators, but one that would allow us set the stage for doing an increasing amount of moderation using machine learning over time.


After the initial framework was determined, we collaborated with Product Management on a roadmap and set out to design the more detailed interactions and visuals about 1-2 sprints ahead of the engineering team working three time zones away. We ensured close collaboration with daily standups and regular shakeouts—always letting the team know what design phase we were in to ensure the right kind of feedback.


Throughout the project, we captured our designs in a Lean-UX-style online documentation built progressively on a wiki. This allowed for a living documentation that reflected our current thinking and allowed for immediate feedback from the larger product team. It also allowed us to keep a consolidated list of future improvements, and continually prioritized "what to work on next" in close cooperation with Product Management.


Once the code was stable, we conducted an 8-week internal beta with 100 Fitbit employees. Much of what we learned validated the overall designs. But we also learned that more unique artifacts (like photos) were more interesting than more generic ones (like badges)—users shared those more, and liked those more. In response, we redesigned the posting flow and artifact elements to preference those that allowed for quick-and-easy storytelling.


Following the beta and going past the launch, we continued to refine the design vision—turning Community into a platform for our users to share and interact with others everywhere within the Fitbit ecosystem. As first steps, the design team established overarching patterns and has begun consulting/collaborating with other teams on how to best incorporate social elements into other areas of the app seamlessly.