Case Study 2022

A mobile App that makes at-home physical therapy exercises engaging and motivating

My Role
Lead UX Designer
UX Designer
Aug. 2022-Dec. 2022
4 months
Druti Naik
Sydney Lodge
Plamen Tassev

Overview 👋👋

1. Problem

People fail to stick to the prescribed exercise outside of their clinic session

because of low engagement and ineffective communication with physical therapists outside the clinic, even though consistent in-between session exercises can significantly reduce the need for in-person clinic visits.

How might we make outside-of-clinic exercise
engaging and motivating?

2. Solution

A mobile App that empowers our users by providing an interactive way to perform assigned exercises.

The system offers real-time feedback on exercise form and progress, keeping users motivated. Also it facilitates communication between users and their physiotherapist, enabling users to address concerns about form and discomfort even outside of in-person sessions.

Engaging Exercise

Want to know if you are doing the exercise correctly?

The homepage displays the assigned exercises by their physiotherapist. Once the user clicks on the exercise, their virtual physiotherapy session begins. The users first need to make sure all the sensors are equipped correctly. Once the session starts, the avatar will perform the exercises. The bar illustrated will prompt instructions and turns green when the user hits the desired movement.
User can also sync a Spotify playlist or mirror the exercise on their TV screen to optimize their exercising experience.

Enhanced ways of communication

Want to get more targeted feedback?

In the chat page, users can message their therapist. The application provides shortcuts/suggestions for users to send the specific exercise they recently completed or exercise reports to show their recent progress. This allows for more effective communication between the physiotherapist and users because they can directly observe the users exercising and track progress trends to understand their progress better.

Schedule office hour

Need to discuss any problems before the next session?

In the chat page, the users can also choose to schedule a 15-mins call with their physiotherapists to address any issues they might have. When the users click on the schedule button, they can see the physiotherapists’ availability and choose what fit them best.

Checking Progress

Want to have someone to keep you accountable?

The profile page displays the user’s information, personal goals, progress, and exercise history. The page automatically records the user’s progress and turns it into graphs, making it easier for users to quickly understand trends and convey information more effectively.

Customization & Unlock New Looks

Need someone to keep you motivated?

The user has the opportunity to customize their avatar to make it more relatable to themselves when exercising. Additionally, the intervention also incorporates a gamification feature where they can unlock hidden accessories or earn a new look for their avatar when they achieve a certain amount of workout time.

3. Our Approach

Understanding Space
Defining Project Goal
Secondary Research
Project Timeline
User Interview
Competitive Analysis
User Flow
Style Guide
Interactive Prototype
Task-Based User Testing
Feedback Review

4. My contribution

Lead UX Designer

During the research phase, I led competitive analysis, formulated interview questions, and conducted user interviews.
In the design phase, I initiated the brainstorming session to engage everyone on the team and generate innovative ideas. I transformed the ideas into visual sketches and storyboards, defined core functionality and the primary user flow, and designed the user interface for avatar creation and exercise processes in Figma.
In the evaluation phase, I created interactive prototypes, moderated user testing and guided users through the sessions.

Research ✍️

1. Background Research

Affordability, time and transportation are barriers people face with in-person PT

Physical therapy is a rapidly growing industry with broad appeal. However, adherence poses a significant challenge for good clinical outcomes. Patients complained about the affordability, limited time spent with a therapist, or simply not having enough time to fit it into their schedule.


people seeking physiotherapy within the US per year.


of people perceive physiotherapy to be the most effective.


in-person PT patients complete their prescribed course of care.

Current digital solutions lack efficient feedback for improvement and motivational incentives.


- Demonstrated exercises
and modifications
- Virtual Health coach
- Feedback from motion-tracking
- Personalized program


- Guided live exercises sessions
- Real-time feedback
- Live interaction and motivation from the instructors
- Work out with friends


- Match with a physical therapist
- Book appointments
- Deliver physical therapy at home
- Prescribe in-app exercise in between sessions


The function of points system is basic and it only adds points when you finish exercise but there is no use of the points.


Lack of direct communication between the instructors and users. Users can't get customized feedback.


There is no real-time feedback on users' movement when doing exercises

2. Preliminary Research

3. Key Findings

Theme 1: Reliance

Patients rely on the guidance of their physical therapists, particularly when it comes to ensuring accurate execution of prescribed exercises.

Our secondary research unraveled some characteristics of physical therapists, such as interpersonal skills and empathy. Through our interviews, we further discovered that patients trust the opinion of the physical therapy providers. The finding was not surprising, however, it highlights the importance of credibility and trust in physical therapy to restore patient health.


"I relied on the physical therapists’ expertise to explain details about the exercises and wanted to learn why and how these exercises would help me address their pains"


"The single most important quality of physical therapists is to have experienced exactly related to the treatment"

Theme 2: Exercises

Exercises are heavily encouraged to be continued outside of the clinic, however, the completion rate is low.

All participants we interviewed were advised to exercise at home, while every physiotherapist we interviewed stated that they assigned exercises to be done by their clients independently.


“Movement is medicine. Our clinic begs clients to do as many of these exercises at home because they will heal much faster.”


"I ask them if they did any exercise. They could have done one stretch"

Theme 3: Motivation

Users are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to continue going to physical therapy

Consistency and adherence to the exercise is one of the major challenges we discovered in our secondary research. When probing what motivates patients to persist with physical therapy, some talked about a desire for self-awareness, while the majority mentioned they are motivated when they feel like they are progressing to some degree.


"I would struggle when I did not think I was seeing progress. My wife reminded me how much more active I had become because of the lesser pain, and that was helpful"


"Learning something new about my body kept me motivated"

Theme 4: Communication

Current communication outside the clinic is inefficient.

- The exercise assignment is mainly through two-dimensional paper handouts which lack interactivity and personalized feedback. Users often have difficulties in recalling and adhering to the prescribed exercises.

- The current communication between patients and physiotherapist are often via email or phone which is slow and inefficient to address specific questions

Example of Paper Product

"Right now, I have to e-mail the clinic, and they forward it to the PT. Then the PT will e-mail the clinic back, and they will forward it to me. It is a long process and often not worth it to me.”


“Some questions are so easy to answer. When patients put off exercise until the next session, and this happens every session, their progress is significantly slowed.”

3. Establishing Project Goal

When we initiated this project, we considered the possibility of replacing in-person physiotherapy entirely. However, following these interviews, we have a deeper understanding of the problem space and a greater appreciation for the individualized care and evaluation that physiotherapist provided to each client.
We decided to shift our focus towards enhancing virtual physiotherapy or exercise between sessions to ensure sustained progress for clients.

Thus we revised our project goal:

Initial Goal

Replacing in-person physiotherapy

Revised Goal

To enhance the at-home experience so that fewer in-person sessions are needed

Thus mitigating issues users have with ⌛ ️time, 💰 money and 🚗 transportation.

4. Target Group

Working professionals and college students who have chronic pain and are undergoing physical therapy.

We chose to target working professionals and college students because they often have limited time and budget constraints, along with other responsibilities in their lives.

5. Design Requirements

We've prioritized improving virtual physiotherapy between sessions to support clients' long-term progress.
Based on our findings, we identified functional and non-functional requirements for our design, including:

Functional requirement #1

During home exercises, patients currently lack real-time feedback. Our intervention aims to offer both correctness verification and positive reinforcement for progress.

Functional requirement #2

Our intervention aims to facilitate accountability by enabling users to track their progress and reflect on their journey, motivating them to engage in physical therapy and exercise both in-person and at home.

Functional requirement#3
effective communication

Our findings indicate that infrequent and indirect communication between sessions reduces long-term efficiency. Our intervention aims to foster faster and more convenient communication between physiotherapists and clients, ultimately enhancing physiotherapy outcomes.

Functional requirement #1

Our research suggests that our target users highly value trustworthiness and credibility in their physical therapists. To maintain these standards, our intervention will rely on consultations with licensed professionals for informed and credible decision-making.

Non-Functional #2

Both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are potent forces driving participant commitment to exercise and physical therapy. Thus, we aim to enhance motivation in our intervention to better engage users and reinforce their goals.

Non-Functional #3

Every client has unique needs, conditions, and objectives. Our intervention should empower users to personalize their journey for optimal results. This includes providing diverse exercises for various pain areas and flexible scheduling and plans to accommodate their preferences.

Ideation 🪄

1. Brainstorming

We used the Crazy-8 method to brainstorm ideas.

Gathered together, we set an eight-minute timer and each of us sketched eight design ideas on the whiteboard. The goal was to generate multiple ideas rapidly. Afterwards, we presented our eight ideas and highlighted our top five using different markers. Examining each other's concepts sparked a discussion on how to enhance and combine them, resulting in our final set of eight ideas.

Here are some of the final ideas generated from the brainstorming session:


Inspired by Just dance, it’s a console game for fun physical exercise using wearable sensors and provides group sessions with friends.


It is a Jungle-themed VR game for immersive physical therapy exercises transforming therapy moves into fun jungle activities

Hub it

Online platform for physical therapy patients to connect people with similar experiences where they can join meetups and share PT journeys.


It records physical therapy exercises with real-time feedback from the therapist.


An App with physiotherapy exercises featuring a customizable cartoon figure that grows stronger as users complete exercises and progress.

BubbleHabit Builder

An App for setting weekly goals with daily reminders. Uncompleted goals fill the screen with bubbles over time.


An App for physiotherapists to assign exercises with customizable video tutorials and a chat feature for patient communication.

Drop-in Pop-in

A website for patients and physical therapists to communicate and schedule appointments conveniently online.

2. Storyboard

After a carefully examination of how well each idea aligned with our design requirements, we selected the two designs that best fulfilled the majority of these criteria for further development.

An app enabling users to follow video guides for exercises prescribed by physiotherapists.

"P-Connect" is a mobile app for physiotherapists and clients. Physiotherapists assign exercises via their portal, while clients access them with customizable video tutorials.
Besides, it enables real-time  communicate for both parties through in-app chat for ongoing support.

An interactive console game that makes physical exercise enjoyable and sociable.

PhysioParty is a console game that combines physio exercises with entertainment.
Using position sensors common in gaming consoles, it tracks exercise performance and provides real-time feedback like 'Perfect' or 'Good.'
Users can also join group sessions to connect and exercise with others worldwide.

Design ✨

1. Design Solution

To meet design requirements to the fullest extent, we combine features from both ideas to shape our final design.

Recognizing user trust and the crucial role of physiotherapists, we chose P-connect as our main idea and integrated the gamification features of Physioparty to enhance motivation in our final design.Based on our research findings, there are two key issues we wanted to address in our design: effective communication and motivation.
After fully understand our goals, we decided on the core functionalities around these two main focuses.

How to facilitate effective communication?

Simple Pairing

- Pair via QR code
- Show Physiotherapist Info and Prescription

Engaging Exercises

- Prescribed exercise
- Video-recording
- TV and Music

Varied Channels

- Instant Chat
- Schedule quick Call
- Send video/ reports

How to improve engagement and promote motivation?

Gamified Experience

- Avatar Customization
- Outfit Personalization
- Unlock Special Outfits

Immediate Feedback

- Real-time feedback
- Form correction tips
- Outfit Personalization

Progress Tracking

- Visualizing progress
- Quantifying progress
- Multiple dimensions

Once we decided on the core functionalities, we mapped out the key user flows.

3. Iterations

4. Evaluation

To efficiently evaluate our prototype, we conducted a task-based evaluation among a group of four people. We designed three tasks for them to walkthrough and asked them for what works and recommendations for improvement.
We divided our questions into three groups, each corresponding to one of our most essential design requirements

Prototype ✨

1. Visual Style

Contrary to the cold and distant feeling of a clinic,  
P-Connect was intended to provoke a feeling of warmth, relaxed, and comfortable

We aimed for a fun, engaging, and modern look to motivate users to stay active.
The app features a balanced color palette, simple instructions, and an intuitive interface, catering to busy college students and professionals.

2. Final Design

3. Impact

To evaluate the effectiveness of our solution facilitate better communication between the therapist and users, as well as between the users and the app, we used Likert Scale with followup questions to evaluate the most three relevant design requirements: rich feedback, trustworthy and effective communication. In addition, to evaluate the overall experience and the usability of the application, we used Heuristic Evaluation in the form of a questionnaire.

Overall, we received positive feedback, particularly the direct interaction with the therapist and the aesthetic style of the app.

“I’ve left physical therapy offices with a stack of papers, ineffective and easy to get lost. It is helpful to have all the exercises in one place”

“Human connection with a physical therapist and personalized exercises would be very meaningful”

“I like that you can customize the look of the avatar, to make it  more relatable and easier to imagine that it's me”

Reflection 💭

1. What Have I Learned

Center the voices of who we were designing for but also engage stakeholders in the design process

Recognizing the significance of prioritizing users' needs in our design process, our initial inclination was to completely replace physiotherapy. However, through interviews, we gained insights into how our users genuinely value the physiotherapy process. It became evident that without engaging with physiotherapists directly, we would miss a comprehensive understanding of their work and the existing communication inefficiencies between the two parties. This dialogue was crucial for accurately identifying pain points.

Effective team collaboration contributes to the success of the project.

At the beginning of the project, we had much struggle as a team because we were not able to spend sufficient time together and we all came from different background and had different ideas to approach the problem and understanding of the design process. After many discussion and exploration, we finally found out how to effectively communicate with the help of tools like Miro among group members based on our situation and needs and despite our very different background and experience.

2. if i had more time...

Gain insights from real users in context.

Because of the time limit, we could only done a discount evaluation as a form of App walkthrough. However, our design idea is inhabited in action and the sensor and feedback during the exercise itself plays a critical role to the success of our design. Moving forward, we wanted to be able to test it out maybe using other method such as Wizard of OZ. We also have contact information from therapists and moving forward, it would be very beneficial to test our design with patients who are ongoing therapy and ask for opinions from them.

Complete the design of the Physiotherapist’s portal.

For this project, considering the time period of our project, we decided to only pursue the design of the users’ side in depth because it has a more complete features and reflects the functionality in the therapists’ end. In the future, I want to continue finishing the design of the Physiotherapist's’ portal and make the project more complete as a whole.

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