Swim Spa came in as a business opportunity because of covid-19. More and more people are swimming in their backyards. And this gave us the opportunity to perfect the experience in their stationary swim spas.
Why This Project
To begin with, you might wonder what a swim spa is. Swim Spa is usually known as Endless Pool or Jacuzzis, but they are just brands of the category of Swim Spa. Swim Spa in general is a smaller stationary pool where someone can either swim within it without moving any distance or turning because the jet engine of the swim spa will move the water, so technically swimmers are simply just swimming in the same position.
You may or may not have never seen swam in a swim spa, neither have I. After all, it is usually $30,000 at least. But that’s a big opportunity for FORM and our swimming goggles. Because of covid quarantine, we saw a huge surge of people swimming in their back yards.
However, because of the nature of our design in our current goggles software, it can’t really support the swims user are doing in their swim spas. Here we saw a business opportunity as well as a design opportunity for swim spa users.
Business-wise, based on the data analysis we did for our current data, swim spa owners who used FORM goggles usually are triathletes or well-established swimmers. That’s good news for us because based on previous research, triathletes are most likely to spend money on gadgets that will help with their skills.
User-wise, triathletes have been a focus of the company since the beginning of 2019. Because of quarantine, triathlons are canceled, swimming pools are closed, so the only place where triathletes can train is either in open water such as the ocean or river or in a swim spa in their backyards. But not everyone has access to open water. Our design and software don’t support enough data from user swimming in a swim spa. Not to mention users who swim in a swim spa that has levels of speed in their jet engines.
Pen, Paper, Sketch, Overflow
Challenge of Designing for Swim Spas
Likely other swimming related projects in FORM, swim spa project needs to design for
two platforms - App and Goggles, as well as keeping them synced and connected.
Another challenge is because of a connection with certain brands, there needs to be a differentiation between those brands and other brands. And since the goggles have limited memory on it, we also can’t simply load all the models in there and the complexity on the tech side also has more unknown elements involved.
Visual wise, new icons and fonts are required for swim spa mode. With limited pixels we can use, creating fonts and icons is also a challenge.
The overall strategy for the swim spa project is to keep it simple and create as little tech challenge as possible because of the tight schedule and another bigger project that was being developed at the same time. To cater to that, the design was first focused on the Goggles side because it will require more effort to develop the experience on the iOS and android app.
On the app side, the experience is very simple, the only thing users need to do is to enter their Swim Spa device and choose the metrics they want to see during a swim spa swim. Although the metrics will be limited to some swim spas because of the business choices we made. So certain metrics will not be shown if the user is swimming in an “Other” swim spa.
On the Goggles side, it is more complex compared to the app side.
1. We need to identify if users have edited any metrics in the app, which will require users to sync the goggles with the app first before they can start a swim spa swim.
2. There will be two different user types that have different approaches. A new user who has never set up a swim spa and returning users who set up a swim spa before.
3. Scenarios of users who will switch swim spas, maybe they will swim in a different place.
After a product team inside review, we were all happy with this design. On the Goggles side, it gave users a lot of flexibility to edit their swim spas at any time, on the app side it is very simple and we can reuse current design components.
But there is always a dark turn after everything goes so well, right?
After a design review with devs and the QA team, something came up, the amount of work on the Goggles side is a lot more than they expected, the effort and time they need to put in are going to be too much. Other than that, we will need to store a lot of data in the Goggles. But the big question is, is this effort we are going to put in on the dev side worth the result we are going to get?
The ROI of this design is in question. This is the thing I missed when designing this experience. Although the experience itself is good, all corner cases were covered, however, the complexity of it on Goggles is only catering to a very small amount of use cases. It creates a more smooth and easy experience for all users, but that scenario will probably never be used by the majority of the users, while it will create more stress on the Goggles hardware.
So we decided to pivot from this direction and move onto an App heavy experience, where we give users the ability to select and connect a Swim Spa in the app first and then sync with Goggles to start their swim spa swim, which is a commonly used behavior within the app and goggles experience.
As you can see, we gave users the option to set up their swim spa in the app and edit metrics within the app as well. While in the goggles, they have fewer options other than choosing which swim spa category they are swimming in as well as switching the speed within a swim spa.
You might ask why aren’t you giving users the ability to edit their swim spas in app? Why do they have to unlink a swim spa first before changing their swim spa model? Well, I learned my lesson from the first version we had. Switching swim spas is not at all common, changing a model is the same as changing a brand. Very few users have two swim spas at home for them to switch back and forth. Besides, unlinking and linking a swim spa is so easy, it is only two taps. So instead of catering to a scenario where very few people will encounter, under a tight deadline, we decided to remove the function of editing a swim spa.
App UI and Goggles UI
On the Goggles side, UI is completely different from app UI. I had to create a new font and a swim spa icon, USING a LIMITED AMOUNT OF PIXELS. For example, the font is 4px by 6px. The icon is slightly bigger, but not that much.
The way I approached this is to use our current fonts as a reference, study how each character was designed at first. But at the same time, those fonts have more pixels available to them, so some characters might not look the same at all. Such as the character “8”, it is one of the tallest letters, and it needs more space to make it readable in the goggles. In bigger fonts, the hollow part of 8 could be 4 pixels or 2 pixels, but for this one, it can only be 1 pixel for the hollow part. And then I had to use a font manager app called FontForge to draw pixels within a pixel block.
Another big thing to think about is accessibility. Will the look of the font be readable in Goggles? With a limited amount of pixels I can use, the readability of the characters is also very important.
As you can see, the screen is very very small, you can barely see anything. let me enlarge it to show what the fonts and icons actually look like.
This is a live photo I captured from the Goggles. You can see every single pixel within the display.
On the app side, I tried to make it as simple and reusable as possible because of the fact that we don’t have too much time to develop this.
Swim Spa feature gives users the ability to swim in a swim spa and see more detailed data than before. It delivers a very lean experience as well as bringing more revenue directly from sponsorship relationships. More importantly, it opens a brand new market for FORM, which is home swimming, even if you don’t have a fancy swim spa at home, you can still use tethering swim in your Kiddie Pools for only over $100.
The key learning for me from this project is how to design something under a very tight deadline and the importance of design ROI. Designs are good, but is it enough to bring the time we spent on it with revenue? Is this something we should consider for MVP or something we can add on after?
Designing a pixel font is also very fun. Unlike designing for mobile or an app, designing within limited pixels requires constant testing within the real display. In photoshop, it might look clear to read, however, when put into a 72x54 display, it might be too small to read or too hard to read. The accessibility issue is very huge in this case. Designing pixel icons also required me to look deeper into what the content of this product is, for example for the swim spa icon, how to make it look like a swim spa? I had to figure out the difference between the swim spa and other pools. Other than water, there’s a jet engine water stream in there, using pixels to illustrate that is tough but got me to pay more attention to detailed aspects of a product.