Engaged Research
In 2005, NWU research showed that using a Palm Treo, along with an accelerometer, to record diet and exercise increased the efficacy of the DPP. In 2009, they started this study to test a way to reduce the amount of doctor time needed to achieve the same effect. Instead of relying on a professional's ethos and charisma to motivate users to make healthy decisions, an Android app will make users into experts by giving them the information they need at the right time and place. See the NWU Study website for the latest updates.
We started with in-context interviews and follow-alongs with 3 females and 2 males, between the ages of 27 and 50 with BMI from 30 to 45.
After meeting a few participants for lunch to observe their choice of foods and discuss their exercise habits, we selected a subgroup for a followup interview in their homes. We joined them for a tour of their homes (especially their kitchens) and to observe them prepare a meal. What we saw, and the conversations that ensued, revealed a lot about what motivates these users and how they experience eating and exercise.
The project team was a group of ambitious students and academic professionals, so we had assumed that a sense of achievement and of competition would be the primary motivators for exercise and to change eating habits. When we talked to users about what motivates them, we found that socializing, community, and friendship were more important to them than competition and achievement. Based on this insight, we fundamentally changed part of the app from comparing users to letting them communicate and support each other.
What we found won't surprise anyone who has studied psychology or read Shakespeare. Still, it helped put the project in perspective to see that our user group was probably not hiding things from us as much as from themselves. Their stories were frequently inconsistent, and we concluded that they needed help to keep track of things like "How many cookies did I eat this week?". This hypothesis is reinforced by the success of the original, paper, DPP study, and led us to make the caloric feedback the primary item in the app.
We assumed that the information architecture would be based on some attribute of the food (i.e. food group, meal type, ethnic origin, etc), the primary characteristic participants use to identify foods is "how often do I eat this?"
To facilitate discussion between the multiple disciplines, the design team organized a workshop between the NWU clinicians, the software engineer, and the design team. We brainstormed app concepts to help participants in 3 scenarios, then ranked them according to efficacy and feasibility to get an idea of what to implement.
See daily totals of calories and fat, and weekly totals of physical activity. Record daily weight.

For more details about the interaction design process in this project, see Engaged Overview.

Select foods to record as eaten and get immediate feedback on how it fits into your diet.
Track progress over months and weeks. The home screen shows ongoing physical activity.
Share messages and status updates with teammates. See who is recording foods and activity.