Design Critique — Lifesum (iOS)

Welcome animation of Lifesum

This article will be a review and critique of the Lifesum app by applying terms in The Design of Everyday Things — Don Norman. Besides, I will present the problems and provide suggestions to improve their app from a UX perspective.

About Lifesum

Lifesum helps you track your food and your exercise to live a healthier life and reach your fitness goals through better eating. You can add personal data, goal, calorie intake, and set distribution between carbs, protein and fat. You take control of your health in an easy simple way along with different options.

Considering 3 levels of human processing cognition and emotion: Visceral, Behavioral, and Reflective

Overall, this App is successful because its design have taken place at all levels.

Visceral level:

Visceral responses are quickly and subconsciously, and are sensitive to only current state, without conscious awareness or control. For designers, the visceral response is about immediate perception.

Lifesum’s simplified user interface(appearance) use aesthetic sensibilities to drive visceral responses. Green color gives users immediate perception of healthy living. Those playful screens balance the allocation of buttons, icons, illustrations, animations, and texts.

Behavioral level:

“It is important to be aware of my diet and to make a conscious effort in choosing healthier alternatives. I have been able to slowly build good eating habits by staying on track with my goals.”

For designers, the most critical aspect is that every action is associated with an expectation. The information in the feedback loop of evaluation confirms or disconfirms the expectations, resulting in satisfaction or frustration.

People often want to know measurable achievement. Lifesum knows how to stimulate people to keep tracking nutrition in the App. Besides, it has premium version, and the advertising approach is appropriate, just reminds users when the advaced funtions are most needed.

Reflective level

The reflective level is he home of conscious cognition, where deep understanding develops, where reasoning decision-making take place. Highest levels of emotions come from here, where predictions of the future take place.

Users trust the widely accepted principle that absorbing less calories leads to weight losing, vice versa. This kind of cognition, reasoning, and understanding will contribute to the decision-making, which means users tend to continue using the app to achieve their goals. The further confident emotion towards their body and health will also contribute to user loyalty. Emotion and cognition are tightly intertwined.

Analyzing principles based on 4 key attributes:

Signifiers, Mapping, Constrains, Feedback, Discoverability, Complexity & Confusion

1. Find a diet you love and start a simplified meal plan

(1) Two “TAKE THE TEXT” buttons on the top and bottom are visible signifiers. Good discoverability provides quick access to test.(1

(2) Use real images as understandable mappings to give users a general sense of what plans will be like. For example, avocado for Keto Diet, olive for Mediterranean, salmon for Scandinavian, and dumbbell for Food for Strength.

2. Track your meal in different ways

There are two ways of adding food: clicking the lunch card or the “+” button in the bottom navigation.

Typing keywords
Scanning barcode

The using flow contains a lot of step to just add one kind of food, and a lunch contains more than one thing so this flow is repeated to add the whole meal.

The purple header is taking up a lot of space and with no purpose, which is not a good conceptual model. The photo icon is lack of discoverability. It’s a nice to have feature but not necessary it’s taking up half of the screen.

Suggestion: reduce the space of photo for meals.

(2) Update amount: users need to go back to the meal in the app and update the grams or amount of the food. This also contains a number of clicks which increases complexity.

Suggestion: add minus and plus button for each kind of food, instead of enter it and edit amount.

“Recent” and “Same as yesterday” could be a shortcut access.

(3) Progress circle has a good discoverability, since it is the most important feature. Users can see how many calories left and whether hitting macros.

(4) “+” button is a good signifier, but there is no need to add meals through this button. The bottom navigation button is not a effective conceptual model. It’s not consistent to add something by using the navigation bar. It also takes more time to first find lunch and then click “+” than just click “+” on the lunch card.

Suggestion: remove adding meals feature in “+” button’s, and only remain weight, water, and body information.

(5) Water tracker doesn’t give enough feedback. No tips or reminds when clicking.

Suggestion: add reminding sentence like “You should drink two more cups of water.”

(6) Fruit tracker brings confusion because different fruits have different serving and nutrition. For example, one apple’s carbohydrate is much more than strawberry, and users may not notice this. So the tracker can not guide users well.

Suggestion: remove fruit tracker and just let users record fruit in meals.

3. Enjoy hundreds of tasty and nutritious recipes

(1) Favorite recipes are lack of discoverability.

Suggestion: move favorite recipes to the top.

(2) Filter is not too complex and confusing, users have no idea what will it include.

Suggestion: design drop downs for different categories.

(3) Dietary type is easy to find but hard to change. Have no feedback when clicking, and have to return back to profile setting to change food preferences.

Suggestion: make tag clickable and changeable.

(4) Lack of discoverability for removing favorites. Steps to remove favorite is complex.

Suggestion: add interaction gesture that enable to slip right to delete favorites.

4. Track your exercise

Users can add favorite food to meal, but no feature that is to add favorite exercise, which is a poor mapping. Even there is no access to favorite an exercise, which harms the consistency.

Suggestion: add “love” icon to exercise.

Give constraints to solve ethical problem

People are easy to get distracted from the real world. Body shame is ubiquitous and many girls are underweight. While in Lifesum, if users set their BMI goal too low, their plans cannot work at all. This constraint somehow guarantees the safety of losing weight, and raise the awareness of self-care.

Other improvement suggestions

  1. Display the values of the day; the calories, carbs, protein and fat when adding new food and not only at the start screen, which will increase consistency.
  2. Add a section to take progress photos in the profile, not just text recording, because people are visual animals. Pictures can provide better feedback.




Product and UX Designer. A graduate student from Pratt Information Experience Design.

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Yolanda Tian

Yolanda Tian

Product and UX Designer. A graduate student from Pratt Information Experience Design.

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