We're talking about trying to get people to develop healthier habits and lifestyles, and use technology to do the trick, so Apps are a natural answer, right? And there are already tons of health trackers, from pedometers to apps that list the nutrients and vitamins of everything you have eaten during the day. Besides, nowadays it's all about the apps, and everyone loves them. But hey, is it enough to have an app and that's it?
There's a little catch there, which is: for an app to know which nutrients you've eaten and which ones are missing, you have to manually input everything you eat, so it can break it down into nutrients and analyze. EVERYTIME YOU EAT ANYTHING. So, what's the advantage for the user on doing that? "Knowing which nutrients are missing, to be able to work on a better diet" one could say. Well, there's the catch: that's the mindset of someone who is already an enthusiast of a healthy lifestyle - someone who would do it anyway, even if there wasn't an app. But it is very unlikely that someone who hasn't seen the point on changing to a healthier lifestyle yet (or is worried about it, but not that much) would go through all that work just to get some nutritional facts.
I'll give a personal example to illustrate that: Some weeks ago, I realised I wasn't drinking enough water during the day. So what was my plan for that? Download an app, of course! An app that calculates the amount of water I should drink, remind me to drink it and track my water intake during the day. I've used that app for like... three days! I never remembered to input the water I drank, ignored the notifications reminding me to drink water, it was awful. So how is it possible that I can't just click a button when I drink a cup of water, but on the other hand never forget to check in on EVERY PLACE I GO on Foursquare (well, now Swarm)?
It has lost it on the way, but when I developed the habit, Foursquare had a pretty good gamification strategy: I got points for going to different places, to places where my friends were, to travel long distances, and so on. Besides that, I could compete with my friends on the ranking for that week, I could compete with everyone for the mayorship of a place and got funny badges for specific events of recurrent types of check-ins. Even though it's not something really valuable (like one's health, maybe =p) it provides an instant reward for your effort, and that triggers a lot of neurological response associated to satisfaction.
The same thing happens when a group of friends or coworkers decide to make a losing weight competition, with a prize in cash to the winner. People tend to work harder when there are tangible goals and prizes, and a group activity with friends help everyone keep going. And even though that kind of action always have an expiration date, it can work to kickstart new habits.
So, if an app is the way to go, how can we make it just as social and engaging as a group game/competition, so it would overcome the problem of having to input data on it all the time?