Improving the Fitbit sleep tracking experience for users with sleep disorders

Improving the Fitbit sleep tracking experience for users with sleep disorders


April 2021


I was diagnosed with sleep apnea several years ago and bought a Fitbit tracker for the purpose of tracking my sleep quality. Although it helps a little, I would love it if it could be configured to tailor the experience to my specific sleep disorder and the needs that come along with it. Since I feel this need in my own life, I am sure others do too. This design project imagines what that might look like based on research as well as my own experience. If Fitbit or a similar app could implement something like this, they could reach a whole new pool of users who are often overlooked.


  • Understand the current state of sleep-tracking technology specifically as it relates to users with sleep disorders
  • Work within the existing Fitbit app design to incorporate a sleep disorder personalization feature, including setup and personalized insights.
  • Test the new feature with potential users to ensure understandability and plan for future iterations.

Process at a glance

Conduct research

Subject matter research

User interviews

Competitive analysis

Analysis of the current app

Synthesize research


Prioritized feature list

Design feature in the app

Preliminary sketches




Test and iterate

Unmoderated tests via Maze

Heatmaps and completion metrics

Prioritized list of revisions

Conduct Research

Ideally, I would have liked to do a lot more research for this project, but I had to work within resource and time constraints. I tried to learn as much about the science behind sleep tracking and sleep disorders as I could, but I would have loved to talk to some experts. I was able to interview four users who either had a diagnosed sleep disorder or who were in the process of figuring out what was going on with their sleep doctor. I also looked into the current state of the Fitbit app and other sleep-tracking apps, including the ones that come with sleep apnea treatment devices like CPAP machines. It certainly seems like there is a gap in the market for sleep tracking that specifically targets users with sleep disorders, especially those that don’t use expensive treatment devices.

Research Learnings

  • For most sleep disorders, the important thing to track is the quality of sleep, not the quantity. The Fitbit app gives information about sleep stages but does not provide context about what the data means for users with sleep disorders.
  • Sleeping too much can be as detrimental as not sleeping enough. Most sleep-tracking apps do not account for this and only allow for minimum sleep time goals.
  • Sleep tracking should ideally be automatic and not require constant manual steps to collect useful data.
  • Consistent tracking can help users manage their sleep disorder by helping them understand what triggers their symptoms and how to mitigate negative effects after a bad night of sleep.

Synthesize Research

My research led me to two main personas - one who has a diagnosed sleep disorder and wants to figure out how to manage it most effectively, and another who is in the process of diagnosing a sleep disorder with their doctor. Once I had these users defined, I kept them in mind as I annotated the current state of the Fitbit app, looking for opportunities to improve their experiences.


Design Feature in the App

Since the UI elements and general design was already defined, I went straight from preliminary sketches to high-fidelity mockups. I focused on two main areas - the flow for configuring the app based on the users’ specific sleep situation, including setting more granular goals, and the ongoing insights they would get after wearing the tracker.


Test and Iterate

Since this project was mainly about setting up intuitive flows and conveying information effectively, usability testing was very important for this project. I created a Figma prototype and used Maze to conduct unmoderated testing. The tasks included updating the naptime goal, setting up tracking for sleep apnea, and adding potential triggers to the sleep tags. For the most part, participants were able to complete the tasks without issue, although I identified a couple of areas that could use some more explanation or wording modifications. Some of the feedback was more about the overall design and UI of the app itself, so if I were actually working with Fitbit I would pass along that information to the appropriate stakeholders. If I had more time and resources, I would want to conduct more in-depth testing with users with sleep disorders and sleep doctors to make sure the data and insights are helpful and accurate.


Reflect and Learn

  • Working within an established design system allowed me to focus on the specific feature and how the flow would improve the experiences of the specific users I had in mind. Since I didn’t have to worry about typography, colors, or other style choices, this project felt much more focused which I appreciated.
  • On the other hand, the constraints that I had to work with were limiting at times. I think the UI of the app could definitely be improved, and the feedback I received during testing confirmed that. However, this was a good opportunity to stay within the scope of this particular project and not try to fix everything all at once.
  • I enjoyed designing for a very specific need, albeit one that I personally experience. It was gratifying to feel like this work could provide real positive change for the users and I would love to see it come to fruition. This cemented my desire to find meaningful, impactful work.

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