Making the Universal Console


Project Overview

MATRIX is the commercial line of fitness products that Johnson HealthTech produces. The company was faced with a legacy look with their consoles and wanted to not only catch up, but surpass their competition and establish themselves as the industry leader. I was tasked with developing a touch screen console that would control the top of the line treadmill and also be able to be adapted to all the other pieces of cardio equipment that MATRIX produces.

Collecting Voice of Customer

My first task was to determine exactly what we would be designing. I interviewed stake holders to see what they were hoping to achieve and found out that they wanted an easy to use interface that had all the features of their prior model with the addition of a few new features and "looked like an iPhone." After interviewing a number of users, I found out that the majority of them just wanted to get on the treadmill and GO! So I created a number of mockups and then an interactive prototype that I used for testing both online and on a touchscreen in-house.



Early interactive prototype used in user testing.


Hi Fidelity Prototypes

Once we had the basic interface nailed down, it was time to get serious so we took the basic form of the prototype and skinned it with a look and feel that was more on par with what the stakeholders were looking for. As we iterated the design, the big Quick Start button simply became "GO" and the look and feel of the buttons became more solidified as I added affordances to the buttons and sliders. I installed a touchscreen into a foam mockup of the console enclosure and was able to do further testing of the interface that actually controlled the treadmill and realistically mimicked what the final product would look and feel like.


The Human Factor

Controlling a treadmill from a standing stationary position and while running are two very different experiences. For the standing experience, I conducted usability testing with numerous people of varying heights. I allowed the user to rotate the screen up and down to determine the extremes that the screen would be usable and supplied the industrial design team with my findings.

As a champion for user centered design, I argued strongly for intuitive controls on the handles. I was so compelling, that the president of the company gave me the nickname of "Triggs" because the element I was pushing for was a trigger button on the handle controllers.

Using the touchscreen to control speed and incline on the treadmill while running was very difficult. The motion of running added a lot of noise to the adjustment of the sliders and made button selection difficult. By moving the sliders to the edges, the user could grab onto the side of the console and anchor their hand and regain the fine control needed to make accurate adjustments. Filtering was also applied to smooth out the sliders.


Making it Universal

A universal look and feel brings a product line together.  Once we had successfully designed and built the T7xe treadmill console, it was time to reproduce it on all the other cardio products that MATRIX produces. Having designed the console from the beginning with all the cardio platforms in mind, the transition was very simple and consisted of removing or adding elements that were common between the platforms. The code base was uniform, so that when the console was being set up initially, the installer would simply select the type of cardio platform it was and the console knew what to display.

An afterthought...

Once the console was in production, a company called Virtual Active demonstrated a video based product that interacted directly with the treadmill. The console was capable of displaying video, but relied on external devices for the video feeds. Working with the company, I was able to create a prototype of their product working within the console and interacting with the incline of the treadmill as it corresponded to the video. I then had a daughter board created that we integrated into the console, allowing the Virtual Active product to be fully integrated into the console.

Virtual Active allowed users to virtually run through real environments while on the treadmill. 

Virtual Active allowed users to virtually run through real environments while on the treadmill.