A coach and her runner with the GoodGym app on a tablet during a visit.
A coach and her runner with the GoodGym app during a visit. 




Non-profit, Health, Social


GoodGym is an organization that connects people who need the motivation to run with older people who benefit from weekly visits. My research in developing the GoodGym app demonstrated that when presented in the right context, older people move technophobes to techno-fans. The result was improved communication and consistent visits between runners and older people.

My Role

Lead HCI Researcher, Agile Project Manager, Workshop Facilitation, Mentoring, Mobile Design and Development


Mobile Developer
GoodGym: Older People, Runners, and Administrative Staff

Time Frame

18 months for end-to-end research in-the-wild (06/01/2012 – 02/01/2014)


No real names are used in this case study. All names are pseudonyms. Images are used in accordance with the participants’ informed consent.


GoodGym prototype test: Example of coach showing runner how to schedule a new visit with the GoodGym App.

What is GoodGym?

GoodGym helps you get fit by doing good. It is an organization that combines the regular exercise of running with helping local communities through three streams:

  • Coach Runs: Weekly runs to make social visits to isolated older people called “coaches”.
  • Missions: Runs to help out older people with one-off practical tasks that they are no longer able to do on their own.
  • Group Runs: Weekly runs as a group to work on community projects.

The Problem

Discovery investigation of the visits revealed that lack of communication created an atmosphere of uncertainty for both runners and coaches.
Discovery investigation of the visits revealed that lack of communication created an atmosphere of uncertainty for both runners and coaches.

Problem to Solve

How to improve communication between digital native runners and pre-digital coaches (older people)?

Coach runs are the mutually beneficial pairing of runners, who need to be motivated to exercise, with older people (coaches), who would benefit from a weekly visit.


Using participatory research methodologies I worked with the community on the creation of the GoodGym app that connects runners and older people by removing the pain of making phone calls and the uncertainty of remembering when a visit is scheduled. 


The GoodGym app proved to be successful in improving communication and visit consistency between runners and coaches.

The coaches transition from technophobes into techno-fans of digital technology.

“Before it was images on paper. Now I am watching Lacey run on a map.”

– Coach Frances, age 83
Before it was images on paper. Now I am watching Lacey run on a map

The Process


I identified the core needs and motivations of all stakeholders, co-design potential solutions, define primary features, and user scenarios. I developed and user tested digital prototypes for viability with the community.

  • Interviews
  • Surveys
  • Co-design Workshops
  • Mockups
  • Functional Prototype
  • User Testing (in-the-wild)
An overview of the key research and design methods used in the coach/runner study.
The methods I used in the coach/runner study. 
Participants discussing ideas during tea party workshop.
Participants discussing ideas during tea party workshop. 

Co-Design Workshops 

The interviews revealed issues around uncertainty and communication regarding scheduling visits and remembering to show up to the visit. The ideas for possible solutions needed to come from the community.

 I designed and conducted a two-hour co-design workshop with coaches, runners, and administrative staff. Through collaborative designs and discussions, they identified the need for an app that supported scheduling visits, sending messages, and tracking the runner’s journey.

Significantly, the coaches led the app discussion through first identifying digital picture frames and then conceiving a “magic picture frame” that would allow them to see the journey of their runner in real-time.

Example of early concept prototypes used to facilitate co-design discussions with coaches runners.

User Tasks

From the interviews and co-design workshop, I created a series of user tasks for each role coach, runner, and administrative staff. These were shared with the community to demonstrate I had captured their concerns and needs from the discovery research. 

A Sample of User Tasks:

As GoodGym, I want to be notified when a runner completes a visit to a coach.

As a runner, I want to receive messages from my coach while I am on holiday.

As a coach, I want to be able to know my runner got home safely after our visit.

Functional Prototypes

Out of the workshop, the coaches propose the concept of a magic picture frame that would allow them to communicate with their runners.

I took this concept and translated it into a tablet/mobile app for the runner and coaches

I developed a series of functional prototypes to demonstrate and test the core functionality of the app with both runners (mobile) and coaches (tablet).

I used the Agile methodology of iterative releases and testing of the prototypes with the participants.

GoodGym App Prototype: For the first time, a coach watches his runner’s progress in real-time to their visit.
A sampling of mobile and tablet views from the GoodGym App Prototype

“I was surprised that I had to show them how to add their email to the contact list. I am the oldest one of the bunch.

– Coach Mark, age 96
GoodGym prototype test: Example of coach and runner messaging over the holiday break. 

User Testing in the wild

Over four months, the runners and coaches used the GoodGym prototypes to support their visits. Feedback was collected via in-person surveys and self-reporting documentations.


I needed to balance self-reporting with actual usage. Through the GoodGym app only I monitored how often and the activities the participants performed. The participant’s self-reporting, feedback, and tracking data together informed iterative changes and adjustments to the interface design and functionality.

“We now have three or four of us that meet over tea time. Mostly we share what we found in music or videos. Sometimes if someone is having an issue with their iPad, we help each other out.”

– Coach Ben, age 74

The Results

Key findings from the study analyzed through the three dimensions of communities of practice theory. 

From digital learners to digital leaders

The GoodGym app prototype proved to be successful in supporting communication and visits. The lasting results are the coaches becoming digital users and advocates.

  • The GoodGym app proved to be successful in improving communication and visit consistency between runners and coaches.
  • Coaches created ad-hoc mentoring groups to teach their new knowledge and digital skills to their friends.
  • Coaches who are self-sufficient with digital technology will reduce administrative time and cost for GoodGym staff.

At the beginning of the study, the coaches had all reported they either found digital technologies irrelevant and/or had negative experiences trying to engage with them. At the end of the study, all the coaches reported that the GoodGym app and digital tablets had opened a “whole new world” and “connected them to others”.

“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. “
– Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner



I See Where You Run: Participatory Design with an Intergenerational Running Club.
cs4fn: Computer Science for Fun Magazine, issue 19, 2015
Queen Mary, University of London

Connecting Isolated Older People across Distance through Gameplay and Technology.
Doctoral Consortium HCI in the 27th Annual Conference, 2013, At London, UK.

Gameful Systems: Play in the Digital Age for Young and Old
SIGCHI Conference on Computer-Human Interaction, 2013, At Paris, France.

Vulnerability: Participatory Design, Older People, and Researchers
SIGCHI Conference on Computer-Human Interaction, 2013, At Paris, France.