I had my grander idea of a multi-faceted health tracker. This mountain of work wasn’t going to do itself…
Once I’d got the initial headache tracker done, I made a list of new categories I wanted to add. It was important to choose categories that I thought people actually needed. Sure, there are the standard categories that every man and his dog has, like weight, blood pressure, heartrate, diet and exercise, and those are great things to track. They help you get healthier and there’s a lot of value in them. I personally love tracking my exercise and weight. But I thought back to why I started healthstored in the first place. I had a serious problem – headaches – and I needed to track it.
What should you really be tracking?
Chronic issues are covered much less in the self-tracking world. I’m talking things like alcohol consumption, smoking, drugs (legal or otherwise), headaches, diabetes, and other such issues. It’s a lot more difficult to find trackers for them, either because the issues aren’t widespread enough for the mainstream trackers, or because they can’t be tracked via wearables. Yet issues like these are core to a lot of people, and can be even more important to track than anything else.
This insight really started defining the project for me. I wanted to offer an all-inclusive tracker, one which covers every aspect of ‘health’. Something that not only helps you get healthier, but also helps you control the day-to-day realities in your life.
I made a (huge) list of categories, and chose what I felt were the most important ones to start with. I wanted to include all of them straight away, but time constraints demanded tough decisions.
Once the list was done, I had to research all the categories and understand them thoroughly. There would be no point in adding a category if it didn’t include what actually needs to be tracked.
This took more time than I thought it would. I read a lot, asked subject specialists, and looked at other trackers to see what they offered. In the end I hope I managed to include the important things someone who is tracking weight/menstruation/alcohol/respiratory rate/etc need.
Next came actually creating the data entry forms. Another long slog. I wanted them to be as quick and easy to use as possible. I’m no UI specialist, so I had to research this topic a bit too. It was vital to ensure that these worked logically and reliably.
What? You actually want to USE your data?
At the same time, I was building the data viewing tools. The calendar, tables, graphs and reports that let you visualise your data and get value from it. This also took a very long time to build (basically, every step took a very long time). A flexible system like this with all it’s varied categories required equally flexible tables, graphs and reporting tools. I left part of my sanity here, never to be found again…
The graphing system is especially complex, as I wanted a system that would allow you to directly compare two different categories on the same graph. Getting the graphing engine to play nicely with this was ‘fun’. I’m still wrestling a few bugs out of it now, but it’s very usable. With so many combinations of data to graph, not even I know how many permutations there are. I just wanted a system that would allow you to compare whatever you want and let you find significant relationships in the data. How hard could that be? How adorably naïve I was.
After that, I also included a reports section, which gives you further analysis of your data that perhaps wouldn’t work as well in graph form. Each category has their own tailored reports, and there are many more that will be added as time goes on.
Lastly, I added the export functionality, so each category’s data could be easily exported to a CSV. After the behemoth tasks above, it was refreshingly easy to do. One of the main objectives done!
So now I had a fully-functional multi-category health tracker that, despite the increase in complexity, was still quick and easy to use. By this point, I was using the tool to track my weight, alcohol, drugs, exercise, headaches, sleep and weight. I still didn’t have the app, but that day was coming and I felt a little less worried about it.
Another feature I’d been considering from the very beginning was starting to take over my mind, so I figured I’d add that next. But I’ve kept you for long enough, so I’ll cover that in the next post. Thanks for reading!