I was at the gym, on the treadmill, and was bummed by how poorly designed the treadmill was.

So I thought I’d redesign it, and explain step-by-step what I’m doing and hopefully you’ll learn something in the process. I’ve got a few ideas on how they could make use the new design to make this treadmill more profitable too.

By the way, LifeFitness, I will sell you this design if you’re interested. But take it and I’ll getcha. I won’t sue. I’ll get you.

First let’s look at why this is poorly designed. Here’s what the display looks like at a walking pace.IMG_0144 copy


There’s a marketing idea: you can upset people, make them cry or any emotion, as long as it’s not confusion. That applies to design.

Good design clearly and obviously communicates important data. It means that I shouldn’t have to wonder what the red bar and green bars mean. Why are they so high? Why are they all the exact same level? Why is there an up/down arrow that doesn’t point to anything (I went though every menu and nothing lined up).

Basically, this whole thing needs to be scrapped and started from zero.

What’s the most important data when you’re on a treadmill?

Duh: speed.

What could we use to communicate speed? Tons of things, but I thought an arrow would work best.

Below I’ve got a picture of what I used to communicate speed. The bigger outer arrow is going to show where on the spectrum of speed the treadmill is right now.

This way, the inner arrows act as the buttons that were below the “Means Nothing Bar Chart”, are now in a place where they make sense.


Ok, so speed was the most important piece of information.

What’s second?

How inclined the treadmill is.

So how could we show the incline?

By putting incline in there. (I feel dumb saying this, but if LifeFitness knew this, I wouldn’t have to run on their terribly designed treadmill).

Is anyone confused how inclined their treadmill is?

So this is 90% of what people need to know, but there’s some other info too. Let’s fit those in there:


This took me maybe 15 minutes to outline. You could take this to a designer so you know what it’d look like. But here’s where I’m looking to go the extra mile.

I wanted to show you how to quickly and cheaply make final designs.

I spent some time in photoshop, and made the final product. Here’s what it would look like if you were changing the speed:

I didn’t notice that the clock wasn’t there until after I made the gif, but we can get through it together.


Good Speed

The speed is the most important thing so it takes up the most space. The incline is on the right, at 0%.

Here’s what it would look like when you adjust the incline.

good incline


When you push the up button on the incline, it takes a few seconds for the treadmill to catch up, that’s why it’s transparent until it’s there, then it’s solid.

That’s something that’s important to know for design: if the information you’re showing isn’t actionable, don’t show it to me.

Jony Ive, head of design at Apple was talking about how much headache went into designing the ‘sleep’ light on the macbook pro. When the laptop isn’t sleeping, the light is invisible, but when it is sleeping it shines through the metal. (They do that by using lasers to make thousands of small holes in the metal that the human eye can’t see, but goes through metal so the light passes through. There used to be a company that made those machines, so Apple bought the entire company. $70 billion in the bank has advantages…)

Alright, so we’ve redesigned the software of the display. With the change in software, we can change some parts of the hardware, and save some shekels on the margins.

First though, let’s laugh at LifeFitness for a minute.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 6.35.07 PM

This is the zoomed version of the useless vital information on the right side of the machine.

How many 100 year olds had called corporate, complaining about their confusion  with ‘Zone Training’ before LifeFitness thought it made sense to put that information on there? And what 100 year old would be focusing on ‘Fat Burning’? The longer I think, the funnier it gets.


Hardware start

Alright, so right away, the hardware for the B switch doesn’t need to be purchased. I spent 10 minutes trying to find a place where it is needed, no luck.

The A switch only toggles between ‘time spent running’ and ‘goal time’. This is dumb. You don’t need hardware to do this. It should be changed when you touch the time on the screen (solved by software).

C and D are necessary, but they shouldn’t be as close as they are, look identical, or be where they’re located right now. I don’t want to increase the incline and accidently be sprinting, and you shouldn’t want to make me.

G and H are the only mediocre things on here (same color = same function), but they could look much better and make more sense. And really? Ch and Vol? Do you see how much room there is on the whole dashboard? This is a treadmill, not a wristwatch. Use the space you have.

E and F are both alright. I seriously doubt anyone has ever used ‘Screen lock’.

Here’s what I made in photoshop.

treadmill hardware


Do you have to think about which buttons do what? Want to go faster? Big green plus.

One other thing: with my treadmill, when you hit those buttons (walk, jog or run), it would ask for confirmation instead of just instantly becoming a people-sander. I accidentally bumped run and almost ate it because I didn’t know it reacted instantly.

When you look at the one LifeFitness made, you have to acclimate yourself to the machine.

“Ok so what does this mean. How do I work this thing?”

This is something that happens when a company makes you deal with their incompetence.

I would have put the TV controls further on the right, to the right of incline, but my picture wasn’t big enough.

Until next time,



PS: another shoutout to gifmaker.me helping me make those gifs.