Matthew Wilkins
Matthew Wilkins
Multidisciplinary creator generating revolutionary products, brands and experiences.

Bowflex Max Trainer
USer Research


Evolving MAX


The Bowflex MAX Trainer was a groundbreaking piece of cardio equipment built specifically to do interval training workouts. This is a training format which involves alternating between two activities, typically requiring different rates of speed, degrees of effort, etc. Almost a year after the MAX Trainer entered the market, I was tasked with completing a research project to evaluate the existing product and investigate opportunities to expand the product line. The first step of the project was bringing company stakeholders from Marketing, Product Development, Customer Services and the Executive Team together to identify specific questions which they wanted answered. From that initial meeting the following questions were identified as being most important.


1. Who is the MAX consumer?

2.What is their User Experience?

3.What are the opportunities for improvement?


My contribution to this project included: User Research, UX Design, Brainstorm Facilitation, Feature Concepting, and App Design.


RESEARCH process


Throughout the course of my time at Nautilus I completed two separate rounds of consumer research involving over 35 in-person interviews with MAX owners in their homes spread across the United States. Additionally, I also completed numerous studies to evaluate usability of prototypes during the development process.


structured approach



Research locations were based on the highest concentration of owners for a given product. With early research efforts research participants were recruited to achieve a wide distribution of demographics. Later MAX research projects utilized a MAX Trainer Target persona. The actual act of contacting customers for recruitment was done collaboratively by myself and representatives from the customer service call center.  

Research Methods

In home interviews consisted of 90 minute qualitative semi-structured interviews. I would facilitate the interview accompanied by a fellow member of the Product Development Team such as a Designer or Engineer. Interactive activities were used to evaluate key features, test new concepts and understand abstract consumer values. These activities provided quantitative data to back up qualitative observations.

Insight gathering

Every interview included an extensive Show and Tell activity in which the owner would walk the research team through how they use the equipment in their space. This experience always proved to reveal opportunities for improvement. Users always seem to find interesting ways to make their product work for their unique situation. To capture this experience all interviews were recorded and transcribed to be analyzed later. 


RESEARCH findings


The research interviews with MAX owners revealed that the consumer experience was initially positive despite some serious UI issues; most significant of these was that users were not understanding the interval programming which was the basis of the product line. 


Gathered insights



product design HAS OPPORTUNITIES

Feedback On Max.png

MAX owners are excited about the product. They feel positively that it will help them be successful. The design is relevant, ergonomically very good, and seen as a good value.


The Interval Programming, Connectivity, and User Interface were not clear to some users. User success was hurt by this confusion which was leading to long term disappointment in the product. 




Improve machine ergonomics

Improve usability of the console and programming

Add additional features to help users attain long term success with the product.


Actionable Changes

Two major takeaways came out of this research, the first being that significant work needed to be done to improve the user experience of using the product; specifically issues relating to coaching elements of the console. The second was that there was a consumer desire for a higher price point version of MAX with more premium features. This resulted in the the Executive team green-lighting the development efforts of the next generation of product, the new MAX Trainer M7. 



The New M7

The M7 is the newest generation of the MAX Trainer line and features improved ergonomics, a dramatically improved console and programming to assist newer struggling users. 

Usability Testing

The M7 prototype underwent several rounds of user testing to verify that it was truly an answer to the identified issues from the original testing. 


Creative stewardship

After completing this initial research project I transitioned into a creative role within the development team to act as an advocate for the consumer within a small team generating solutions to the identified issues and relevant features which would resonate with the Bowflex consumer. After a series of usability Test to validate the new features the M7 was released into the market. Before leaving Nautilus I also did a similar research project to evaluate the M7. While we still identified areas for improvement the product was much better and users were being much more successful. 


Check out the links below to view how I transitions into a Creative role within the Development team and helped explore M7 features. 


MAX App Concept

User Experience Design


MAX Feature Concepting




"Matthew approaches every design problem with creativity and passion. He's a true team player, willing to fill whatever role necessary to get the job done and bring the best product to market.  Whether it is brainstorming, creating digital prototypes, doing consumer research or building models in Solidworks, he is eager to help."

Julia Eschman

Director of Research, Nautilus Inc