Fitbit Dashboard Changes are a Win

Last week, the Fitbit iOS app introduced an updated dashboard that more closely matches the UI of the desktop site. For reference, this is what the dashboard looked like for years.

fitbit dashboard with stats like steps and miles listed vertically

Stats are now tiles

The dashboard moved away from a vertical listing of stats to a more friendly tile layout, which allows more information to be displayed at the same time on a small screen. Tapping a tile still takes you to a weekly snapshot of the data point.

fitbit dashboard stats like steps and miles represented as tiles

Add, remove, move tiles like iOS

After tapping the ‘Edit’ button, you can remove tiles (or add them back) and update the layout by holding and dragging tiles between spots. You can choose between four stats—steps, calories, miles, and exercise minutes—as the main data point displayed in the largest tile at the top.

fitbit dashboard edit screen with small x icons to remove stats tiles

After tapping the ‘Done’ button, you see the updated dashboard with only the tiles you’ve selected. I’ve chosen to remove both calorie tiles.

fitbit dashboard showing only steps, miles, minutes, and days of exercise

Pull to sync your device

Fitbit now employs the ‘pull to update’ pattern to sync your device with your iPhone, which is by far my favorite improvement. This is an easy, one-step process whereas before you had to tap to the sync screen then tap to sync.

fitbit pull to sync on the dashboard screen

Goal statuses

The dashboard still uses green to indicate a daily goal has been met, but it made two other changes:

  1. It now uses a blue color instead of orange to show a goal in progress
  2. It uses a circle instead of a bar to indicate progress

I like both these changes. The orange always looks a bit like a warning and wasn’t very inviting. The circle gives a clearer indication that you’re reaching the end of something.

fitbit dashboards showing full circles to represented completed goals

Final thoughts

I like these updates a lot and they have improved my experience using the app. I hope one of the next updates is separating out the ‘track exercise’ and ‘log exercise’ features. While the ‘add’ button was made more visible by making it part of the app navigation at the bottom of the screen, it still does not provide ‘log exercise’ as its own option even though there is plenty of room.

fitbit 'add' screen with options like track exercise and log food


Fitbit Exercise Tracking is Confusing

I’ve had a Fitbit Zip for almost three years and I use the iOS app to sync the data from it. This app lets you track exercise that wasn’t captured in full by the step counter. I use this to add info about weight training and aerobics at the gym.

The active minutes, steps, and distance often do not add up when I add one of these exercises manually. The other day, I took a moderate 1 mile walk but forgot to start the tracking feature in the app. After my walk, this is what my activity looked like.

screenshot of fitbit app showing 24 minutes of activity, 5319 steps, 2.26 miles
Fitbit activity before logging exercise

My stats showed

  • 5,319 steps
  • 2.26 miles
  • 24 active minutes

After I added in my walk manually, the stats updated in an unexpected way.

screenshot of the Fitbit app showing 5,796 steps, 2.45 miles and 0 active minutes
Fitbit activity after adding a walk

My stats changed to

  • 5,796 steps
  • 2.45 miles
  • 0 active minutes

What? I can’t figure out what Fitbit is trying to do when I log exercise manually. The distance and steps shouldn’t change when those are precisely what the tracker tracks. My active minutes dropping to 0 is what I find most perplexing. How would adding exercise ever reduce active minutes?

By way of comparison, here are my stats from yesterday before and after manually logging 50 minutes of aerobics.

side by side screenshots showing discrepancies between calories and active minutes
Fitbit comparison when logging aerobics

Here we see the number of calories burned dropped by 102 while active minutes increased by 10. Again, what? I wasn’t able to find any information from Fitbit about how its software calculates these numbers but I think it’s safe to say, something doesn’t add up.

Twitter Adds Alt Text Authoring for Some Users

I posted recently about how sharing images through services like Twitter are often inaccessible to users with visual impairments because they lack meaningful alt text. In its March 28 release (version 6.50 for iOS), Twitter now provides some mobile users the option of including alt text. (No word on when the feature will be available for website users.)

To enable the ability to add alt text to your posted pictures from within the iOS Twitter app:

  1. Go to your profile page
  2. Tap the settings (gear) icon
  3. Choose the “Accessibility” option
  4. Turn on the “Compose image description” option
  5. Save your settings

The first time you insert an image into a tweet, you will be prompted to “Describe this image for the visually impaired”.

Twitter image prompt to describe this image for the visually impaired
Screenshot of the image upload prompt

Tap the “Add description” button to provide a meaningful explanation of the contents of the image.

screenshot of the field to type in the image description for a watermelon pinata
Screenshot typing the image description

Looking at the source code via the website, we can see the image contains the description within the alt attribute.

<img style="width: 100%; top: -72px;" data-aria-label-part="" src="" alt="Watermelon piñata broken open">

For more information on this feature, check out the Twitter Support article “Making images accessible for people on Twitter“.