Realise your Fabulous self

  • Empowers users to change behaviours and form new habits
  • Potential healthcare applications and partnerships


Realise your Fabulous self


ALMOST everyone knows from experience that healthy habits are difficult to form. Most people need an extra boost of motivation and encouragement to get started, which is what smartphone app Fabulous does.

Described as a habit-forming companion by co-founder and chief design officer Taylor Ling (pic), Fabulous uses proven scientific approaches and a big dose of self-coaching to help people reach set goals.

Basically, Fabulous is designed to “reset your habits, transform your life and rewire your brain,” says Ling.

The app gives the user four goals or ‘journeys’ to choose from: Feel More Energised, Lose Weight, Sleep Better or Focus and Concentrate and helps him or her complete the journey by slowly and methodically instilling healthy habits and routines into their life. The user can add on to their goals as they progress.

The app provides the user with motivational reading materials in the form of personalised ‘letters’ and monitors adherence to set behaviours so that it can provide encouragement when required – when the user skips a task too often, for example.

“Forming habits is not easy, and neither is breaking an unproductive routine. With this app, we’re trying to inject ideas into your life to help you form good habits and routines,” says Ling.

Creating the app

Fabulous was incubated at Duke University’s Centre for Advanced Hindsight (CAH) in the US, but the mastermind behind it is its Tunisian-born and Paris-based chief executive officer Sami Ben Hassine who, along with co-founder and chief technical officer Amine Laadhari, invited Malaysian designer Taylor Ling on board to bring life to an innovative idea.

The collaboration has paid off – Fabulous won Google’s Material Design Award for Most Charming Engagement this year and was nominated for Google Play’s Best App Award.

The app was first launched mid-2014 after which the co-founders relied heavily on user feedback to improve user experience. Ling reveals that at one stage growth in terms of user acquisition was stalling for various reasons, including content that was not streamlined enough and a design interface that lacked consistency.

At that point, Google had just released its material design guidelines, and Ling convinced his co-founders that an overhauled was needed and that Fabulous should use these guidelines. The revamp took nine months and the upgraded app was launched mid-2015 with the current award-winning interface.

In terms of content, Ling explains that a lot of research has gone into its creation from day one. Hassine, who trained as a behavioural economist at CAH, used his knowledge of human behaviour to create the journeys on Fabulous, as well as the reading materials that provide users with information on why the app is asking them to do certain things.

Further, Fabulous worked with behavioural economist, and founder of and professor at CAH Dan Ariely, who used the app for a research project into how people form habits, specifically those relating to exercising. The results of the research were shared with the Fabulous team and went into improving the app’s content.

Ling provides a simple example of how the behavioural economy research has been integrated into the tasks the app asks users to perform: the very first task given to users is to drink water every morning immediately after waking up. The idea behind this incredible simple task is to build the habit muscle – if the user can perform this task, consecutively harder tasks will be easier to perform as the journey continues.

The app also encourages the user to place a cup or bottle of water at the bedside before going to bed every night because, as research has proven, after a while the sight of the water upon waking up will trigger the user to take a drink. Thus, a habit is formed.

Great potential


Realise your Fabulous self


The co-founders’ initial aim was to target Fabulous to users with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as an app that could help them focus, but soon realised that people without ADHD were downloading and using it successfully.

Though anyone can use the app, Ling reveals that the team believes there is huge healthcare application potential and is talking to a few healthcare providers in the US to see how it can be integrated into treatment programmes for people with ADHD, depression and other disorders and illnesses.

The co-founders decided to concentrate on the US first because 20% of total active users are in this market. The second biggest market is the UK, with about 10% of total active users, followed by India, Germany, Spain and France.

The app has 4.6 million downloads on Google Play (it is not yet available for iOS) and sees about 150,000 daily active users and more than 8,000 new users every day, which number is steadily increasing.

According to Ling, all this is organic growth as Fabulous has not done any marketing; it relies on word-of-mouth for new user acquisition. The team is currently working on the iOS version and once this is out, the target is for one million daily active users by the end of this year.

The app is available in five languages - English, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, German and French. Ling says that the team spent a lot of time translating the content, a painstaking process that is worth the effort because of the reach that localisation provides.

In fact, Fabulous has sizable number of users in China, says Ling and has even won a design award there – the WanDouJia Design Award presented by the prominent Chinese app store.

Ling says that translating on such a massive scale is expensive but Fabulous is still self-funded. “We’re trying to be independent so we have some freedom to run things as we want,” he says, explaining that there is no pressing need for an injection of funds at the moment because growth is progressing steadily.

Ling declined to reveal revenue numbers but did say that the prospective partnerships with healthcare providers will bring in some revenue, if not profit, another reason Fabulous is not actively looking for investment at the moment.

For Ling and the Fabulous team, the real-world impact of the app is the most important factor. Speaking as a designer, Ling says that while content and user experience is important, and the awards the app has won are great, none of that matters if an app does not bring real benefit to the user.

“If it doesn’t enhance people’s lives or empower them, it’s meaningless, just something beautiful to look at.”

The best part about Fabulous is its impact on people’s lives, as evidenced by user feedback where they have told the team how the app has helped them in their daily lives, he says. “When I saw that I realised there is no turning back from here. We have to go further.”


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