Tough Mudder has helped thousands tackle their fears and muddy obstacle courses for years. However, competition has grown and we see that Tough Mudder needs to improve runner experience and loyalty to remain successful. My team created a mid-fideltiy iOS app prototype to address these issues. 

Challenge: Create and integrate features for iOS app to increase Tough Mudder repeat participation.

Extra Challenge: Tough Mudder withdrew the app assigned to our team, so we did not have an existing framework and design system to reference. Therefore, we started from scratch.

Project Details

My Roles 

  • Project Manager

  • Wireframes Lead

  • Testing Protocol

  • Presentation


Methods and Tools

  • Surveys

  • Interviews

  • Affinity Mapping

  • Participatory Content Mapping

  • Sketch Wireframing 


  • Two week student project

  • No existing structure or design system in place

Tough Mudder Conceptual iOS App

Process Details

User Research

  • Screeners (7)

  • Interviews (4)


Comparative Research

  • Spartan Race

  • Warrior Dash

  • Meetup

  • Heja


  • User Journey

  • Affinity Mapping

Wireframes and Prototype

  • Collaborative Feature Design Process

  • Sketch

Usability Testing & Feedback

  • Usability Testing (3)

Planning and Research

User Interviews

We created and circulated a screener to recruit people who:

  • have participated in Tough Mudder or a similar muddy obstacle course race;

  • have run at least once;

  • were willing to discuss their experiences with us.

Our seven screened runners shared their likes, dislikes, and experiences leading up to obstacle races, and we identified trends in a Miro affinity map, including:

  • Finding or joining a team is difficult on the Tough Mudder site and only happens through the forum;

  • Teamwork and fun are more important than competition;

  • Most would run again with right support and motivation;

  • Communication on teams and with organizers is hard.

Business and Mudder Overlap: Teams

Nearly all of our users spoke to the importance of their teams. Also, they talked about how it's nearly impossible to join teams or invite new runners to your own on the current Tough Mudder website. Improving team experiences will also benefit Tough Mudder as a whole since runners will encourage each other to return each year and become loyal to the brand. We developed our problem statement and hypothesis to meet both business and user needs:

Runner Problem Statement

Tough Mudders need an easier way to join teams to increase excitement and preparedness, which will improve their overall experience. 


We believe that by creating a Tough Mudder iOS app for runners with a team matchmaker, we will increase repeat registration by creating a stronger experience for runners. We will measure success by how many people use the app to join and expand teams and the increase in repeat runners.

Comparative Research

Once we settled on a team matchmaker feature, we looked for references. Since our client application was unavailable, we hoped to learn from competitor apps like Spartan Race and Warrior Dash.

Unfortunately, those were either unavailable or not focused on team-building and runner loyalty.

I suggested that we look outside our peer companies for inspiration, especially for apps that facilitate teams and communication. We consulted Meetup and Heja.


Prototype Version 1

User Journey

Design Process

Since the app we were supposed to improve had been deleted, my team created a rough framework to augment. We referenced the current Tough Mudder website for color, design, and imagery inspiration, but collaborated on the screens for our team matchmaker feature.


An early design studio exercise helped us explore team homepage ideas and align our goals.​ The page helped us prioritize features such as images, names, location, skills, and processes.

Collaborative Design Progression Examples

Participatory Design

We also incorporated participatory design in a content mapping exercise with two repeat obstacle course runners to learn more about what they valued about the experience: teamwork, fun, and achievement.

The users expressed frustration about registration processes, communication with organizers, and difficulty finding or building teams. We also discussed what the users valued in teammates, which helped us determine ways to filter and select teams. These attributes shaped both the personal and team profiles.

User Journey

We developed a user journey to clarify our findings and guide our navigation design process.


I created wireframes in Sketch informed by our research and used Meetup for layout inspiration.

Testing and Iteration

Testing with Users

We asked three users to test our initial design for our tasks:

  1. Find a team

  2. Request to join

  3. Accept alternative team invitation

While users had some questions about how they could learn more about potential teams, they all completed the tasks without much frustration. They reported an average ease of use score of four out of five.

We did want to improve the team page layout and address questions about runners' profiles, which we addressed in our final iteration. Users also asked about integrating existing training materials from the Tough Mudder website.

Final Feature Screens

We created runner profiles to rank oneself's strengths and weaknesses as well as a quote and bio. This allows users to learn about each other before teaming up. Team captains could also search for recruits based on this information.

Runners can search and filter teams based on location, strengths, and needs. Users can also preview team information before requesting to join or accepting an invitation.

A messaging feature allows users to communicate and plan team events, such as a group training session using the integrated Tough Mudder exercise materials.


Since many teams are not geographically close to each other, the ability to do the same exercises despite distance would increase team cohesion and event loyalty.

Highlights and Lessons

  • We should have discussed a different client with our instructors once we realized they didn't know the Tough Mudder app had been deleted. Clearer communication would have allowed us to focus on adding a feature as intended by the assignment rather than designing an app from scratch.

  • All users who explored the team matchmaker feature said they could see using it in many situations.

©2020 by Julia