Story Behind The Fabulous App

{ 🌳 } — How The Idea Came To Life

Fabulous is the brainchild of Sami, CEO and one of the company’s 3 co-founders. Growing up, he loved the stories of “The Little Prince” and “The Alchemist.” Both of these stories shared a common theme that struck Sami – everyone’s journey should lead with the heart. It allows you to discover yourself fully.

Passionate about non-profits, Sami knew he wanted to do something that could help others develop lifelong healthy habits and find their true selves. With this in mind, he got 2 others to come onboard as co-founders: Amine and myself, Taylor. We take care of technical and design at Fabulous, respectively.

With the three us working together, Fabulous came to life. Founded in Paris, the name of Fabulous was inspired by a quote by Michelangelo:

Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.


Sami found inspiration in this sentence, believing that good habits can help people discover the fabulous self that’s already inside of them. This is exactly what the app was meant to do, so we aptly named it Fabulous.

Fast forward a little bit, we began working closely with the research team at the Center for Advanced Hindsight at Duke University. Dan Ariely, professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics, came on as an advisor.

They worked with us to solidify our scientific approach in habit-forming, as well as helping to build the strong foundation for the Fabulous core experience.

Behavior Change: What Works and What Doesn’t

When we first started Fabulous, we were well aware that human behavior was a highly challenging problem to tackle. Typical habit checklists or nagging reminders would not help in forming good habits.

One of the things that worked for behavioral change, which is now a part of our core experience, is helping people change their environment. We believe willpower is largely overrated and it’s hard to solely rely on it to make persistent changes.

However changing your environment is one effective way to encourage people to start making better choices, so new habits can be formed and ingrained into their lifestyles naturally.

To complement this core principle of behavior change, we carefully built a powerful and effective reminder system. In a behavioral change, it’s well known that reminders are one of the most effective tools in driving change.

But, it’s also fairly easy to abuse the power of notifications when it’s not done right. Often, it can be negatively perceived by users as nagging. That’s why we put a ton of effort into seeking balance in the reminder system, so they felt contextual and timely.

What won’t work in behavior change is constant reminders that don’t take the user’s motivation into account. Or reminders that don’t provide the right context or don’t appear timely.

That aside, we also know that behavioral change is a difficult thing to create. Not having a delightful design will make it difficult to inspire trust and excitement in users.

It’s not just about the visual, but also the language used, as well as the whole flow. The effects are the users falling off the wagon after using some uninspiring tools.

Lastly, one concept that will absolutely not work in behavioral change is asking the user to perform a task that is a big investment for them right away.

It might seem to be an effective way to give users a big ask, because it shows determination on their part. But the anticipated changes won’t often stick because there is no build up over a period.

So we always get the user to start with something very small and escalate from there to achieve proper behavior change that sticks.

Fabulous App Design

Designing Fabulous: Challenges and Achievements

The very first iteration of Fabulous was designed to explore what works and what doesn’t. It looked visually very different than the app looks today.

We were well aware that Fabulous had to be a different kind of a product, because there were already similar products on the market. So we established 3 design elements that had to exist in the design of the app so it could be effective in habit-forming for users.

One of the key emotions of the design that we wanted users to experience was Mysterious yet Familiar. This is evident from the logo of Fabulous and every design element that you see in the app.

The reason we included Mysterious is that it’s a feeling that evokes interest about something. At the same time, it piques the user’s curiosity to explore because they are seeking something new and impactful in their everyday life.

But there’s also the fear of the unknown in exploration. This is why we brought Familiar to the table, so the mysterious fear of the unknown would be more about daring to try something new. It’s this first concept that we use to push them to adventure step-by-step, leaving their comfort zone.

But surely, one of the most important elements in Fabulous is the element of Human. Without this element, there is no point in emotion. This is why we describe Fabulous as a Companion instead of a tool, and we really mean it. We want the user to feel the human side of Fabulous, not just a piece of software. We’re a human-made Instrument that needs to be learned, to achieve what you want.

And this is why we’re always trying to be less-computer and more-human in the written copy within the app. Making it feel more like a conversation with Fabulous than interacting with an AI bot.

Lastly, Vibrancy is an element that we found very important to be a part of the Fabulous spirit. We wanted to show users that the Fabulous world was colorful and full of energy (again reinforcing the idea that we’re not dull or a tool). That’s the reason why every aspect, from our icon to the onboarding and journey, etc., is full of exploding colors that deliver ‘hope’ and ‘energy’ to the user.

Besides the visuals, vibrancy can also be experienced in the content of Fabulous. We wanted to make a go-to companion when the user wanted to organize their life.

With these three main elements in designing Fabulous, as well as the whole team (product, dev, and design) that relentlessly uphold the highest standards in design. We are pretty proud of our achievement as a startup, like the Material Design Award in 2016, some Google Play nominations, as well as the App of the Day featuring in the App Store.

Fabulous App Design

Future of Behavior Change Apps: Where We’re Headed

Human behavior change is a known to be a challenging topic to tackle. While we think Fabulous, and some other similar products, are on the right track there are a couple of directions that we think can be very important in making better and more effective behavior change apps:

  • Personalization a one-size-fits-all experience is definitely less effective. When we are dealing with human behavior, everyone has a different lifestyle, different schedules, and different restrictions. Every touch point with the product needs to be personalized, but it has to be done in phases. Otherwise, it can feel overwhelming and become an obstacle for the user to even kickstart their change.
  • Contextually smart – besides personalization, contextually smart is also an important element for behavior change apps. With all the new technologies like Machine Learning, AI, and wearables, it’s a very exciting time to integrate these technologies to efficiently help the user to change the behavior and form a good lifestyle.
  • Community – humans are by nature a social animal. Sure, there are some minor exceptions, but the community is the single most effective way to drive change. It needs to be incorporated in such a way that it provides continuous support. This is where we can use behavioral economic principles like reciprocity to try and build an encouraging community that helps you improve as a person.

Thank you for the article, Taylor! We highly recommend checking out the Fabulous app yourself. It’s available for free on both App Store and Google Play. Feel free to follow Taylor on Twitter too!

If you want to contribute to next the issue of Phase Magazine, just drop us a line:

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Taylor Ling / Co-founder at The Fabulous