27 Jan 2023

Exist annual survey 2022

At the end of 2022 we sent out our first user feedback survey since 2019. Since our last survey we'd released manual tracking, which was one of the biggest changes to Exist since we launched around 8 years ago. Manual tracking lets you enter data directly into Exist that you can't sync from other sources, and even define your own attributes.

As well as helping us get feedback on manual tracking and other changes we've made to Exist recently, the survey helped us understand which parts of Exist are most useful, and which aren't being used much.

Here's what we found.

The main ways people find out about Exist are articles/blog posts (22%), related services like RescueTime or Todoist (18%), and social media (9%). We had lots of people mention Reddit specifically, rather than counting this as social media, so we may need to add this as an answer in next year's survey. We also had lots of people say they found Exist by directly searching for something like it.

The split between iOS and Android usage has evened up further. In 2019 we had 44% of respondents using our Android app and 51% on iOS. This year we had 46% on iOS, 45% on Android, and 6% on both. Just 3% of respondents don't use our mobile apps at all.

Over half our respondents chose "seeking insights to understand or change my behaviour" as the main reason they use Exist. 54% of people chose this option, which is down from 57% in 2019, but exactly the same as 2018's survey, so this is a consistent winner. "Keeping all my data in one place" was the second choice, at 29%, up from 19% in 2019. Third was "Managing mental health, chronic illness, or other medical symptoms" on 13%. We're happy to see this third option in the mix, as we hoped manual tracking would make Exist more useful for managing chronic illness and other health-related data.

The most popular new feature since our last survey was manual tracking. 79% of respondents said they found manual tracking useful, which confirms our prediction that manual tracking would be a big winner. 51% of respondents liked that we increased the mood rating scale from 1-5 to 1-9, and 43% appreciated the update that lets you deactivate custom tags to hide them without deleting their data.

Other popular updates included support for heart rate variability (38%), longer mood notes (31%), and the new Trends tab content in Exist for iOS (28%). The least popular options were "None of these are useful to me", chosen by 4% of respondents (phew!), and emoji and non-English character support in mood notes and tags, on 12% and 11%, respectively.

68% of respondents use the Trends tab in our mobile apps, and 59% use Trends on the web. One of our big updates after our last survey was to improve the Trends tab in Exist for iOS, which was lagging behind Android and the web. It's nice to see the extra data on that tab is proving useful.

61% of respondents use the rating feature on correlations, 57% use the Week and Month dashboards on the web, and 52% read the weekly email report. We were surprised how many people use the web app, but happy to see these numbers! We also found only 30% use the Optimise page on the web, which we suspected wasn't very popular. I'd like to make this page more useful in future, but also help users discover it more easily.

64% of respondents track mood in Exist daily or almost daily. In 2019 46% of respondents rated their mood daily. Since we included "almost daily" this year, it's hard to tell if this number has increased or not. 48% of people this year said they often write a note when rating their mood, and 43% found the "Looking back" feature useful—where our mobile apps show your mood rating and note from this day a year ago.

73% of respondents track tags daily or almost daily. In 2019 we asked if users had turned on the custom tags feature, which 91% of people had, but we didn't ask how often they were using it. 73% is quite high, though, and confirms that custom data continues to be important to Exist users.

51% of respondents track tags just once per day, while 16% update tags many times throughout the day. 25% use the web app to track their tags sometimes, which is higher than we expected. 20% of respondents said they organise their tags using prefixes or naming patterns to group them together, which is something we want to make easier in future. And 34% said they find it easy to rename, delete, and otherwise manage their tags. I think we can improve how easy it is to do these things in future, as well as making it easier for users to find these features.

47% of respondents enter manual data daily or almost daily, while 19% enter manual data "often or sometimes". 35% of people have replaced some of their custom tags with manual tracking.

Since manual tracking is new this year, we asked about the types of data our users are tracking. 35% are tracking illness, symptoms, or other data about physical health. 34% are tracking data related to emotions, mental health, or social interactions. 30% are tracking data related to work, productivity, or hobbies. 25% for food and diet data. And the lowest categories were exercise on 15% and sleep on 12%.

24% of respondents are using manual tracking to duplicate content from other apps or services, which means if we could integrate with those apps or services, manual tracking wouldn't be needed. Unfortunately so many apps for tracking personal data keep user data locked up in the app, and don't provide a way for us to sync that data into Exist. This answer was in the minority, though, which we expected because most manually-tracked data is the kind of data that isn't able to be tracked elsewhere. 23% of respondents chose "None of these" when asked about how they're using manual tracking.

61% of respondents said Exist has helped them make a new discovery about themselves/their behaviour. This is a really exciting stat! Of course, it's only a small percentage of our users that choose to complete the survey, but it's still really validating to see that so many users have discovered something new in their data with the help of Exist. 53% said Exist had helped them confirm a hunch about their data, and 27% said Exist helped them make a lasting change in their lives, which is perhaps the most satisfying thing any user could tell us.

30% of respondents have used the option to export their data from Exist, and 15% have shared data from Exist with someone else like a family member or doctor.

67% of respondents have visited our public roadmap, and 53% have voted for or commented on a suggestion there. 18% have used the API, and 37% visit our user forum often or sometimes.

The biggest problem respondents have with Exist right now is wanting more data analysis and insights into their data. This is what we expected, which is great—it means we have the right ideas about what our users want and where we should focus our time next (more on that below).

The next biggest problems with Exist were "Not enough integrations that I personally use" on 19% and "Nothing! All is fine" on 17%. It's nice to have the third-most popular choice be that nothing is wrong! That's a really great outcome for us to see, after 8+ years of working on Exist. Our to-do lists are never-ending, and we're always coming up with more ideas to improve Exist, but it's really satisfying to know we're in a really good place with what we've built so far.

"Too much effort to track tags, mood, or manual attributes, or trouble remembering to do so" was fourth, on 15%. In 2019 this option (minus manual tracking) was at 21%, and 25% back in 2018. Based on those past surveys we spent a lot of time and effort improving the process of tracking this type of data in Exist, to make it easier and faster. There's always room for improvement, but it's nice to see our efforts paying off.

"Not enough integrations I use" was 20% in 2019, so that option has remained fairly stable. As we said in our wrap-up of the 2019 survey, this option will probably be an issue for some users as long as Exist is alive, as there are always new apps and services being released to help you track personal data, but so few of them offer APIs for users to access their own data and for us to sync that data into Exist. And of course, we only have so much time, so we have to balance working on new integrations with improving Exist's current features, and finding new ways to help you explore and learn from your data. We'll continue adding new integrations, but now that we're somewhat into the "long tail", each one doesn't deliver as much of an impact, so they're not our main focus.

This question included an option to add a freeform text answer instead, and most of these were related to wanting more data analysis, or different ways to explore and interact with your data inside Exist.

57% of respondents would recommend Exist to certain people, while 28% would recommend it to most people. 14% would recommend it to everyone. This is fair, even we don't recommend it to everyone. But it's great that so many of our users feel comfortable recommending it to some people.

As always, we included a freeform text box at the end of the survey, so users can share any feedback, ideas, or questions that weren't covered in the survey questions. We got a lot of really nice responses and encouragement, which was a great way to end 2022. Thank you to everyone who left us a nice message!

The rest of the text-based responses were mostly focused on variations of "I want more data analysis", which fits with the trends that came out of the earlier survey questions.

What's next?

We like to use the survey to get a feel for where we need to improve, what's working well, and what's missing in Exist. After so many years of doing this, we already have a pretty good idea of what we want to focus on next, but the survey responses are a good way to check that we're heading in the right direction.

For 2023, our plan is to reimagine how we can use all the data we already have. There's still so much opportunity to improve our analysis, to make insights and correlations more useful, and to find better ways to bring this data to you, so you can easily discover things you didn't know. We think this means adjusting the design of Exist to focus more on insights and trends in your data over time, rather than putting today's numbers front-and-centre. We want to do better at answering questions like: How am I going recently? How does my behaviour compare to last month, six months ago, and last year? What's changed, what's out of the ordinary, and what does it mean?

We always have lots of adjustments in mind to improve the experience of using Exist, as well, and we'll continue to work on those throughout the year.

Thanks to everyone who completed the survey! We really appreciate the time you took to share your experience with us so we can keep improving Exist.

And thank you to everyone who uses Exist, whether you filled out the survey or not. It's still amazing to us that after so many years we're able to spend our time building something we love making, and have it make a difference in the lives of others.

Happy 2023!