Exploring user perspectives on smartphone apps for health behaviour change


Smartphone apps are now a common way of delivering interactive advice and support to improve physical and mental health outcomes.

My work

In one of the first studies on what was then an emerging field of digital health, I directed a study involving focus groups with students and young adults about smartphone apps for health.  Guided by a set of open-ended questions, participants discussed their experiences of and perspectives on smartphone apps to support healthy lifestyles.

I conducted a thematic analysis of this data. It highlighted key issues including; credibility and accuracy, perceived disposability of apps, feeling harassed by prompts and notifications, and scepticism about how successfully apps might use data (e.g. sensed location, weather conditions, predicted mood) to deliver useful real-time behaviour change support.

I developed and published

1.     a checklist for valuable features in health apps


2.     a set of challenges that app developers and behavioural scientists needed to address to ensure progress in making these sorts of apps acceptable and effective

This was one of the first published studies exploring user experiences of apps for behaviour change. The work has been influential and has been cited in other research reports more than 1000 times.



Key Collaborators

Prof Lucy Yardley1
Dr Leanne Morrison1
Gemma Conway1

University of Southampton

Related reports

Opportunities and Challenges for Smartphone Applications in Supporting Health Behavior Change: Qualitative Study