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Int J Technol Assess Health Care. 2020 Jan 24:1-7. doi: 10.1017/S0266462319003507. [Epub ahead of print]

A Narrative Review of Methods for Applying User Experience in the Design and Assessment of Mental Health Smartphone Interventions.

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St Vincent's Hospital, 390 Victoria Street, Sydney, Australia.
Faculty of Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Black Dog Institute, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, Australia.
Department of Mental Health and Substance Use, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA.



User experience (UX) plays a key role in uptake and usage of mental health smartphone interventions, yet remains underinvestigated. This review aimed to characterize and compare UX evaluation approaches that have been applied in this specific context, and to identify implications for research and practice.


A narrative review was conducted of UX-themed studies published in PubMed, PsycINFO, and Scopus up to February 2019. Eligible studies reported on data reflecting users' interactions with a smartphone intervention for any mental health condition. Studies were categorized into "situated" versus "construct-based" methods according to whether or not an established UX construct was used to acquire and analyze data.


Situated approaches used bespoke UX metrics, including quantitative measures of usage and performance, as well as grounded interview data. Construct-based approaches such as assessments of usability and acceptability were based on conceptual frameworks, with methodologically stronger versions featuring construct definitions, validated measurement tools, and an ability to compare data across studies. Constructs and measures were sometimes combined to form bespoke construct-based approaches.


Both situated and construct-based UX data may provide benefits during design and implementation of a mental health smartphone intervention by helping to clarify the needs of users and the impact of new features. Notable however was the omission of UX methods, such as split testing. Future research should consider these unaddressed methods, aim to improve the rigor of UX assessment, integrate their use alongside clinical outcomes, and explore UX assessment of more complex, adaptive interventions.


Apps; Mental health; Mobile health; User experience; eHealth


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