A smartphone app to reduce sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among young adults in Australian remote indigenous communities: Design, formative evaluation and user-testing

Emma Tonkin, Lauren Jeffs, Thomas Philip Wycherley, Carol Maher, Ross Smith, Jonathon Hart, Beau Cubillo, B. Hum Nut, Julie Brimblecombe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The disproportionate burden of noncommunicable disease among Indigenous Australians living in remote Indigenous communities (RICs) is a complex and persistent problem. Smartphones are increasingly being used by young Indigenous adults and therefore represent a promising method to engage them in programs seeking to improve nutritional intake. Objective: This study aimed to consult RIC members to inform the content of a smartphone app that can be used to monitor and reduce sugar-sweetened beverage intake in RICs. Methods: The study was conducted in two phases. The formative phase involved a simulated grocery selection activity with think aloud (“think aloud shop”), a semistructured interview, a questionnaire outlining current smartphone and app use, and a paper prototyping activity. A preliminary end-user testing phase involved a think aloud prototype test and a semistructured interview regarding user satisfaction. Convenience sampling was used to recruit 20 18-to 35-year-old smartphone users for each phase from two RICs in the Northern Territory, Australia. Thematic analysis of transcribed audio recordings was used to identify determinants of food choice from the think aloud shop; themes related to the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) from the eating behaviors interview; and usability, comprehension, and satisfaction with the app from the preliminary end-user testing. Results: Smartphone use in RICs is currently different to that found in urban environments; in particular, extremely low use of Facebook, restricted variety of phone types, and limited Internet access. Findings regarding promoting app engagement indicate that utilizing an opt-in approach to social features such as leader boards and team challenges is essential. The inclusion of games was also shown to be important for satisfaction, as were the use of audio features, contextually embedded dissemination, and streamlined app design for comprehension in this target group. Conclusions: This research provides critical insights and concrete recommendations for the development of lifestyle improvement apps targeted toward disadvantaged young adults in nonurban settings, specifically RICs. It serves as a framework for future app development projects using a consultative user-centered design approach, supporting calls for the increased use of this strategy in app development.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere192
Number of pages17
JournalJMIR mHealth and uHealth
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Behavior
  • Diet
  • Health promotion
  • Indigenous
  • Mobile applications
  • Public health
  • Telemedicine

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