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Exploring how can usability taxonomy inform download popularity of socially focused wellness smartphone applications

Zaidan, S 2014 , 'Exploring how can usability taxonomy inform download popularity of socially focused wellness smartphone applications', Coursework Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The research explored the way in which usability taxonomy can inform download popularity of socially focused wellness smartphone applications, in particular weight loss and diet apps. The aim was to investigate the Australian smartphone stores (iTunes and Google Play) in order to examine the efficacy of most popular wellness apps.
Reviewing the literature revealed that the rates of overweight and obesity have been increasing in Australia in the last two decades (ABS 2013; and National Health and Medical Research Council 2014). One of the most important strategies to manage this issue is self-monitoring. Some of the traditional widely used self-monitoring techniques include food diaries and regular self-weighing (Yeager et al. 2014). Nowadays, wellness smartphone applications play a significant role in monitoring and managing individuals’ weights (Connelly 2006). According to Choi and Stvilia (2014), although smartphone applications markets (iTunes, and Google Play) list thousands of health smartphone applications, it is not always clear whether those applications are supported in credible sources. Likewise, Azar et al. (2013) points out that despite the prevailing use of smartphone apps to aid with weight management, the usability features of these applications are not well characterised. Thus, this field needs ongoing research to give users reliable information on the efficacy of the most popular apps for managing weight. Furthermore, given the fast development of technologies and applications, such studies are always valuable.
The methodology for this research utilised a subjective ontology, interpretive epistemology supported a qualitative method. The design of this research included three main stages: stage one - Identifying Apps; stage two - Development of Weight Loss and Diet Evaluation Framework; and stage three - Application of The Evaluation Framework. Each stage included specific tools and techniques: the first stage involved a selective review of the Australian iTunes and Google Play apps based on specific inclusion criteria; in the second stage, a content analysis assisted in utilising the existing theories of evaluation frameworks to develop the suitable weight loss and diet smartphone apps evaluation framework; and the third stage included practical application of the evaluation framework on the identified apps.
The data of this study was analysed by a qualitative content analysis, which was applied to the data of stage two - Development of Weight Loss and Diet Evaluation Framework. Descriptive statistics were utilised to analyse the data resulted from stage three- Application of the Evaluation Framework. Deductive thematic analysis was also used to analyse the apps users reviews.
This research has resulted in one main outcome, which was the development of a justified weight loss and diet smartphone apps evaluation framework. In addition, it has resulted in three key findings:
• KF 1: Applying the evaluation framework to the identified apps has shown that the most downloaded iTunes and Google Play apps are not necessarily the most usable and effective apps.
• KF 2: The search algorithms for the iTunes and Google Play is biased towards apps title keywords that do not accurately define the real functionality of the app.
• KF 3: Analysing the apps user reviews has supported the identified evaluation elements of the developed evaluation framework. In addition, it has shown that Ease of Use, Reminder, Bar Code Scanning, Motivation, Usable for All, and Synchronisation are significant attributes that should be included in weight loss and diet smartphone apps and thus in the potential weight loss and diet evaluation frameworks.
The research has contributed at the substantive level as it allowed showing the outcomes of evaluating the most popular weight loss and diet apps. At the methodological level, it combined different methodologies that formed an innovative method. At the theoretical level, it has identified the two main styles available in the literature to evaluate wellness smartphone apps and it has identified a literature based weight loss and diet evaluation elements.
This research has suggested several future research possibilities. Upcoming use of the evaluation framework would benefit from more than one single application. It suggested that the framework should be applied by more than one evaluator/iteration. The research has focused merely on evaluating iTunes’ and Google Play’s most popular apps. However, there is an opportunity for research to evaluate the most popular and unpopular apps to compare their results.

Item Type: Thesis - Coursework Master
Authors/Creators:Zaidan, S
Keywords: obesity; weight management;wellness monitoring apps; most popular smartphone apps; usability; evaluation of wellness monitoring services; itunes; Google play.
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2014 the author

Additional Information:

Permission form in equella IA 6/2/2015

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