Design for mobile mental health: an exploratory review

  • Bijan AryanaEmail author
  • Liz Brewster
  • José Abdelnour Nocera


A large number of mobile mental health apps are available to the public but current knowledge about requirements of designing such solutions is scarce, especially from sociotechnical and user centred points of view. Due to the significant role of mobile apps in the mental health service models, identifying the design requirements of mobile mental health solutions is crucial. Some of those requirements have been addressed individually in the literature, but there are few research studies that show a comprehensive picture of this domain. This exploratory review aims to facilitate such holistic understanding. The main search keywords of the review were identified in a cross-disciplinary requirements workshop. The search was started by finding some core references in the healthcare databases. A wider range of references then has been explored using a snowball method. Findings showed that there is a good understanding of individual design requirements in current literature but there are few examples of implementing a combination of different design requirements in real world products. The design processes specifically developed for mobile mental health apps are also rare. Most studies on operational mobile mental health apps address major mental health issues while prevention and wellbeing areas are underdeveloped. In conclusion, the main recommendations for designing future mobile mental health solutions include: moving towards sociotechnical and open design strategies, understanding and creating shared value, recognizing all dimensions of efficacy, bridging design and medical research and development, and considering an ecosystem perspective.


Mobile mental health Mobile health Design Design process User experience User centred design 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© IUPESM and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lecturer in Design, Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary ArtsLancaster UniversityLancasterUK
  2. 2.Non-Clinical Lecturer in Medical Education, Lancaster Medical SchoolLancaster UniversityLancasterUK
  3. 3.Associate Professor Sociotechnical Design, School of Computing and EngineeringUniversity of West LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (M-ITI)University of MadeiraFunchalPortugal

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