Translational Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 587–595 | Cite as

Simplified Novel Application (SNApp) framework: a guide to developing and implementing second-generation mobile applications for behavioral health research

  • Jennifer FilloEmail author
  • B. Lynette Staplefoote-Boynton
  • Angel Martinez
  • Lisa Sontag-Padilla
  • William G. Shadel
  • Steven C. Martino
  • Claude M. Setodji
  • Daniella Meeker
  • Deborah Scharf
Case Study


Advances in mobile technology and mobile applications (apps) have opened up an exciting new frontier for behavioral health researchers, with a “second generation” of apps allowing for the simultaneous collection of multiple streams of data in real time. With this comes a host of technical decisions and ethical considerations unique to this evolving approach to research. Drawing on our experience developing a second-generation app for the simultaneous collection of text message, voice, and self-report data, we provide a framework for researchers interested in developing and using second-generation mobile apps to study health behaviors. Our Simplified Novel Application (SNApp) framework breaks the app development process into four phases: (1) information and resource gathering, (2) software and hardware decisions, (3) software development and testing, and (4) study start-up and implementation. At each phase, we address common challenges and ethical issues and make suggestions for effective and efficient app development. Our goal is to help researchers effectively balance priorities related to the function of the app with the realities of app development, human subjects issues, and project resource constraints.


Mobile applications Software development Best practices Mhealth Methodology Health 



This work was supported by grant R21 HD067546-01A1 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development awarded to Deborah Scharf, Steven Martino, William Shadel, and Claude Setodji. The authors would like to thank Sarah Hauer, Stacey Gallaway, and Robert Hickam for their administrative support with the grant. They would also like to thank Matthias Mehl for his advice on how to use smartphones to capture speech.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Adherence to ethical principles

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee. All authors completed human subjects training prior to conducting the research, and all authors maintained up-to-date training throughout the course of the project. All participants gave informed consent prior to participation in the research.


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Copyright information

© Society of Behavioral Medicine 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jennifer Fillo
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • B. Lynette Staplefoote-Boynton
    • 1
    • 2
  • Angel Martinez
    • 7
  • Lisa Sontag-Padilla
    • 1
  • William G. Shadel
    • 1
  • Steven C. Martino
    • 1
  • Claude M. Setodji
    • 1
  • Daniella Meeker
    • 3
    • 6
  • Deborah Scharf
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.RAND CorporationPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Wake Forest Baptist HealthWinston-SalemUSA
  3. 3.Department of Preventive Medicine and PediatricsUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of HoustonHoustonUSA
  5. 5.Simcoe County District School BoardMidhurstCanada
  6. 6.RAND CorporationSanta MonicaUSA
  7. 7.RAND CorporationArlingtonUSA

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