Does Social User Experience Improve Motivation for Runners?

A Diary Study Comparing Mobile Health Applications
  • Frank Spillers
  • Stavros Asimakopoulos
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 8520)


In efforts to enhance the user experience (UX), mobile fitness applications are beginning to incorporate gameplay mechanics and social elements in their design. Unlike the more traditional health applications, m-health applications can provide a richer social user experience that caters to mobile usage contexts, such as fitness. In this paper we discuss to what extent gamification and social elements improve user motivation and lead to short-term positive behavior change. We examine the efficacy of social features in three different m-health running applications with varying levels of social and gamification functionality, each supporting the core task of tracking a user’s running activity. Data was collected over a week from 15 mobile app users and runners based in the USA with an online diary study followed by short interviews. The analysis of the diary entries indicates that apps can provide motivation to maintain or increase physical activity, but that the usability, design and feature richness of social and gamification elements negatively impacted user adoption.  Moreover, the adoption of social elements, was impacted by interface usability, integration with new music services like Spotify, accuracy of the GPS and so on. The results show that intrinsic motivation and individual goals can enhance short-term positive behavior change, an important dimension for the design of m-health apps. In addition, many users were comfortable with social UX elements, but social elements in and of themselves did not contribute to motivation in running due to the design and usability of each apps social UX strategy. The results from this study will be useful for designers of m-health apps in formulating appropriate design strategies for incorporating social and game mechanics into mobile UX strategy.


Social user experience Ramification Mobile usability Intrinsic motivation Behavior change mHealth 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Trevorrow, P., Fabri, M.: Running to behavior change. In: Marcus, A. (ed.) DUXU/HCII 2013, Part III. LNCS, vol. 8014, pp. 585–593. Springer, Heidelberg (2013)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    O’ Reilly, A.G., Spruijt-Metz, D.: Current mHealth Technologies for Physical Activity Assessment and Promotion. Annual Journal of Preventive Medicine 45(4), 501–507 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Fabri, M., Wall, A., Trevorrow, P.: Changing Eating Behaviors through a Cooking-Based Website for the Whole Family. In: Marcus, A. (ed.) DUXU/HCII 2013, Part III. LNCS, vol. 8014, pp. 484–493. Springer, Heidelberg (2013)Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Pagoto, S., Schneider, K., Jojic, M., DeBiasse, M., Mann, D.: Evidence-based Strategies in Weight-Loss Mobile Apps. Annual Journal of Preventive Medicine 45(5), 576–582 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Healthy People: Physical activity and fitness (2010), (retrieved)
  6. 6.
    Liu, C., Zhu, Q., Holroyd, A.K., Seng, K.E.: Status and trends of mobile-health applications for iOS devices: A developer’s perspective. The Journal of Systems and Software 84, 2022–2033 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Fogg, B.J.: Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. Morgan Kaufmann, USA (2003)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Oinas-Kukkonen, H., Harjumaa, M.: Persuasive systems design: Key issues, process model, and system features. Communications of the Association for Information Systems 24(1), 485–500 (2009)Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Consolvo, S., McDonald, D.W., Landay, J.A.: Theory-driven design strategies for technologies that support behavior change in everyday life. Presented at the 27th International Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2009), April 4-9, pp. 405–414. ACM, Boston (2009)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Morris, M.: Motivating change with mobile: seven guidelines. Interactions 19(3), 26–31 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Deterding, S., Dixon, D., Khaled, R.: Gamification: Toward a Definition. In: CHI 2011 Gamification Workshop Proceedings, Presented at Annual Conference on Human Factors in Computing Sydtems (CHI 2011), Vancouver, BC, May 7-12, (2011) Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Mueller, F., Peer, F., Agamanolis, S., Sheridan, J.: Gamification and exertion. In: Proceedings of the Workshop on Gamification at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2011), Vancouver, BC, May 7-12 (2011)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Thin, A.G., Gotsis, M.: Game-Based Interactive Media in Behavioral Medicine: Creating Serious Affective-Cognitive-Environmental-Social Integration Experiences. In: Marcus, A. (ed.) DUXU/HCII 2013, Part II. LNCS, vol. 8013, pp. 470–479. Springer, Heidelberg (2013)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Brown, W., Yen, P.Y., Rojas, M., Schnall, R.: Assessment of the Health IT Usability Evaluation Model (Health-ITUEM) for evaluating mobile health (mHealth) technology. Journal of Biomedical Informatics 46(6), 1080–1087 (2013)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Hsu, M.H., Chiu, C.M.: Internet self-efficacy and electronic service acceptance. Decision Support Systems 38(3), 369–381 (2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Teo, T.S.H., Lim, V.K.G., Lai, R.Y.C.: Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation in Internet usage. Omega 27(1), 25–37 (1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Teo, T.S.H.: Demographic and motivation variables associated with Internet usage activities. Internet Research 11(2), 125–137 (2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Nysveen, H., Pedersen, P.E., Thorbjørnsen, H.: Explaining intention to use mobile chat services: moderating effects of gender. Journal of Consumer Marketing 22(5), 247–256 (2005)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Kim, H.W., Chan, H.C., Gupta, S.: Value-based adoption of mobile Internet: an empirical investigation. Decision Support Systems 43(1), 111–126 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Segerstahl, K., Oinas-Kukkonen, H.: Designing personal exercise monitoring employing multiple modes of delivery: Implications from a qualitative study on heart rate monitoring. International Journal of Medical Informatics 80, e203–e213 (2011)Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Elliot, H.: The use of diaries in sociological research on health experience. Sociological Research Online 2(2) (1997),
  22. 22.
    Taylor-Piliar, R.E., Norton, L.C., Haskell, W.L., Mahbouda, M.H., Fair, J.M., Iribarren, C., Hlatky, M.A., Go, A.S., Fortmann, S.P.: Validation of a new brief physical activity survey among men and women aged 60-69 years. Annual Journal of Epidemiology 164, 598–606 (2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Spillers, F., Asimakopoulos, S.: Help me relax! Biofeedback and gamification to improve interaction design in healthcare. In: 8th International Conference on Design & Emotion, London, UK, September 11-14, vol. 41 (2012)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Venkatesh, V., Morris, M.G.: Why don’t men ever stop to ask for directions? Gender, social influence, and their role in technology acceptance and usage behavior. MIS Quarterly 24(1), 115–139 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frank Spillers
    • 1
  • Stavros Asimakopoulos
    • 2
  1. 1.Experience Dynamics, IncPortlandUSA
  2. 2.Faculty of Communication and Media StudiesNational & Kapodistrian University of AthensAthensGreece

Personalised recommendations