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Does Social User Experience Improve Motivation for Runners?

A Diary Study Comparing Mobile Health Applications

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Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNISA,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


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Spillers, F., Asimakopoulos, S. (2014). Does Social User Experience Improve Motivation for Runners?. In: Marcus, A. (eds) Design, User Experience, and Usability. User Experience Design Practice. DUXU 2014. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 8520. Springer, Cham.

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