Integrating user-centered design and behavioral science to design a mobile intervention for obesity and binge eating: Mixed methods analysis

Andrea K. Graham*, Sean A. Munson, Madhu Reddy, Sarah W. Neubert, Emilie A. Green, Angela Chang, Bonnie Spring, David C. Mohr, Jennifer E. Wildes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background: Accounting for how end users engage with technologies is imperative for designing an efficacious mobile behavioral intervention. Objective: This mixed methods analysis examined the translational potential of user-centered design and basic behavioral science to inform the design of a new mobile intervention for obesity and binge eating. Methods: A total of 22 adults (7/22, 32% non-Hispanic White; 8/22, 36% male) with self-reported obesity and recurrent binge eating (≥12 episodes in 3 months) who were interested in losing weight and reducing binge eating completed a prototyping design activity over 1 week. Leveraging evidence from behavioral economics on choice architecture, participants chose treatment strategies from 20 options (aligned with treatment targets composing a theoretical model of the relation between binge eating and weight) to demonstrate which strategies and treatment targets are relevant to end users. The process by which participants selected and implemented strategies and their change in outcomes were analyzed. Results: Although prompted to select one strategy, participants selected between 1 and 3 strategies, citing perceived achievability, helpfulness, or relevance as selection reasons. Over the week, all practiced a strategy at least once; 82% (18/22) struggled with implementation, and 23% (5/22) added a new strategy. Several themes emerged on successes and challenges with implementation, yielding design implications for supporting users in behavior change. In postexperiment reflections, 82% (18/22) indicated the strategy was helpful, and 86% (19/22) planned to continue use. One-week average within-subject changes in weight (–2.2 [SD –5.0] pounds) and binge eating (–1.6 [SD –1.8] episodes) indicated small clinical improvement. Conclusions: Applying user-centered design and basic behavioral science yielded design insights to incorporate personalization through user choice with guidance, which may enhance engagement with and potential efficacy of digital health interventions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23809
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Binge eating
  • Engagement
  • Experimental therapeutics
  • Mobile intervention
  • Obesity
  • User-centered design

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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