Francisco Monteiro-Guerra, MSc; Gabriel Ruiz Signorelli, MSc; Shreya Tadas, MSc; Enrique Dorronzoro Zubiete, PhD; Octavio Rivera Romero, PhD; Luis Fernandez-Luque, PhD; Brian Caulfield, PhD
Background: Existing evidence supports the many benefits of physical activity (PA) in breast cancer survival. However, few breast cancer survivors adhere to the recommended levels of activity. A PA coaching app that provides personalized feedback, guidance, and motivation to the user might have the potential to engage these individuals in a more active lifestyle, in line with the general recommendations. To develop a successful tool, it is important to involve the end users in the design process and to make theoretically grounded design decisions.
Objective: This study aimed to execute the design process and early prototype evaluation of a personalized PA coaching app for posttreatment breast cancer survivors. In particular, the study explored a design combining behavioral theory and tailored coaching strategies.
Methods: The design process was led by a multidisciplinary team, including technical and health professionals, and involved input from a total of 22 survivors. The process comprised 3 stages. In stage 1, the literature was reviewed and 14 patients were interviewed to understand the needs and considerations of the target population toward PA apps. In stage 2, the global use case for the tool was defined, the features were ideated and refined based on theory, and a digital interactive prototype was created. In stage 3, the prototype went through usability testing with 8 patients and was subjected to quality and behavior change potential evaluations by 2 human-computer interaction experts.
Results: The design process has led to the conceptualization of a personalized coaching app for walking activities that addresses the needs of breast cancer survivors. The main features of the tool include a training plan and schedule, adaptive goal setting, real-time feedback and motivation during walking sessions, activity status through the day, activity history, weekly summary reports, and activity challenges. The system was designed to measure users’ cadence during walking, use this measure to infer their training zone, and provide real-time coaching to control the intensity of the walking sessions. The outcomes from user testing and expert evaluation of the digital prototype were very positive, with scores from the system usability scale, mobile app rating scale, and app behavior change scale of 95 out of 100, 4.6 out of 5, and 15 out of 21, respectively.
Conclusions: Implementing a user-centered design approach for the development and early evaluation of an app brings essential considerations to tailor the solution to the user’s needs and context. In addition, informing the design on behavioral and tailored coaching theories supports the conceptualization of the PA coaching system. This is critical for optimizing the usability, acceptability, and long-term effectiveness of the tool. After successful early in-laboratory testing, the app will be developed and evaluated in a pilot study in a real-world setting.