Insights from google play store user reviews for the development of weight loss apps: Mixed-method analysis
Frie K., Hartmann-Boyce J., Jebb S., Albury C., Nourse R., Aveyard P.
© Kerstin Frie, Jamie Hartmann-Boyce, Susan Jebb, Charlotte Albury, Rebecca Nourse, Paul Aveyard. Background: Significant weight loss takes several months to achieve, and behavioral support can enhance weight loss success. Weight loss apps could provide ongoing support and deliver innovative interventions, but to do so, developers must ensure user satisfaction. Objective: The aim of this study was to conduct a review of Google Play Store apps to explore what users like and dislike about weight loss and weight-tracking apps and to examine qualitative feedback through analysis of user reviews. Methods: The Google Play Store was searched and screened for weight loss apps using the search terms weight loss and weight track*, resulting in 179 mobile apps. A content analysis was conducted based on the Oxford Food and Activity Behaviors taxonomy. Correlational analyses were used to assess the association between complexity of mobile health (mHealth) apps and popularity indicators. The sample was then screened for popular apps that primarily focus on weight-tracking. For the resulting subset of 15 weight-tracking apps, 569 user reviews were sampled from the Google Play Store. Framework and thematic analysis of user reviews was conducted to assess which features users valued and how design influenced users’ responses. Results: The complexity (number of components) of weight loss apps was significantly positively correlated with the rating (r=.25; P=.001), number of reviews (r=.28; P<.001), and number of downloads (r=.48; P<.001) of the app. In contrast, in the qualitative analysis of weight-tracking apps, users expressed preference for simplicity and ease of use. In addition, we found that positive reinforcement through detailed feedback fostered users’ motivation for further weight loss. Smooth functioning and reliable data storage emerged as critical prerequisites for long-term app usage. Conclusions: Users of weight-tracking apps valued simplicity, whereas users of comprehensive weight loss apps appreciated availability of more features, indicating that complexity demands are specific to different target populations. The provision of feedback on progress can motivate users to continue their weight loss attempts. Users value seamless functioning and reliable data storage.