Background: Gameful designs (gamification), using design pieces and concepts typically found in the world of games, is a promising approach to increase users' engagement with, and adherence to, electronic health and mobile health (mHealth) tools. Even though both identifying and addressing users' requirements and needs are important steps of designing information technology tools, little is known about the users' requirements and preferences for gameful designs in the context of self-management of chronic conditions.
Objective: This study aimed to present findings as well as the applied methods and design activities from a series of participatory design workshops with patients with chronic conditions, organized to generate and explore user needs, preferences, and ideas to the implementation of gameful designs in an mHealth self-management app.
Methods: We conducted three sets of two consecutive co-design workshops with a total of 22 participants with chronic conditions. In the workshops, we applied participatory design methods to engage users in different activities such as design games, scenario making, prototyping, and sticky notes exercises. The workshops were filmed, and the participants' interactions, written products, ideas, and suggestions were analyzed thematically.
Results: During the workshops, the participants identified a wide range of requirements, concerns, and ideas for using the gameful elements in the design of an mHealth self-management app. Overall inputs on the design of the app concerned aspects such as providing a positive user experience by promoting collaboration and not visibly losing to someone or by designing all feedback in the app to be uplifting and positive. The participants provided both general inputs (regarding the degree of competitiveness, use of rewards, or possibilities for customization) and specific inputs (such as being able to customize the look of their avatars or by having rewards that can be exchanged for real-world goods in a gift shop). However, inputs also highlighted the importance of making tools that provide features that are meaningful and motivating on their own and do not only have to rely on gameful design features to make people use them.
Conclusions: The main contribution in this study was users' contextualized and richly described needs and requirements for gamefully designed mHealth tools for supporting chronic patients in self-management as well as the methods and techniques used to facilitate and support both the participant's creativity and communication of ideas and inputs. The range, variety, and depth of the inputs from our participants also showed the appropriateness of our design approach and activities. These findings may be combined with literature and relevant theories to further inform in the selection and application of gameful designs in mHealth apps, or they can be used as a starting point for conducting more participatory workshops focused on co-designing gameful health apps.
Keywords: chronic disease; co-design; eHealth; gameful design; gamification; mHealth; participatory design; patient participation; patient personal strengths; patient requirements; self-management.
©Stian Jessen, Jelena Mirkovic, Cornelia M Ruland. Originally published in JMIR Mhealth and Uhealth (http://mhealth.jmir.org), 14.12.2018.