Comparing usage of a web and app stress management intervention: An observational study

Leanne G Morrison, Adam W A Geraghty, Scott Lloyd, Natalie Goodman, Danius T Michaelides, Charlie Hargood, Mark Weal, Lucy Yardley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
254 Downloads (Pure)


Choices in the design and delivery of digital health behaviour interventions may have a direct influence on subsequent usage and engagement. Few studies have been able to make direct, detailed comparisons of differences in usage between interventions that are delivered via web or app. This study compared the usage of two versions of a digital stress management intervention, one delivered via a website (Healthy Paths) and the other delivered via an app (Healthy Mind). Design modifications were introduced within Healthy Mind to take account of reported differences in how individuals engage with websites compared to apps and mobile phones. Data were collected as part of an observational study nested within a broader exploratory trial of Healthy Mind. Objective usage of Healthy Paths and Healthy Mind were automatically recorded, including frequency and duration of logins, access to specific components within the intervention and order of page/screen visits. Usage was compared for a two week period following initial registration. In total, 381 participants completed the registration process for Healthy Paths (web) and 162 participants completed the registration process for Healthy Mind (app). App users logged in twice as often (Mdn = 2.00) as web users (Mdn = 1.00), U = 13,059.50, p ≤ 0.001, but spent half as much time (Mdn = 5.23 min) on the intervention compared to web users (Mdn = 10.52 min), U = 19,740.00, p ≤ 0.001. Visual exploration of usage patterns over time revealed that a significantly higher proportion of app users (n = 126, 82.35%) accessed both types of support available within the intervention (i.e. awareness and change-focused tools) compared to web users (n = 92, 40.17%), χ2(1, n = 382) = 66.60, p < 0.001. This study suggests that the digital platform used to deliver an intervention (i.e. web versus app) and specific design choices (e.g. navigation, length and volume of content) may be associated with differences in how the intervention content is used. Broad summative usage data (e.g. total time spent on the intervention) may mask important differences in how an intervention is used by different user groups if it is not complemented by more fine-grained analyses of usage patterns over time.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-82
Number of pages9
JournalInternet Interventions
Early online date21 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

Structured keywords

  • Physical and Mental Health
  • Digital Health


  • Internet
  • Mobile applications
  • Data analysis
  • Health
  • Behavioural research
  • Usage

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