Background: Smartphone applications (“apps”) offer promise as tools to help people monitor and reduce their alcohol consumption. To date, few evaluations of alcohol reduction apps exist, with even fewer considering apps already available to the public. The aim of this study was to evaluate an existing publically available app, designed by Drinkaware, a UK-based alcohol awareness charity.
Methods: We adopted a mixed-methods design, analysing routinely collected app usage data to explore user characteristics and patterns of usage. Following this, in-depth interviews were conducted with a sub-sample of app users to examine perceptions of acceptability, usability and perceived effectiveness, as well as to provide recommendations on how to improve the app.
Results: One hundred nineteen thousand seven hundred thirteen people downloaded and entered data into the app over a 13-month period. High attrition was observed after 1 week. Users who engaged with the app tended to be “high risk” drinkers and to report being motivated “to reduce drinking” at the point of first download. In those who consistently engaged with the app over time, self-reported alcohol consumption levels reduced, with most change occurring in the first week of usage. Our qualitative findings indicate satisfaction with the usability of the app, but mixed feedback was given regarding individual features. Users expressed conflicting views concerning the type of feedback and notifications that the app currently provides. A common preference was expressed for more personalised content.
Conclusions: The Drinkaware app is a useful tool to support behaviour change in individuals who are already motivated and committed to reducing their alcohol consumption. The Drinkaware app would benefit from greater personalisation and tailoring to promote longer term use. This evaluation provides insight into the usability and acceptability of various app features and contains a number of recommendations for improving user satisfaction and the potential effectiveness of apps designed to encourage reductions in alcohol consumption. Full details can be found here.