Co-designing the user experience of a parenting and early childhood development mHealth app in lower- and middle-income countries


  • Adam Poulsen The University of Sydney
  • Ian Hickie The University of Sydney
  • Mafruha Alam The University of Sydney
  • Haley LaMonica The University of Sydney


Background: The ubiquity of mobile phones globally presents an opportunity to deliver parenting and early childhood development information to promote and optimise the socio-emotional and cognitive development of children during the first five years of life. However, it is crucial to ensure that mobile health (mHealth) solutions appreciate, among other things, cultural and linguistic diversity, especially in lower- and middle-income countries (LMICs). To that end, co-design is one way forward.

Aims: Overall, this work aims to co-create a parenting app “Thrive by Five” to ensure usability, acceptability, and cultural appropriateness in LMICs. Here, findings from nine countries in Asia and Africa relating to the user experience are presented.

Methods: Thematic analysis was applied to co-design workshops conducted with 174 parents and caregivers and 58 in-country subject matter experts from Afghanistan, Indonesia, Namibia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, and Ethiopia. To best inform user experience design, workshop participants were given a walkthrough of the app prototype or a period of hands-on user testing, when possible.

Results: Key feedback on the app user experience indicated several necessary changes, including simplifying and localising language, including short videos, adding more bright colours, illustrations, and animations, and numerous improvements to the app features and functionality.

Conclusions: Using co-design, vital feedback on user experience was elicited to further the ongoing co-creation of a parenting app with and for nine select LMICs.