DESIGN AND EVALUATION OF A CULTURALLY-TAILORED PERSUASIVE APPLICATION FOR PROMOTING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
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This dissertation presents the design, development, and evaluation of a culturally-tailored persuasive app to motivate physical activity. The app titled StepsBooster-S is tailored to be culturally appropriate for Saudi adults using the user-centered design approach. First, prior to designing the app, we conducted a large-scale study (N= 430) and developed several models to determine and compare factors influencing physical activity among Canadian (individualists) and Saudi (collectivists) populations using the Health Belief Model. Furthermore, we investigate possible moderating effects of age and gender both within and between the cultural groups. Second, based on the results from the analysis, we mapped the determinants of physical activity to their corresponding persuasive strategies and app design features through several consultations and discussions with experts in the area of Persuasive Technology. Third, we designed the StepsBooster-S app tailored to be appropriate for the Saudi audience using the iterative design process employing the appropriate persuasive strategies and features. Finally, we conducted a 10-day in the wild evaluation of the app to establish its usability and effectiveness using the mix-method approach. The results of the field evaluation of Canadian and Saudi adults (N=30) showed that StepsBooster-S is generally effective, however, it led to a highly significant increase in physical activity among the Saudis audience compared to the Canadians. This confirms our hypothesis that Saudi-tailored apps (according to the results from our model) will be more effective for the Saudi audience. Our results also show that the Saudi audience engaged more with the app in general, reported more positive experience from using the app, and enjoyed the collectivists-oriented features such as cooperation more than the Canadian audience. Therefore, we conclude that persuasive health apps, especially those targeted at physical activity are more effective if they are tailored to be culturally appropriate for the target audience. The findings reinforce the need to take culture into account as an important factor in technology design decisions. Finally, this dissertation also demonstrated how behaviour change theories can be employed to inform persuasive technological intervention design and how the behavioural determinants from the theory can be translated into technology design components in the persuasive systems, hence bridging the gap between the behaviour theory and persuasive systems design.