Fred Hutch Mobile App for Depression

fred hutch logo

The Problem

Cigarette smoking is estimated to cause more than 480,000 deaths annually (including deaths from secondhand smoke). Successful strides have been taken to comabt this, however, depression remains a major obstacle for smokers who are trying to quit.

Fred Hutch approached our HCDE 518 "User Centered Design" class and asked us to help them research and design an evidence-based mobile app that would help improve the well-being of depressed users (especially depressed smokers.) Their main constraint was that we keep the mobile app grounded to promising evidence found in Behavioral Activation Therapy (BAT) research. Our four-person team (team Wombat) gladly accepted the challenge.

behavioral activation

The Challenge

  • Depression is a multi-demographic problem
  • Behavioral Activation Treatment requires a heavy commitment
  • Our target users may not be motivated

Design question: How might we create a mobile app that incorporates the complex process of BAT while keeping users engaged?

focus group findings

Methods Used

  • Literature review
  • Competitive analysis
  • Persona creation
  • Wireframing and prototyping
  • Surveys and questionnaires
  • Focus groups and usability testing

My role: I contributed to all the methods listed above and I also specialized as our technical writer.

usability findings


  • Users preferred an easy-to-use application with a simple design and bright colors.
  • Users wanted the ability to monitor their mood over long periods of time.
  • Users wanted to customize the application to suit their needs.
  • Users preferred features that allowed them to reflect on their activities, values, and progress.
  • Users wanted a variety of resources available to them.
  • Users liked scheduling future activities
  • Users wanted a way to retroactively track mood and activities
focus group findings


  • Make the application more engaging and adaptable through personalization features.
  • Improve the users understanding of the application through in-app tutorials/explanations.
  • Add more status confirmation throughout application with progress bars, button feedback, color changes.
  • Explore additonal avenues of mood and activity tracking through gamification, rewards systems, token economy.

Overall, users really liked the idea of using an app to schedule activities, track their mood, and learn more about their values. The idea of using a BAT-based app as an intervention for depressed users shows a lot of promise.


Brooks Tiffany -

University of Washington - Seattle, WA