Simplified Novel Application (SNApp) Framework

A Guide to Developing and Implementing Second-Generation Mobile Applications for Behavioral Health Research

Published in: Translational Behavioral Medicine, v. 6, no. 4, Dec. 2016, p. 587-595

Posted on on November 29, 2016

by Jennifer Fillo, B. Lynette Staplefoote, Angel R. Martinez, Lisa Sontag-Padilla, William G. Shadel, Steven C. Martino, Claude Messan Setodji, Daniella Meeker, Deborah M. Scharf

Read More

Access further information on this document at Translational Behavioral Medicine

This article was published outside of RAND. The full text of the article can be found at the link above.

Advances in mobile technology and mobile applications (apps) have opened up an exciting new frontier for behavioral health researchers, with a "second generation" of apps allowing for the simultaneous collection of multiple streams of data in real time. With this comes a host of technical decisions and ethical considerations unique to this evolving approach to research. Drawing on our experience developing a second-generation app for the simultaneous collection of text message, voice, and self-report data, we provide a framework for researchers interested in developing and using second-generation mobile apps to study health behaviors. Our Simplified Novel Application (SNApp) framework breaks the app development process into four phases: (1) information and resource gathering, (2) software and hardware decisions, (3) software development and testing, and (4) study start-up and implementation. At each phase, we address common challenges and ethical issues and make suggestions for effective and efficient app development. Our goal is to help researchers effectively balance priorities related to the function of the app with the realities of app development, human subjects issues, and project resource constraints.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation External publication series. Many RAND studies are published in peer-reviewed scholarly journals, as chapters in commercial books, or as documents published by other organizations.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.