BACKGROUND: User-centered design (UCD) is a powerful framework for creating useful, easy-to-use, and satisfying mobile health (mHealth) apps. However, the literature seldom reports the practical challenges of implementing UCD, particularly in the field of mHealth.

OBJECTIVE: This study aims to characterize the practical challenges encountered and propose strategies when implementing UCD for mHealth.

METHODS: Our multidisciplinary team implemented a UCD process to design and evaluate a mobile app for older adults with heart failure. During and after this process, we documented the challenges the team encountered and the strategies they used or considered using to address those challenges.

RESULTS: We identified 12 challenges, 3 about UCD as a whole and 9 across the UCD stages of formative research, design, and evaluation. Challenges included the timing of stakeholder involvement, overcoming designers' assumptions, adapting methods to end users, and managing heterogeneity among stakeholders. To address these challenges, practical recommendations are provided to UCD researchers and practitioners.

CONCLUSIONS: UCD is a gold standard approach that is increasingly adopted for mHealth projects. Although UCD methods are well-described and easily accessible, practical challenges and strategies for implementing them are underreported. To improve the implementation of UCD for mHealth, we must tell and learn from these traditionally untold stories.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

JMIR Mhealth Uhealth

First Page


Last Page