ExpiWell: 10 Essential Qualities for an Ecological Momentary Assessment App

ExpiWell: 10 Essential Qualities for an Ecological Momentary Assessment App

Dr. Louis Tay
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I. Introduction 

Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) is an innovative research methodology that captures participants' daily lives, encompassing their current behaviors, real-time experiences, and natural actions. As a pioneering approach in research, EMA empowers researchers to gain deeper insights into natural behaviors and how behaviors unfold over time. It is also fast becoming a standard approach for grants and publications in top-tier journals.

While a conventional approach to doing EMA is through regular online surveys, such an approach is often limited as it is less engaging for participants and does not capture behaviors in situ. A growing number of researchers are now turning to EMA apps as there are several advantages:

  • In-situ experiences: Mobile Ecological Momentary Assessment apps enable participants to share their experiences as they occur easily
  • Notifications: Ability to notify and remind participants to share an experience
  • Seamless and secure: Participants share their experiences within the mobile app. They do not need to click on email links to take surveys.

With this in mind, EMA mobile apps are the way to help you conduct research with the EMA method. This also applies to the Experience Sampling Methodology (ESM). To help you decide on the best EMA app and ESM app for your research, we have compiled a list of 10 essential qualities to consider. We also share how ExpiWell meets these criteria.

II. The 10 Essential Qualities 

1. High Ratings by Users on Mobile App stores

For any mobile app, it is critical to look first at the ratings of the app. This is because high user ratings clearly reflect the positive experience of past users. These ratings are a testament to the app's performance, indicating its success in meeting the needs of participants. Happier EMA app users will more likely provide better quality data for your study.

Before you decide on your EMA app, look at the Play Store or Apple Store to check out the user ratings of the app. Look as well to see if there have been a lot of users using the app, which can indicate how popular the EMA app is.

High ratings for the ExpiWell EMA app. At ExpiWell, we pride ourselves on being responsive to user and participant feedback for our mobile apps. Because of this, participants who have used our EMA app have been happy with its performance. 

As you can see below, our mobile EMA apps have been downloaded over 10,000 times across Android and iOS. In addition, our ratings are constantly improving. Our Android rating is 3.9/5.0, but our iOS rating is 4.5/5.0.

App store
App Store Review

Expiwell Install
Play Store Review

2. Regular Mobile App Updates

Regular mobile app updates are crucial as they ensure the software remains compatible with evolving operating systems, addresses user needs, and integrates the latest technological advancements. It is always a red flag if you do not see regular mobile app updates. It can indicate a few things:

  • Lack of EMA app use: The mobile app is not being used much by participants for different studies
  • Inactive development team: There are no development resources put toward constantly improving the mobile app, including adding new features and addressing any bugs, which are bound to happen with sophisticated EMA apps.

ExpiWell’s Monthly EMA app updates. In the realm of technology, stagnation is akin to regression. Recognizing this, ExpiWell ensures regular updates to our Ecological Momentary Assessment apps. These updates include fixing bugs, incorporating cutting-edge features, and addressing the ever-changing needs from the research community. With more than 4,000 researchers on our platform, we are keeping busy! This commitment to continual improvement puts ExpiWell at the forefront of EMA technology.

Just check out our Android and iOS apps in the Google Play Store and App Store, and you can see how often we update our mobile apps. 

In addition, we are also constantly improving our web platform by adding new features that researchers request as seen here: ExpiWell Updates.

3. Ease Of Use

Ease of use is essential when looking for an ecological momentary assessment app as it ensures a broader range of researchers can utilize it effectively, regardless of their technical expertise. This is vital to go beyond typical samples to study underrepresented populations. We encourage researchers and research teams to download and try out mobile EMA apps to see how they function and if they are easy to use. If it is challenging for researchers to use, it will undoubtedly be even more difficult for participants.

ExpiWell’s Design of EMA apps. One of ExpiWell's most lauded features is its ease of use. In creating our mobile apps, we sought to incorporate material design principles to enhance the ease of use. We believe that the real power of technology lies not in complexity but in simplicity. 

By creating an intuitive interface, ExpiWell removes the barriers of technical intricacies, allowing researchers to focus on their studies rather than on navigating complex software. You can also check this page, The ExpiWell Process, to learn the steps to conduct your research efficiently.

Here are some screenshots showcasing our EMA app:


4. EMA App Interface

A well-designed interface should be considered to find the perfect EMA app for your study. It enhances the overall user experience, increases efficiency, and reduces errors in data entry or analysis. Remember that an app's interface is the bridge between its functionality and its users. In particular, there are several crucial components:

  • Adding research projects: How easy is it for participants to join your project on the mobile app? This is critical when you conduct multiple EMA studies and participants may be engaging in different projects over time, especially longitudinal burst studies.
  • Tracking response rates: How easy is it for participants to track their own response rates to the project and surveys? This is important because remuneration of EMA studies is often based on completion rates.
  • Quickly sharing experiences: How simple is it to move from one question to the next on the EMA app? The ease of sharing will increase your response rates.

ExpiWell’s EMA app interface: ExpiWell's interface is aesthetically pleasing and highly functional, making navigation and data management a seamless experience. This excellence in design enhances user engagement and data accuracy.

Expiwell current
We make it easy for participants to join projects through the “+” button.

Exipwell Discover
You can also invite participants directly, and projects will appear in the “Discover” tab

Participants can easily track their response rates at the bottom corner of the project name

Daily Survey
They can also see response rates at the survey level.

5. EMA App Schedules Based On Participant Time Zones 

Another essential quality of EMA apps is that the schedules created for participants need to be based on the participants' time zones. In other words, when you schedule a 9 am morning survey, the survey will need to be scheduled for 9 am at the participant's time. The effectiveness of EMA depends significantly on the timing of data collection. It allows for more accurate and meaningful data collection, considering the participants' local context and daily routines. In addition, this allows you to recruit participants online or from all over the world to participate in your research. 

ExpiWell's Powerful EMA App Scheduling. Over the years, ExpiWell has refined and polished how we do EMA app scheduling so that notifications and surveys are sent based on participants' time zones. Many researchers have loved this feature, and it is particularly beneficial for studies spanning multiple geographic locations. You don't have to worry about your EMA app sending notifications at 9 pm instead of 9 am!

6. EMA App is Time Adaptive

Related to the issue of time zones, participants will often travel and switch time zones. Or, across different countries, times change because of daylight savings. Time adaptivity is crucial for an EMA app, ensuring data integrity and accuracy across geographical locations. In a globalized world, the challenge of managing time changes is significant. So, when looking for your EMA app, look for this feature, especially when you know participants will travel frequently. This is often the case for health care (e.g., traveling nurses), sports (e.g., traveling for games), and business (e.g., executives and business trips).

ExpiWell's Time Adaptive EMA Apps. ExpiWell elegantly addresses this challenge by dynamically adapting to changes in time zones and changes in daylight savings, ensuring the consistency and accuracy of scheduled assessments. Each time a participant opens the ExpiWell EMA app, it automatically checks if the participant's time zone changes or daylight savings has occurred. It will then update the notifications and schedule accordingly. Therefore, you can handle the timings of your EMA study when participants travel or when they face daylight savings.

Check out our ExpiWell Knowledge Base article Time Zone Update to learn more.

7. Real-Time Connection 

Another essential feature of an EMA app is the ability to have a real-time connection with the researcher dashboard interface. Why is this important? There are several reasons:

  • Notifications: You will want to see whether participants are receiving the notifications you have scheduled. If not, you can troubleshoot it immediately.
  • Survey completions: You need to determine if their surveys have been completed in a timely manner, and what their response rates are.
  • Sending additional notifications: If participants have a low response rate, you will want to be able to send personalized reminder notifications to them.
  • Participants can contact you: If there are any questions of issues, participants can ideally contact you through the EMA app directly.

ExpiWell EMA App has a real-time connection to researcher dashboards. Our researchers have immediate access to how participants are doing their data collection through our dashboard. You can examine the notification timings and survey completion rates. You can even toggle between survey completion rates for the present moment (based only on past surveys) or the entire project (based on all surveys).

Check out how our real-time dashboard works here: 

Moreover, our mobile app allows participants to easily contact you if they face any questions about your research project.

EMA Study

8. Capture Data Beyond Surveys (Video, Voice, Photo, Location)

To find the perfect EMA app for your study, it is essential to consider enhanced data capture features as they provide a more comprehensive understanding of the participant experience, enhancing the depth and quality of the research. Capturing data through video, voice, photo, and location can give researchers a more profound understanding of human behavior. 

  • Video: Learn more about how participants are navigating their world. 
  • Voice: Have participants share their challenges through voice instead of having to type them at the end of the day
  • Photo: Find out the elements of participant’s day visually
  • Location: See how participants commute and travel

Enhanced Data Capture through ExpiWell. While ExpiWell has a terrific survey suite that enables you to capture many aspects through self-report surveys, we will allow you to transcend the traditional boundaries of surveys. You can easily seamlessly do this through our powerful multimedia data and location capture.

9. Participant Payments

Compensating participants is a critical decision factor for an ecological momentary assessment app because it directly influences participant recruitment and retention. Additionally, offering compensation can attract more diverse participants and encourage them to complete the study, leading to more prosperous and reliable data. 

It is essential to choose an EMA app that facilitates easy and efficient participant compensation, as this can significantly enhance the quality and efficacy of the research.

ExpiWell’s EMA App provides Amazon Gift Card Payments: We believe compensation should be part of many EMA research studies. ExpiWell has simplified the process by providing a straightforward way to compensate participants. Through your research dashboard, you can easily view participant response rates ANONYMOUSLY. You can then compensate participants based on their response rates.

As shown here, you can view participant data anonymously and then make a payment to them, which they can redeem.

Participant Payments
Participant Payments 2

This feature not only saves time but also enhances the willingness of participants to engage in the study.

10. Security And Privacy (HIPAA + GDPR)

The final but critical feature of an ecological momentary assessment app is security and privacy. It builds trust with participants and researchers, ensuring that sensitive data is handled responsibly and complies with legal standards. This is essential for maintaining research integrity and protecting participant data in diverse geographic regions. 

ExpiWell's adherence to HIPAA and GDPR. We rely on third-party checks to ensure that we meet these standards. It ensures that we achieve a high level of data confidentiality and participant privacy. This commitment to safety makes ExpiWell EMA apps a trustworthy platform for researchers and participants!

III. Conclusion

As research continues to evolve, EMA apps like ExpiWell will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of data collection. By offering an efficient, secure, and comprehensive platform, ExpiWell is not just a tool but a partner in the journey of discovery. 

ExpiWell also assists researchers from different fields, including clinical researchers, health & medicine, social & behavioral sciences, market research, organizational studies, teachers, and polling. 

If you want to explore more about our Ecological Momentary Assessment app, contact ExpiWell today. You can also follow us on our Twitter/X and Linkedin accounts for more updates!

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