Online dietary intake assessment using a graphical food frequency app (eNutri): Usability metrics from the EatWellUK study

Rodrigo Zenun Franco, Rosalind Fallaize, Julie A Lovegrove, Faustina Hwang

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BACKGROUND: With widespread use of the internet, lifestyle and dietary data collection can now be facilitated using online questionnaires as opposed to paper versions. We have developed a graphical food frequency assessment app (eNutri), which is able to assess dietary intake using a validated food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) and provide personalised nutrition advice. FFQ user acceptance and evaluation have not been investigated extensively and only a few studies involving user acceptance of nutrition assessment and advice apps by older adults are published.

METHODS: A formative study with 20 participants (including n = 10 ≥60 years) assessed the suitability of this app for adults and investigated improvements to its usability. The outcomes of this formative study were applied to the final version of the application, which was deployed in an online study (EatWellUK) with 324 participants (including n = 53 ≥60 years) in the UK, using different devices (smartphones, tablets and laptops/desktops). Completion times were based on browser timestamps and usability was measured using the System Usability Scale (SUS), scoring between 0 and 100. Products with a SUS score higher than 70 are considered to be good.

RESULTS: In the EatWellUK study, SUS score median (n = 322) was 77.5 (IQR 15.0). Out of the 322 SUS questionnaire completions, 321 device screen sizes were detected by the app. Grouped by device screen size, small (n = 92), medium (n = 38) and large (n = 191) screens received median SUS scores of 77.5 (IQR 15.0), 75.0 (IQR 19.4) and 77.5 (IQR 16.25), respectively. The median SUS scores from younger (n = 268) and older participants (n = 53) were the same. The FFQ contained 157 food items, and the mean completion time was 13.1 minutes (95% CI 12.6-13.7 minutes). Small, medium and large screen devices resulted in completion times of 11.7 minutes (95% CI 10.9-12.6 minutes), 14.4 minutes (95% CI 12.9-15.9 minutes) and 13.6 minutes (95% CI 12.8-14.3 minutes), respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: The overall median SUS score of 77.5 and overall mean completion time of 13.3 minutes indicate good overall usability, and equally, comparable SUS scores and completion times across small, medium and large screen sizes indicates good usability across devices. This work is a step toward the promotion of wider uptake of online apps that can provide online dietary intake assessment at-scale, with the aim of addressing pressing epidemiological challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0202006
Number of pages13
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2018


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