SMART Recovery Australia

Building a SMART way to help manage addiction

UX Strategy / UI / App development


SMART Recovery Australia

SMART (Self Management and Recovery Training) is a free group program assisting people dealing with all kinds of addictive behaviour. An international organisation with over 3,000 weekly meetings in 23 countries, with over 350 a week in Australia since expanding here in 2004.  In conjunction with the University of Wollongong, SMART Recovery needed a partner who could help design, build and deploy an app to support and improve participant outcomes in their mutual support groups. The App was funded through a research grant from the NSW Ministry of Health under the NSW Health Alcohol and Other Drugs Early Intervention Innovation Grant Scheme.


A new app to help addiction recovery

To design, build and deploy an app with two key outcomes:

  1. Help support participants and keep track of their recovery process.
  2. Explore the feasibility and acceptability of a novel, purpose-built mHealth Routine Outcome Monitoring (ROM) and Feedback app.

The project presented an interesting challenge, because addiction is agnostic to personality. In other words, it can affect anyone – which means we were designing for everyone.

There was no ‘key demographic’ or ‘cohort’ to design for. Instead, we needed to design something that would be accessible to the widest possible range of people.


Application design & testing

Individuals in recovery are on their own journey. It can be isolating, and many lack supportive peers who might understand what they are going through. The fields of addiction and recovery also have a lot of visual clichés associated with them that we were mindful to avoid.

Design principles

We needed to keep the design neutral, with a simple, positive design that didn’t reveal its true purpose. The app needed to look like SMART to the app user, while being non-descript to any onlookers.


Considering the sensitivity of the UX journey, we needed to validate each touchpoint individually, so we used a design sprint process, enabling us to check in regularly with the core team.

App user testing

On inviting potential app users in for early UX testing, we quickly discovered a key insight: the stark difference in language between researchers and end users. Highlighting the need to test & learn & iterate often.


Participants kept coming back.

SMART Track demonstrated value in complementing the face-to-face group experience with a digital experience delivered through a mobile application.

Participants experienced Smart Track as user friendly, engaging and useful with 58% using it for five or more weeks at an average of 3 times per week. SMART Recovery group facilitators appreciated the added value that Smart Track brought to the groups. A plan is now being developed to move out of pilot stage and launch to a wider audience.

Addiction is something that affects millions of Australians every single year. Understanding is the first step towards a solution, and this app allows our team to gain a clear understanding of how addiction appears in our everyday lives.
Peter Kelly
associate professor,
University of Wollongong
Routine Outcome Monitoring (ROM) is a useful and well-recognised therapeutic tool in addiction management. GHO has been instrumental in building a world-first user-driven ROM system, which is available to anyone who needs it.
Ryan McGlaughlin
Executive director,
SMART Recovery Australia

To find out more about SMART Recovery Australia and their support groups visit: 

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