Background: Acceptability is recognised as a key concept in the development of health interventions, but there has been a lack of consensus about how acceptability should be conceptualised. The theoretical framework of acceptability (TFA) provides a potential tool for understanding acceptability. It has been proposed that acceptability measured before use of an intervention (anticipated acceptability) may differ from measures taken during and after use (experienced acceptability), but thus far this distinction has not been tested for a specific intervention. This paper 1) directly compares ratings of anticipated and experienced acceptability of a text message-based intervention, 2) explores the applicability of the TFA in a technology-based intervention, and 3) uses these findings to inform suggestions for measuring acceptability over the lifespan of technology-based health interventions. Methods: Data were obtained from a quantitative online survey assessing anticipated acceptability of the proposed text messages (n = 59) and a 12-week proof-of-concept mixed methods study assessing experienced acceptability while receiving the text messages (n = 48). Both quantitative ratings by return text message, and qualitative data from participant interviews were collected during the proof-of-concept study. Results: The quantitative analysis showed anticipated and experienced acceptability were significantly positively correlated (rs >.4). The qualitative analysis identified four of the seven constructs of the TFA as themes (burden, intervention coherence, affective attitude and perceived effectiveness). An additional two themes were identified as having an important impact on the TFA constructs (perceptions of appropriateness and participants’ role). Three suggestions are given related to the importance of appropriateness, what may affect ratings of acceptability and what to consider when measuring acceptability. Conclusions: The high correlation between anticipated and experienced acceptability was a surprising finding and could indicate that, in some cases, acceptability of an intervention can be gauged adequately from an anticipated acceptability study, prior to an expensive pilot or feasibility study. Directly exploring perceptions of appropriateness and understanding whether the acceptability described by participants is related to the intervention or the research - and is for themselves or others - is important in interpreting the results and using them to further develop interventions and predict future use.
BMC Health Services Research