Share your feedback! An introduction to the new HeadStart Support and Guidance platform.

How do you find the best resources to support the emotional well-being of young people, whether you’re a young person yourself, a professional who works with young people, or a family member?

In the last week, we’ve launched the HeadStart Support and Guidance Directory at support.headstartonline.co.uk, our new platform to share well-being and mental health resources from around the web. In this post, I want to provide a quick overview of the new site, including the thinking behind its structure and design.

The concept of a citywide digital platform to provide support and guidance was always part of the HeadStart Wolverhampton vision, and was a key part of the citywide proposals in the successful bid we submitted to Big Lottery last year. We wanted to provide a place online where young people, professionals and parents could find information they could trust.

The question for us, of course, was how should the site look and work?

One idea was to create theme-based pages based around common emotional or mental health challenges: ’depression’, ‘bullying’, ‘self harm’ and so on. We could have brought together onto the pages information and media created by HeadStart Wolverhampton with links to other fantastic content on the web created by the likes of Young Minds, Time To Change, The Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, and many others. This approach has been adopted successfully by other organisations, including the Black Country CAMHS site at BlackCountryMinds.com, and the HeadStart Kent site at headstartkent.org.uk.

We decided to take a different route. Our key design goals were to:

  • provide a curated directory of resources that encouraged sharing, user feedback and user submission of resources
  • create a platform that would be easy to update with new resources
  • allow users to search for resources using natural language based on their needs and interests
  • allow users to specify who they are, whether a young person, professional, or parent, and to deliver appropriate resources based on this without users having to establish usernames or passwords.
  • find a way to present a range of content ‘types’ - including video, organisations, webpages and more - in a way that allowed visitors to explore these separately. (We imagined a teacher looking for video content to use in class to explore a challenging topic, or a young person looking for an organisation to support them with a mental health challenge. How would they find these easily?)
  • make sure that the site worked well on a wide range of devices, including, critically, on iOS and Android smartphones.

From the earliest development of the site, we envisaged a search results page with a ‘magazine’ style, organised according to resource type. Instead of Google-style search listings, we wanted something more visual. We imagined that the search results page could become a destination in its own right, a page that visitors could store, share, and return to repeatedly as new resources were added. This idea ultimately lead to search result pages that look like this:

  A search results page for 'bullying'

A search results page for 'bullying'

Through an open procurement process, we commissioned the Oxygen Agency to partner with us to make these ideas a reality, working alongside their project management and development teams to storyboard ideas, and refine the user interface. With our design ideas in place, and with web development ongoing, the challenge now was to populate the site with links to carefully selected content.

Through the summer and early autumn, we worked with a group of undergraduates and recent graduates from the University of Wolverhampton as part of the university’s WXP programme. Their task was to find, review, and moderate resources on a range of selected themes. Every resource was reviewed by at least two students before being added to the platform.

And now we’re in a position where we’re happy for everyone to explore the site, to ’kick the tyres’ and, critically, to share feedback with us about what’s working well and what’s not. The HeadStart team, with continuing support from university graduates, is still hard at work adding new content to the platform, and tweaking the organisation and descriptions of existing resources. Please help us by submitting the resources that you find most helpful.

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We’re already making use of the features of the site to curate selected resources for a specific purpose: the ‘Orange Wolverhampton’ campaign to raise awareness of violence against women and girls that is organised by Wolverhampton Safeguarding Board. Doing this was as easy as keywording a range of resources, and sharing a link to the search results page like this:

See below for a video overview of the basic features of the new platform, and let us know what you think by commenting below on this blog post, emailing us, or messaging us on Twitter or FaceBook. Many thanks for your support - we hope that you find the platform to be a useful addition to your list of ‘go to’ places for advice and guidance.