Action for Children parental advice app prototype

Rapidly prototyping a parental advice app

Strategy: Business and data insight, User and audience research | Campaign: Concept development | Experience: Service and User Experience design

Action for Children is a national charity which helps disadvantaged children across the UK through fostering and adoption, intervening early to stop neglect and abuse, making life better for children with disabilities, influencing policy, and advocating for change.

Providing advice to carers of early years children is a major part of Action for Children’s work but, due to dramatic cuts to funding for Children’s Centres since 2010, the opportunities for engaging parents and secondary carers face to face have significantly reduced. The charity wanted to see if it could replicate this function online, through a new digital product.

Given the abundance of online sources of advice for parents of young children, the need for a trusted source, curated by Action for Children’s experts, was clear. Such a product would also help raise the profile of Action for Children and help build their fundraising brand.

Action for Children engaged Manifesto to research, prototype and test a digital product that would be a trusted source of advice for parents of Early Years children; one which would deliver the same quality of advice that the charity is known for.

The major questions were:

• What kind of advice should the product offer and how could it be arranged into a logical taxonomy?

• How would the user experience work in practice?

• What set of features would constitute a Minimum Viable Product?

What we did

We kicked off the project by running a workshop with Action for Children stakeholders to set a vision for the project: a high-level description of who the product’s users would be, what they needed, the features of the product that would meet those needs, and the value that each feature would generate for the organisation and its users.

Armed with a vision of how the product would generate value for Action for Children, we then embarked upon an intensive period of research to identify the specific needs of the product’s user base and the best ways to meet these needs through user experience design.

Desk-based research involved surveying competitor offerings to assess what does and doesn’t work in online advice products, while the user research we designed took the form of both face-to-face interviews, and a large-scale survey delivered to potential users via online parent advice groups and through email marketing. This user data was invaluable for identifying important content topics and arranging them into a logical, usable taxonomy, and for assessing behavioural trends towards app usage for early years parenting. It also helped us generate a set of user personas, representing important, distinct types of user, to guide product development.

Once we’d agreed on a design direction, we were able to create a clickable prototype of the new product. We put this prototype in front of several potential users in face-to-face testing sessions to determine the viability of our proposed user journeys.

Finally, after playing back the findings from the user research and testing sessions to the team at Action for Children, we ran a workshop to build a development backlog for an MVP version of the product.

How it went

In addition to a clickable prototype to help the Action for Children team make a business case for development of the new product, and build out their digital roadmap, we provided the charity with a range of valuable and reusable deliverables.

The user personas generated represent an important subset of Action for Children’s audience and, alongside the wealth of user research, give valuable insight into the type of parental advice that’s in demand. As such, they can be used to guide development of related products and campaigns. The taxonomy of advice topics for parents of early years children can also be used to inform future content strategies.

How this helps us on your project

As an agency which adheres closely to Agile principles, we always begin by determining, with the client, how to create the most value for the organisation. This often results in a set of hypotheses that need to be tested to inform the best approach. Our experienced UX practitioners are experts at taking such hypotheses and designing a methodology for extracting insight from real users, before using this insight to create valuable user journeys which support key business objectives. Our accomplished technologists are then able to advise on how to realise these user experiences in the most efficient, secure and scalable way.

Sign up for the Manifesto newsletter and exclusive event invites