We do a lot of research directly with our users, and 2016 was a bumper year for it. Last year we involved hundreds of young people and their parents in user experience (UX) workshops, surveys, and focus groups – that’s a lot of opinions. Our UX team pulls all these insights together into tangible user goals that we build our service around. They’re pretty important to us, so we’ve pulled together a few major insights from three projects last year to share with you: ReachOut NextStep, The Toolbox, and ReachOut Parents.

But first: why care about user experience? When we started ReachOut we committed to involving young people in our work with our first youth involvement program, the ChillOut Youth Advisory Board. Young people trust our work when they know people like them have been involved in creating it, and it makes it more relevant and impactful in their lives. More recently, we’ve involved parents in the design and content of our ReachOut Parents service that we launched last year. Relevance is important when you’re trying to reach millions of Australians with a highly scalable mental health service, because the better and more relatable our service is, the more people will benefit from using it.

At a glance: Our user research in the last year

  • 108 user experience interviews
  • 10 co-design workshops
  • 160 young people participated in qualitative research
  • 135 parents participated in qualitative research
  • 2000 young people and parents took part in our annual nationally representative brand and help-seeking study
  • Thousands more completed pop-up mini surveys on our service


ReachOut NextStep asks young people what they want to deal with first.

Validate my feelings and show me I’m not alone: ReachOut NextStep

More than 600 young Australians participated in the development of ReachOut NextStep, our tool that gives young people personalised support options based on their symptoms and how significantly the symptoms are affecting them.

When they start the tool, the user selects from a list of symptoms in everyday language. In testing, young people told us that even just going through the list validates their feelings and helps them understand they’re not alone. It also encourages self-reflection.

‘It reassures you that there is always someone looking out for you,’ one user said during testing.


ReachOut NextStep gives the user options, and shows them next steps.

Give me a place to start and show me what’s next: ReachOut NextStep

ReachOut NextStep aims to make navigating the mental health system easier – that’s why it starts by getting to know the user and asking them to narrow down their needs. Early on, the user is given a place to start: they choose what they’d like to deal with first from a shortlist of what they’ve said is going on for them. We don’t rank them because only the user will know what issue they’re ready to work on.

Later in the process, ReachOut NextStep recommends the best support option but it also gives a choice, because young people have told us that’s what suits them. NextStep helps them feel prepared and know what to expect if they were to take up the option, and it makes it easy for them to connect by including stories, stats, practical tips and even a PDF download of their recommendations.

‘It is more specific to your situation. It doesn’t overblow it or underestimate it – it gives you exactly what you need,’ said one user.


The Toolbox helps young people first identify their wellbeing goals, then recommends apps and tools that can help.

Help me to define my goal(s) and my approach to achieving it: The Toolbox

The Toolbox responds to young people’s needs by recommending apps that can help them achieve wellbeing goals. The UX research process for this tool involved initial co-design workshops followed by a diary study, workshop and follow-up one-on-one interviews.

This process guided The Toolbox to become more than just a list of apps: a guided quiz component helps young people define their wellbeing goals and receive tailored app recommendations.

‘I found that I kept coming to a point where I was lost, I didn’t know the next step and I found that … this website or app would be the solution to the next step,’ said one participant.


Validate my experience: ReachOut Parents

More than 1000 parents of teenagers informed the design of ReachOut Parents, which helps parents support their teenagers through everyday issues and tough times. Parents told us they don’t want to be patronised or made to feel like ‘bad parents’. Not only that, they said there’s a fine line between providing support and giving unwanted advice. So, like ReachOut NextStep, we built in options so that parents can choose strategies and help that suits them. Most importantly, the service recognises the expertise of parents and shows them that they’re not alone in what they’re going through.

‘You’re not always looking for a solution; you’re looking for support and an alternative, and for someone to say: “You’re a good parent. You may not feel like it, but you are,”’ said one parent.


ReachOut Parents separates topics into ‘help me understand’ and ‘things to try’ so that parents can easily find what they need.

Help me understand what my child is experiencing and give me practical strategies: ReachOut Parents

This one’s pretty simple: parents want an insight into what their teenager is going through, then they want a practical way to help. These goals informed how content is organised on the site, separating topics into ‘help me understand’ and ‘things to try’ so that parents can easily find what they need.


These insights are just a few of hundreds that inform our services. They were drawn from a series of presentations made by our research team, who regularly share their knowledge with service providers around the country:

  • ReachOut Parents, presented to the Australian Institute of Family Studies by Victoria Blake, Research Manager.
  • ReachOut NextStep, presented to TheMHS Conference by Victoria Blake, Research Manager.
  • The Toolbox, presented to the University of Western Sydney by Gill Vogl, former Research Manager.
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