Every year in B.C., about 1,000 young people in government care turn 18 and are no longer eligible for government support.
The Adoptive Families Association of BC (AFABC) partnered with the provincial Ministry of Child and Family Development to improve access to services for these youth, who often struggle with a variety of issues such as housing, employment, and education.
AFABC asked Content Strategy Inc (CSI) to create a content strategy for a new “one-stop-shop” website designed to help youth with those issues, as well as other things that can be difficult for young adults to manage, from mental health, to relationships, to substance abuse.
The objective? To make sure that clients have the support and information they need to live healthy, independent lives.
Young audience overwhelmed with information
Mary Caros manages communication for the AFABC. She said one of the main challenges was figuring out how to present information to such a specific, unique group.
“The goal was to create a site that would be appealing and engaging to a youth audience who are marginalized in some way,” she said. “It couldn’t simply be an information repository. It had to inspire youth to take action in terms of improving their lives.”
Project lead Sam Pothier said that the information young adults needed was available on other websites. But it was difficult to find and sometimes difficult to understand. “They knew there was information out there but they didn’t know how to access it,” said Pothier, “and they didn’t have adult support to help them navigate that system.”
AFABC’s digital design partner, Agentic Digital Media, proposed a quest-based approach to skill-building that encouraged youth to educate themselves across basic life-skill categories by providing a game-like environment with rewards and incentives. That created new and interesting content strategy challenges for designing bite-sized, action-oriented information that could be integrated into the quests while also providing clear content and pathways to information youth are specifically looking for.
Research-based structure and style
CSI engaged young people from the beginning, including them in discussions and workshops to determine how the site should be organized. The resulting information architecture was clear and simple, making sure they could find information that was most important to them without becoming overwhelmed with fine details.
“Figuring out what information we were prioritizing and how it was organized informed how the website was built,” said Pothier. “That couldn’t have happened without CSI.”
Young people were also consulted on the language and personality of the website before a style guide was created. “We needed content to be written in a way the youth could understand,” Pothier said. “We wanted the language to sound like it was coming from them. Youth talking to youth.”
Since much of the content on the site was new and being created in-house, CSI spent time training AFABC staff to write using the style guide. “There was incredible depth in the training. I feel your participation helped teach people how to be better at content,” said Caros.
“I really like the approach of not just doing the work, but helping us understand why things are being done the way they are,” Pothier said. “CSI did a really good job of teaching me skills along the way.”
A strong start with growing possibilities
In the first six months after AgedOut.com launched, in June 2015, 400 users have signed up. Half of them are verified young people from B.C.’s adoptive system. “We’re getting 4,000 to 5,000 page views per month, which is fantastic,” said Pothier.
She added that youth have also provided positive feedback directly. “We’ve had tons of feedback that the website is easy to read. People don’t get bogged down the way they do on other websites with similar information.”
Because the website has been so successful in engaging youth, AFABC has also been receiving requests for presentations from counselors, support workers, and schools throughout B.C. “We’re getting so many requests, we’re looking to expand province-wide,” Pothier said.
In March 2016, we learned that AgedOut.com has been nominated for a Premier’s Award, in the innovation category. These awards are designed to recognize outstanding innovations from BC Public Service employees and organizations that make a difference in many lives and communities in B.C.