Feeling better than before: Our partnership with ReachOut

How we work with the mental health organisation to help young people take control of their wellbeing.

2021.04.19 - Mental Health - Bonnie MacTavish
Looking over the shoulder of someone using the Reach each Out NextStep app on an iPhone


When we were first approached by ReachOut’s head of digital, we were excited by his vision for the organisation and genuine passion for helping young people in Australia feel ‘better than before’ when using ReachOut’s suite of products to improve mental wellbeing. Over that first coffee, we talked about the contradictory nature of technology - and how something that is meant to bring us together can also make us feel very alone. One of our founding beliefs at Nightjar is that tech can be used for good, and so we wanted to take this vision for a more connected online community and use technology in a way that benefits young Australians.

ReachOut is the most accessed online mental health service for young people and their parents in Australia. And with the world currently trying, with varying degrees of success, to end the stigma around mental health and opening up the discussion for those who may be in need of help (or even just someone to talk to), we were excited to be doing our small part.

ReachOut approached Nightjar as an innovation partner across their digital offering, and we continue to work with them on continually improving their tools to make sure we’re taking those small but vital steps to help young people feel ‘better than before.’

Nightjar x ReachOut

It’s imperative that we understand the way the tool will be used and that it’s doing its job rather than causing more stress to people.

Bonnie MacTavish, Head of Experience Strategy NIGHTJAR

Research / CX process

As an organisation which deals with mental health, there’s so many considerations when we design and build products. A clinical advisory board sits across every decision that is made - from the language we use, to the colour palette, to the interaction states and even how many elements are on the screen.

We work incredibly closely with the product managers, workshopping solutions, always trying to push that little bit further to improve the experience for young people in line with the latest in design thinking and innovation, but needing ReachOut’s guidance as we navigate the tricky landscape.

The research process, and the user testing with young people forms a large part of the schedule - it’s imperative that we understand the way the tool will be used and that it’s doing its job rather than causing more stress to people who may already be in a fragile state.

On our first project together, we were brought in as an innovation partner to ideate improvements and iterations on an existing product. The first step was to undertake some research to better understand the needs of our community. We wanted to uncover how they currently interact with the NextStep tool, and how we could improve engagement levels to ensure more people are getting the help they need.

Workshop session
Workshop session with the ReachOut team to define the user problem statements and product vision (seemingly sponsored by 3M)

The NextStep tool is a triage tool which delivers tailored support options to users who have self-diagnosed from a list of symptoms.

However, the list of symptoms was 100 lines long. We didn’t need research to tell us that this would be overwhelming to someone feeling less than 100%. But we did need research to help guide us to a better solution for our users.

As mandated by ReachOut, any recruited respondents must first pass the ‘satisfaction with life’ screener, to ensure duty of care.

We conducted remote tests with associated missions, reviewing screen recordings and assessing the viability of our new prototype.

Even something as seemingly innocuous as emojis sparked a great amount of debate. Five years ago, I did not think I’d be spending whole days trawling Emojipedia! 😂 The wireframe testing also revealed to us that our idea of grouping symptoms together in more relevant clusters helped comprehension, but our filter system was not clear enough.

Testing also showed that users had questions around the anonymity of ReachOut, and so we knew we had to amend our prototype to make it clear from the outset, and at multiple interaction points throughout the process, that the NextStep tool is completely anonymous, and personal data is not stored anywhere.

Feature prioritsation matrix to get that scope under control!

Design process

How do we create something beautiful yet functional within strict brand guidelines and taking into account varying levels of distress?

Many, many iterations and several collaborative workshop sessions to determine the best outcome!

There’s a constant tension between adhering to the somewhat (as user testing has shown) ‘clinical’ and ‘corporate’ ReachOut brand, and appealing to a target audience of young people, aged 14-25 years old. The theory behind the blue is that it looks credible and signals a reliable source of truth, but we need to temper that with design that will be visually appealing to our target audience. These are young people who live on social networks, on streaming services, on gaming platforms - but we don’t want to go too far down that rabbit hole either, where the design becomes homogenised.

Phone with NextStep app
Friendly, accessible design that still fits within brand guidelines was a challenge.

We always strive to strike the balance between a safe space for young people to spend time, and to feel comfortable being themselves, and being a trusted friend who knows what they’re talking about.

User testing in the UX phase not only helps shape the functionality of the product, it also reveals to us some considerations for design. In this case, it was that key parts of the NextStep tool would need to stand out clearly through colour and design, such as the ‘Urgent Help’ button and the ability to filter symptoms.

Accessibility is also a key consideration for ReachOut - their digital products should be a resource for all to be helped by, and we need to ensure we’re designing for WCAG 2.0 AA standards.

A core defining factor of ReachOut and their tools is to make sure young people never feel judged. Emotions are never wrong. Everyone feels them, and that’s normal, and safe. Language plays a huge role in ensuring that all ReachOut touchpoints feel like a safe space that young people can return to at any time - whether they’re feeling down or not.

The 3 simple steps to finding the right support options.
Simplified search and filtering, reducing the stress of facing a list of 100 symptoms.
Support options appeared in a card-style layout, which the young person can save to their plan.
‘Your Plan’, an area to save resources, and the ever-present ‘Urgent Help’ screen.

Our partnership with ReachOut is special - not only because we are helping young Australians feel better, but because we do this together with a passionate team.

Bonnie MacTavish, Head of Experience Strategy NIGHTJAR

Augmented Delivery

The Nightjar production and engineering teams integrated with the respective ReachOut teams to augment the delivery of the NextStep tool. The backend services were scoped together and both the Nightjar and ReachOut frontend teams built on ReachOut’s preferred technology - Vue.js. We ran integrated 2-week sprint cycles, with a full agile process including pre/post-mortems, showcases and retrospectives. ReachOut and Nightjar shared management of all sessions, resulting in clear team responsibilities and delivery expectations. As always, all code underwent strict reviews and QA testing.

Results & Optimisation

We’re never finished! As the products live in the wild, we are constantly optimising and reviewing results in order to improve them. Measuring against our original OKRs, we can see where users are dropping off, or not engaging in the product, and tailor accordingly.

We also integrated a live survey into the beta release of NextStep in order to understand how young people felt about it and if it was meeting their needs.

After we launched the tool, we noticed in the data that there was some a large drop off from Step One, where the user is presented with the 100 symptoms, even though we had grouped them in contextual blocks.

A pivot was required, so we revisited the user flow, and were able to cut a step from the user journey, the dream! We realised that if a user came to the site with a fair idea of the topic their problems fell under, they could dive straight in to the topic level, without first sorting through the list of 100 symptoms. This effectively gave us two separate user journeys, for a user more certain of the issues they sought help for, versus a user who was unsure and needed more guidance.

Within 6 months of its release, the NextStep tool has seen some incredible results:

  1. Number of NextStep launches: 333.80% increase*
  2. 35.87% increase of young people who used NextStep who received personalised recommendations*
  3. 55% of young people expressed the support options were helpful (March-August 2020)

*Compared to same period last year

Our partnership with ReachOut is special - not only because we are helping young Australians feel better, but because we do this together with a passionate team. Constant communication, continuous re-working of concepts and structures, and lively discussion are part of the process and it always helps us get to the best result.

grid of phone screens

Digital Product Company.
We solve complex business problems by unifying brand, experience and technology.

Get In Touch
SYD 00:00:00
We acknowledge and pay respect to the past, present and future Traditional Custodians and Elders of this nation and the continuation of cultural, spiritual and educational practices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.