Young Lives vs Cancer

Young woman looking at her mobile phone
Young Lives vs Cancer
Online community
Mobile app
Health charities
Other healthcare

Young Lives vs Cancer was looking to embrace digital comms and create an online community tool and smartphone app.

Young Lives vs Cancer (formerly CLIC Sargent) is the UK’s leading cancer charity for children, young people and their families. They provide clinical, practical, financial and emotional support to help people cope with cancer and get the most out of life. The community app was part of a programme to extend the support that they offered to young people aged 16-24.

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Connecting young people

Young Lives vs Cancer wanted to increase the support it gave to young people who – having received a cancer diagnosis just as they are becoming independent adults – have already had to deal with tremendous personal challenges.

Young people can often feel socially isolated because their treatment prevents them from taking part in normal everyday activities and they can feel cut off from their friends. They may be treated on an adult cancer ward, where they may not have access to the practical and emotional support they need during and after treatment to maintain their wellbeing and help build their resilience.

Young Lives vs Cancer had plans to set up an online community to enable these young people to engage with experts and, most importantly, their peers. Users needed to feel comfortable and secure sharing information and asking questions. Naturally for this user group, the community had to be highly accessible on mobile devices.

Young Lives vs Cancer planning
Young Lives vs Cancer mobile phone
We came to IE Digital with a complex brief for our online community. IE Digital focused on the essential principles, actualising this into an intuitive website that will help Young Lives vs Cancer build a vibrant space for 16 to 24-year-olds, who have, or have had cancer.
Helen Thomas-Fox, Senior Digital Manager
It’s very easy to post and read messages on the community.
When I was diagnosed I was on my own on an adult ward. I only met one other young person with cancer while I was going through treatment... It can be isolating, especially if you can’t leave hospital.
Young Lives vs Cancer online community member
Young Loves vs cancer website on mobile and tablet
Creating a minimum viable product

IE Digital reviewed and challenged Young Lives vs Cancer's complex brief.

We recommended an Agile, rapid prototyping approach to the development to get something into the hands of users quickly for testing, so we could listen to feedback and iterate. 

IE Digital stripped back the requested functionality and simplified the initial requirements list to a ‘minimum viable product’ approach. We agreed with the client that certain requirements were unnecessary in an initial version, such as giving users the option to message each other privately. 

Rather than duplicating content from the main Young Lives vs Cancer website into the community site, we proposed to integrate that content into the community search, in addition to signposting important information.

Another decision made early on was to greatly reduce the barriers to registration, only capturing the minimum details rather than requiring a full ‘user profile’ of information such as age and type of cancer. 

People doing a sponsored run
Young Lives vs cancer website on a laptop
Creating a mobile first web app

With a simplified, Agile approach agreed, IE Digital got to work on the web app – with a mobile app to follow later.

We recognised the majority of users would be on mobile so we took a ‘mobile first’ approach, keeping things as simple as possible. IE Digital’s consultants worked hand in hand with our talented design team to ensure a seamless user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). We looked at the UX for the site: mapping the user journeys, planning the information architecture, creating wireframes for the site and considering visual design. We created a storyboard to bring the site to life, working within the existing  brand and to Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

Our development team built the bespoke front end and used Drupal for back end user and content management, building quickly and then refining through beta releases and iterations prior to and post launch. This approach allowed a subsequent sprint to build a packaged mobile app available on iPhone and Android. Both the web front end and mobile apps share much of the same code, facilitating ongoing parallel development paths. 

The result was a focused, curated, question and answer community that connects young people with each other and with highly engaged experts. No topic is off limits, from the specifics of an individual’s illness and treatment, to how it affects their life, relationships and education – or even general interest topics such as films, music, and plans for the future. The app uses hashtags to make finding topics easy. The community also runs 'ask the expert' sessions and members are free to suggest topics. 

Crucially the app provided a high level of privacy, allowing community users to post anonymously if they prefer. 

Ongoing support and SEO enhancements

In 2017, the charity rebranded and introduced a new logo and visual identity. IE Digital gave the app a front-end redesign in line with the new brand guidelines, along with some tweaks to improve the user experience. We also implemented a number of SEO enhancements to increase the forum’s visibility through search engines. IE Digital continued to provide ongoing support and further functionality enhancements, until the community app closed in 2018 due to a change in strategy. 

An online community app for 16-24 year olds who have, or have had, cancer
Hashtag system connects over 80 common topics and themes
Agile, rapid prototyping approach