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  • How we built this website with our community

  • Date Posted: December 12, 2017
  • 4 minutes read


When we started delivering the Sheffield Mental Health Guide in April this year we were really excited. We had a great website created by the lovely people over at Mind. Our staff team grew bigger as we welcomed Roger and Nila, who brought with them six collective years of experience managing The Guide and masses of insight (as well as humour).

We could see huge potential in the project. What could we do to push it to the next level? We needed to bring in the experts by experience.   

We knew the first thing we wanted to do was rebuild the website to make it our own, so we started by holding a public meeting to collect ideas. We met on 12th April in a packed out room lent to us by our developers.  

We gave the group a few ‘personas’ representing the kind of people who might use the website, and we collected everyone’s ideas on colourful post-it notes.  By the end of this meeting we already had over 60 exciting ideas for taking things forward and improving the website. To make sure we didn’t miss anything, we also ran online surveys, Twitter polls, and spoke to anyone who crossed our path (it was on the brink of annoying!).  

public meeting

The ideas stage was done, now we wanted to get into a huddle and talk strategy. For this we needed a team who could commit, so we started to recruit a Digital Steering Group, searching for people who were happy to meet six times over six  months and guide our work. We were super lucky with the team of people who applied, and were delighted to welcome a group which included a wordsmith, patient leaders and a whole load of digital experts.  

Starting as we meant to go on, before our first meeting we sent round a survey to get some ideas about what the group thought would work well in terms of structure. We used that to make a ‘wireframe’ – a drawing to show where different elements would sit on the website. But it wasn’t a finished wireframe, we needed to make some decisions about what the buttons would be. So, in our first meeting, we did a bit of Blue Peter cut and paste.  

the steering group doing the cut and paste activity

We had some great discussion. At one point we started asking ourselves whether it made sense to separate out content for people who live with mental health conditions from content for people who work in mental health services. The decision, you might not be surprised to hear, was that it didn’t make sense! The site has now been built to lead people to useful information on mental health, whatever their background.  Our friends in Leeds developed the fantastic MindWell site, and inspired us to test the user journeys with Treejack, a very nice piece of tech!

As the structure was being developed the wonderful Human were working behind the scenes on branding. We all had a look at three proposals, and together we came up with something that brought together the best of all three. We were really excited when we saw the finished product – a brand which reflects a guiding compass (‘helping you navigate mental health in Sheffield’).  

SMHG logo

Designs in hand, we began to look at how the website would work. There were pitfalls along the way – at one point we realised one part of the site posed a small but significant risk if it was misunderstood by users. As always, the Steering Group were on hand with a positive and simple solution. By September we had finalised some beautiful designs with the help of our developers at ESP, and the build began. 

some of the group

What we have today is by no means a finished product. We’ve done our best, but there are probably lots of ways it can be improved. We really encourage you to leave feedback – either by getting in touch or using the feedback function you can find at the bottom of the site. Websites are ever-developing things and we’d love to continue the process of refining this site in partnership with as many Sheffielders as possible.  

In the meantime, we hope the website you see now does justice to the talents and insight of all the people who have been involved.  Thank you everyone! 

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