On Valentine’s Day 2014 we made a bold step towards reducing the stigma and the loneliness of relationships affected by mental health issues. We launched Madly in Love, a site for young people to share their experiences of relationships and mental health.
We didn’t want to replicate Youthnet’s information and advice site for young people TheSite.org; we wanted to produce an entirely new service. One that filled the online gap in support for young people whose ability to have relationships is affected by their – or someone else’s – mental health.
To make life extra difficult for ourselves, we also wanted Madly in Love to appeal to young men. On TheSite.org, there’s a 60/40 bias towards women so we set about using Madly in Love as a testing ground to trial new approaches.
- A design that appealed equally to young men and women
- A look and feel that is very different to TheSite.org yet has the same editorial and safeguarding values
- A launch campaign in a medium specifically chosen to target young men (I’ve blogged about the success of this here).
- A tailored and specific ‘ask’ for men to share experiences as our Youtube experience shows they respond better to narrow calls to action.
Madly launched on Spotify to great success, with hundreds of users responding to our call for playlists. But there was no immediate story-sharing from young people.
One of Madly’s distinguishing features is that its core content is user-generated, so it depends on user’s uploads to make it look busy to Google. With no-one sharing stories, the site was likely penalised for lack of activity.
To tackle this we set about cross-linking between TheSite.org and Madly in Love in the hope this would push users through to Madly.
This approach is working. Last month Madly got its first story via its share Your Experiences page. Then the second arrived. This week we had three, and our first comment. It was a dream comment; the type you always hope users will leave:
For a website editor, managing user generated content is one of the hardest jobs going. How do you encourage your users to write in a way that will create a strong narrative, make for easy editing and crucially allow your site to rank highly for certain search terms? While designing Madly we worked hard to tackle these questions and I’m glad, because so far Madly’s user generated content has been focused on the right subject matter with a strong narrative. People even seem to be following our writing tips – in our experience this is pretty unusual.
Of the five stories posted so far, three have been from young men, demonstrating that they see Madly in Love as a platform they can relate too.
On another positive note, one of the three ‘story’ videos we shot for launch, ‘Showing him my scars’, is doing amazingly well on YouTube. With over 60,000 views it’s our second most-watched video, attracting a lot of user engagement.
The Next Level
It’s thrilling and touching to see young people using Madly in Love as we hoped and reporting benefit from it. Now we have users, we need to refine the value of their experience. At the same time we want Madly in Love to become a more prominent resource for our partners and the many more young people across the UK who are struggling with the combined complexities of relationship and mental health issues.
Here’s a few items from our to-do list:
- While Madly in Love should remain a separate platform, there’s benefit in bringing its brand closer to YouthNet and TheSite, increasing the flow of trusting users from TheSite.
- Make it easier to access support after uploading a story. Many users clearly need help so the upload page should direct them to TheSite’s mental health section and relationships advice service
- Our relationships peer advisors are also well placed to use article comments to offer support to users. Doing this would lead to a stronger experience for readers and users.
- Cross link more between TheSite and Madly in Love. Link contextually from TheSite articles as well as in the ‘next steps’ module at the bottom of articles.
- We need to focus on other content like photos, playlists and curated content from other sites. A creative challenge or competition could generate this type of content.
- At the moment editing user stories is time-intensive – they should automatically upload so we can pre-mod them in WordPress, instead of receiving them via email and then uploading them ourselves.
- The ‘from around the web’ element is not working as it should. It has to be manually updated and is too resource-intensive. It looks lifeless.
- Though the site’s look and feel was approved by young people and we’ve had no negative comments, we think it could be improved.
Madly in Love’s main attribute is its clear subject focus and this is the main reason the quality of the user-generated content is so high.
Following the experience of creating Madly in Love’s user generated content platform YouthNet is now scoping the launch of a similar functionality for TheSite.org.
Madly in Love followed an agile and iterative development process. We were encouraged by Comic Relief to run with ideas and experiment. This ‘fail fast’ attitude allowed us to build a site that, while not beautiful, is capable of achieving what it set out to do. A huge legacy of Madly in Love is the confidence it’s given us to take this approach to other Youthnet projects.
Ed’s note: in six months we’ll be following up with Emma and the Madly in Love team to see how they site has developed and the other insights they’ve gained.