Can an app make you well happy?

Can an app make you well happy?

‘Young people can now have all the information they need in the privacy of their own surroundings without fear they may be judged by peers and all at the touch or flick of a button! Genius!’

There are so many apps out on the market, I was curious to find out a bit more about the process of commissioning and developing one and how you make sure you spend your money wisely and get what you want at the end of the process.

Kat very kindly shared her experiences with me about developing the WellHappy app:

V: tell us a bit about you

K: my name is Kat, I’m 24 and I work for Young Minds and myhealthlondon as project manager for the WellHappy app. I’ve been a service user on and off for almost a decade now. I’ve also been running online support groups and moderating forums for about ten years too.

For the last four years I have been a VIK (Very Important Kid) at Young Minds (participation project) working to raise awareness of young people’s mental health issues and improve services. Last August Young Minds gave me a job with them and the NHS in London to help young people by developing an app.

V: how did WellHappy come about?

K: it originally started off being a project just to answer part of the state of mind manifesto ‘tell us where we can go when we need help’ regarding mental health problems.

Basically we thought long and hard about the best way to help young people find help (which was the question we were posed by the State of Mind manifesto). We knew that we were covering three very sensitive areas that still have a lot of taboo around them and people need it.

V: did you research how many people use smart phones?

K: we looked at rates of smart phone usage in young people, and although I’m a young person and I have a smartphone I was quite shocked by the results. Even in the younger range (12-15 year olds) 47% have a smartphone. Of those 90% use their smartphones before they’ve even got out of bed in the morning.

V: what about the technical side of the app development?

K: we were helped by a design agency called Bright Lemon  to come up with the look and feel of the app. We used ideas young people gave us in focus groups and through our survey.  In terms of development we used an agency called Digital White to help us build the app to the specification we worked on with young people.  We also worked with an organisation called Living Well CIC on the sexual health side of the app .

V: what does the app do? 

K: the app lists services throughout London as well providing information to help you navigate those services such as a jargon buster and FAQs and we also launched a website which has lots of blogs, videos and further information.

V: what does the app provide that an internet search can’t?

K: Google is undoubtedly a great tool and we know it’s one of the first places that young people go for information these days. However it can be incredibly overwhelming. There are specific organisations like Young Minds where you can find information but if you don’t know about organisations like them you would probably just put a search term into Google. If you type ‘depression’ into Google you get 236 million results and if you type in ‘Depression in London’ you still get 82 million results.

We wanted to provide something specific for young people in London to help them find information quickly and effectively, and also to provide accurate information. All too often what you find on the internet is poorly written and unreliable – and when it’s your health you can’t afford bad information.

I always point out that mental health problems (as well as sexual health & substance misuse issues) are not 9-5 issues however most of the services available for them are. We wanted something that young people could use on the go, night or day.

I mentioned these are not always easy subjects to talk about and there is still a lot of stigma. The beauty of an app is that you can have it hidden away on your phone behind a lockscreen so no one has to know you have it if you don’t want them to. It’s not like your family computer which records your history.

V: what is the take-up of WellHappy so far?

K: to date the app has been downloaded 1,778 times (since launch on March 13th).
IoS has 86% of the share and Android only 14% which is not something I was expecting and it will be interesting to look into why that might be.

V: any tips for other people who are thinking of commissioning or developing an app?

K: firstly I’d say you should find out what other people are doing.  I hear all the time about people putting huge amounts of time and money into an app or website only to discover that someone else is doing something almost identical.

If you’re developing an app for service users or young people, involve them! We ran surveys, set up social media and ran focus groups to present ideas to and get feedback from our target audience about everything from design, to layout, to content. The best use of co-production I have seen is Innovation Labs.


Thank you Kat for sharing your experience and learning with me – good luck with WellHappy! You can find out more about the app in this short film 

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