Mobile Wellcome Trust Browse

Prototyping with Young People and the Wellcome Trust

“The Trust is investing £200 million into adolescent mental health. They asked us to help them better understand better how they can help stakeholders get involved.”

Steven Taylor, Managing Director, Ayup


Wellcome Trust


Discovery / Alpha

Sometimes we’re asked to do a very specific job. Rather like Winston Wolfe in Pulp Fiction, we’re called up to come in on a piece of work that’s already started, but needs help to move it forward. While Winston has his own set of discrete skills, ours are more in the co-design and prototyping department. That’s exactly what the Wellcome Trust needed for their young people’s mental health project.

The Trust were working on the problem of how to involve a broader and deeper range of young people and practitioners in mental health research (MHR). Not only involved in their own research but any research happening at any given time. They’d started the work and developed a prototype called Andi, but needed to research and test Andi with a more diverse group of people. They realised they needed specialist input. So they turned to Ayup and mHabitat.

Img 20180810 094937

A joint project with mHabitat

We were jointly commissioned by the Trust. They asked us to work with all stakeholders (practitioners, researchers and young people!) to understand:

  • Barriers to young people using an online MHR recruitment tool, and what functions they would find useful
  • What practitioners need to enable them to recommend their young people to get involved with MHR activities

The project would go beyond the discovery stage, into defining and co-designing a solution, then developing and testing two prototypes. We led on co-designing, prototyping and testing and worked alongside mHabitat on the research.

Challenges ahoy!

While the project brief was clear and precise, timescales were an ambitious three months (July - September 2018) over the summer holidays. Like Winston Wolfe we’d need to "think fast, talk fast and act fast", while still delivering a quality project. We were up for the challenge.

Challenge 1: Timescales

We’d agreed to involve a minimum of ten young people and ten practitioners. Bringing young people together to work with would be easy but finding mental health practitioners with time during the July and August holiday months would be a bigger challenge.

Challenge 2: Building on existing work, without duplicating

There was also a second specific challenge. We needed to build on the previous work done, rather than duplicating or repeating it. This meant quickly understanding the work’s earlier findings and insights, understanding the rationale behind ‘Andi’ as the existing prototype, and identifying logical next steps.

Why Wellcome Trust chose Ayup

The Trust commissioned through a formal tendering process. They chose Ayup because of our experience in involving service users in meaningful ways. They said they liked how we had done this on previous projects: co-designing solutions with beneficiaries, building solution prototypes, and testing them with potential users. This was really important to the Trust because up to now the project had lacked deep, diverse and dynamic involvement.

They were also attracted by our partnership with mHabitat. Their research and clinical experience would be particularly important for engaging mental health practitioners.

“We discovered that the Trust chose Ayup and mHabitat because of our design skills and reputation in the NHS”

Mike Stephens, Delivery Director, Ayup

Two projects in three months

Right from the beginning we split the project in two:

  • Testing, re-developing, and re-testing Andi: a prototype to help young people explore and choose MHR activities. This would include meaningfully engaging young people and practitioners.
  • Researching and developing a prototype to enable practitioners to refer their young people to particular MHR opportunities, or get involved in MHR themselves.
20180817 114135

Project One: Testing and developing with young people

Just like Winston Wolfe before making any assumptions we analysed the existing situation. This meant quickly understanding existing findings and insights into young people’s participation in MHR activities. Following this the logical next step was to spend time exploring their experience of Andi. So we set up a co-design day with mHabitat who recruited 8 young people to take part.

What is prototyping?

“Prototyping is the act of making a concept real enough to test the thinking that exists behind it. A prototype could be a sketch on a scrap of paper, a clickable digital interface or even a fully working product. The prototyping process shifts our activities away from debating and discussing to thinking more practically about how people will use a product. It builds our understanding of the concept, communicates our collective thinking in a tangible form and allows us to test that thinking with the audience we are designing for.”

Mike Stephens, Design Director, Ayup

Mobile Wellcome Trust Research

Investigating Andi with 8 young people

A diverse group of 8 16-25 year olds attended the co-design day. Working in small groups they critiqued paper printouts of the prototype concept and screens. At the same time they individually tested its navigation elements via usability testing software while we observed and recorded their actions.

These activities generated a rich range of experiences, insights and ideas. We carefully noted them and left ready to iterate the prototype

Development sprints and usability testing Andi with 40 more young people

We took those insights and implemented them, stripping back and re-developing Andi. The new version made signing up for a research study easier, with several other improvements and iterations. We took it to a new group of young people and ran a rapid series of usability testing sessions, similar to those used at the workshop. Again we logged what we learnt and went back to the Ayup office to work on the next version.

Then we repeated the testing process with another new group, absorbed their feedback and iterated again. The final output was a clickable prototype we’d label as an Alpha version, ready for the Trust to develop into a Beta, if it wished.

Richer diversity leads to richer insights

In total 48 young people, across six groups were involved. They were extremely diverse (only 19% identified as white heterosexuals). This increase in diversity led to some richer, and at times contrasting, insights to the project’s earlier ones. The opportunity to compare these helped the Trust become more confident in the type of solution needed and the likely challenges it would present.

Desktop Wellcome Trust

Project Two: Discovering with practitioners and researchers

Unlike Project One, this project hadn’t been started. So mHabitat led a full Discovery process, exploring how we might help practitioners and researchers get involved in MHR related activity or how they might help young people get involved. Then we prototyped a tool to help them select and recommend opportunities to young people.

Insight and journey mapping

We utilised several activities to generate insights into their motivations, attitudes to research and appetites for involving young people. Activities included:

  • One-to-one semi-structured interviews (mHabitat led)
  • Drop in insight generating workshops (mHabitat led)
  • Full day discovery and prototyping workshop, with journey mapping

Prototyping testing

Then in a similar way to our work with young people we created a prototype and took it to groups of practitioners. We undertook:

  • Design and content reviews - where practitioners worked through paper printouts in pairs
  • Navigation tests - we observed how they navigated a digital version of the prototype

Delivering for the Trust

At the end of September 2018 we delivered six outputs to the Trust:

  • Two clickable prototypes - with interactive front-ends
  • User research and co-design insights for both projects
  • Two reports, summarising our approach, findings and recommended next steps to help the Trust decide what to do next.

Can we help you?

Want us to come and share what we learnt with your team? Or want to talk to us about a different project?

Get in touch