New Report – Digital Families

Person using iPencil on iPad

Over the past 12 months we ran a project to answer the question of ‘how do we support families better online?’ Digital Families was created after we launched a new design for our website but felt that it wasn’t having the impact we wanted to see with family members. Part of our new design had online services like message boards and a chat room. We also currently have an online webchat service which is used frequently by people who visit our site.

The project consisted of secondary research of asking other organisations with successful online services how this success happened and what their opinions were on our own online services. We then took primary research in the form of activities including one-to-one interviews, an online survey and a small social media training session for support group practitioners. These activities helped us understand the digital skills and needs of our audiences and what we are to do to adapt our website and online services based on their recommendations.

We have just finished putting together all of the findings in a report and thought we would share some of the information we have found out. Thank you as well to everyone who took part in our project including those who attended training, those who took our survey and interviews and the organisations who kindly spoke to us about their services. We felt that our survey really brought out some brilliant findings.

71 people took our online survey which had four main topics:

• How you get online
• How you use the internet
• Your opinions of online support services
• Scottish Families online support services

We asked respondents to the survey if they had ever used a webchat platform before. There was a divided response with 31 people saying yes, and 30 people saying no. Several of the ‘no’ responses came from a support group setting with older women who said they had never used webchat to solve their problems.

There was also an interesting response to the question on whether you prefer speaking to a person face-to-face or speaking to a person online (webchat, email, etc.) Most respondents said they preferred speaking to a person face-to-face, but 22 people said they preferred email or webchat. This reflects the feedback that we have had from people who contact our helpline. Of the 461 people who used our webchat between April 2018 and April 2019, 65% said they would not have contacted us by phone if there was no webchat available. 20% said they may contact and only 3% said yes they would contact by phone.

We also asked respondents if they ever had any issues getting information online and 48% said yes and 52% said no. Most of the ‘yes’ responses were to do with:

• Poor website navigation
• Lack of content
• Out of date information
• Issues with website design
• Not being able to see contact information clearly

‘Sometimes it is difficult to establish what is directed at professionals and what is directed towards the individual.’

‘Some services have closed down but websites are still active.’

‘There is often printable information which is no good without a printer.’

The last few questions of the survey invited respondents to comment on specific questions relating to online support services; their thoughts, opinions and what they see the barriers are for people getting online.

We asked respondents what they thought online support services could do for people and key takeaways are:

• Online support services will make people feel ‘more comfortable’
• People will feel connected to others even if they live remotely
• Online support means information will be readily available
• Online support may make things impersonal

‘I think there are many things people could use online support for especially in this technological age as it’s easier and quicker to contact groups, peers, share problems, etc. However, there is often limited information or out of date information in regard to services for many agencies or unanswered emails and questions. It’s about finding what works for an individual.’

‘Could be a readily available means of support when needed. Could encourage someone to take a first step in seeking support.’

Digital Families was very successful in highlighting the major benefits of an online support service. Most of the respondents in our activities spoke highly of online support.

The major key takeaways in favour of online support are:

• It will make people feel ‘more comfortable’
• People will feel connected to others even if they live remotely
• Information is easy to find and readily available for whenever a person needs it
• It can be the first line of contact for someone with anonymity
• May be the only support available to people living remotely
• Would reduce travel costs, etc. if people had to make their way to the closest city for support
• Young people would definitely use an online support service

You can read our Digital Families report on our website now by clicking here.

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