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Young people's views on designing effective websites

Young people's views on designing effective websites

Young people's views on designing effective websites

Bursting the Bubble website evaluation

Young people’s views: Learnings from Bursting the


DVRCV’s website Bursting the Bubble is an effective site for teenagers experiencing family violence, according to a recent external evaluation. The reports from the evaluation also contain some general recommendations for other organisations wishing to develop websites for young people.

Bursting the Bubble was launched in October 2003 as part of Victoria’s Week Without Violence campaign. Visit the site at the web address

Australian research indicates that almost a quarter of teenagers have witnessed an incident of physical domestic violence against their mother or stepmother, and many others experience ‘direct’ physical, emotional or sexual abuse from a parent or care-giver [National Crime Prevention (2001), Young People and Domestic Violence, NCP Canberra].

DVRCV (formerly DVIRC) developed the Bursting the Bubble website to reach out to these teenagers. The site aims to assist young people to identify if family violence is occurring in their own homes; to develop safety strategies and ways of dealing with the emotional impact of abuse; and to understand how to seek further support.

The evaluation of Bursting the Bubble was funded by the Victorian government through the Community Support Fund. It looks at the effectiveness of the website for young people experiencing family violence. It also looks more broadly at young people’s recommendations on how to design effective websites on health and wellbeing issues.

This research was undertaken by the Centre for Program Evaluation at the University of Melbourne. There are two components of the evaluation. The first is the results of an online survey of young people experiencing family violence; and the second is a report from focus groups held in Victorian secondary schools. Both are available for download – see below.

The impact of the website on young people experiencing family violence

The online survey part of the evaluation provides evidence that the website has assisted teenage victims to identify violence and to plan action to protect themselves, or others. The evidence suggests that :

  • the site has motivated young people to contact support services. For example, 75% of respondents to an online survey said they now knew ‘a lot’ or a fair amount about support services after visiting the website, (65% said they knew only a little or nothing about services beforehand) Some 37% say they will most likely now contact a service, and a further 37% said they ‘might’ contact a service.
  • hundreds of young people have identified or confirmed that family violence is occurring in their own homes through the website. Every month, over 250 young people take the online quiz ( that assists them to identify whether violence is occurring in their families. Of those, approximately 84% have the quiz result that indicates they are witnessing domestic violence between parents, and 42% have a result that indicates they are being directly abused by a parent or caregiver.
  • young people plan to use the ideas on how to deal with abuse. 72% of young people surveyed intend to use the information to act on violence happening to them or someone else in their homes, and 15% plan to use the ideas about abuse happening to a friend. For example, a young person who had experienced family violence and who was now in foster care said ‘it helped me decide if I want to go home or not’ and ‘it made me feel more confident plus I’m not passive anymore’.

Comments on the supportive nature of the site included:

It helped me a lot mentally. And it made me realize that some things that have gone on, are not right. It helped me to understand things that I’ve always been afraid to mention or say to friends and family. Thank you’. and ‘What I liked about this website is that people express their feelings and I don’t feel alone – there are people with me.’

Download Online Survey Report of young people who had experienced violence (large file sizes).

Online Survey of 87 young people who had experienced family violence. This is a report in Powerpoint of the survey What young people experiencing family violence have to say about

    • Bursting the Bubble Online Survey [560KB Powerpoint Slides] or
      • Colour is important. The appealing colours on the were frequently discussed in detail by most focus groups.
      • Use illustrations – and lots of them – but avoid an exaggerated or self-conscious use of graphics. For example, one participant commented ‘…a lot of government websites, they’re trying too hard. They have bad cartoons and stuff.’
      • Break up blocks of text by using a combination of quotes, images and text. Question and answer format had an appeal to participants.
      • Don’t ‘try too hard’ to achieve a tone that might appeal to young people. Use simple, personal language.
      • Provide interactives, such as quizzes or fill-in questions, so that site visitors can relate information to their own lives.
      • Provide a guide to how services work rather than just a list of contact numbers. Comments included ‘I’d like to know whether counsellors are allowed to contact police or welfare services’.
      • Download pages pages 1-15 of the report (*NOTE: Large file size* 1.29MB Adobe .pdf file: Contents, Foreword, How young people use the web);
      • Download pages 16-34 of the report (*NOTE: Large file size*1.92 MB .pdf file: First impressions, Graphic design, Navigation, Domain names, Layout, Content design, About the evaluation, References)
      • Comments included “The website is fantastic and I really like fact that kids can test the water as far as their worries are concerned by filling in the questionaire….and this allows a child time to digest the fact that their worries may indicate something more serious that needs to be addressed” and “I print off this material to give to clients’

Lessons for developing effective websites for young people

A second component of the evaluation looked at young people’s views of websites in general, using Bursting the Bubble as a case study.

Over seventy secondary school students participated in focus groups for this part of the research. Almost all of them said that Bursting the Bubble was an example of an effective website. They particularly appreciated the tone of the site, which was ‘welcoming’ and easy to read, and not too ‘try-hard’ or over-familiar.

The following are some of the messages participants had for those designing websites:

The use of real stories from young people attracted participants’ attention. These normalize issues and allow young people to learn from others. Participants said ‘if you were in… that kind of situation but you weren’t quite sure what to do and you see the story, and… what they did… you could…take the next couple of steps’ and ‘you can see kids that have had the same thoughts and…you feel less alone. You’re not abnormal.’

Many of the young people were very interested in the possibility of online or email based counseling. This was seen to be less confrontational than phone or face-to-face services.

The messages the young people provided are important as lessons in how to produce websites for a broad range of audiences.

DVRCV is pleased to make the findings of this evaluation available, as we believe that they will have relevance for other agencies that are developing websites for young people.

Download the report on young people’s views on designing effective websites

The Report ‘Young peoples’ views on designing effective websites: learnings from Bursting the’ is based on focus groups with over 70 young people in secondary schools.

Read an article about the evaluation ‘Bursting the Bubble on Youth Health Websites’ in the University of Melbourne’s UniNews Vol. 14, No. 6, 18 April – 2 May 2005 

The website’s impact on older adults

Feedback on the site indicates that adults who suffered abuse in the past have used it to reflect on their abusive childhoods. For example ‘It helped me understand that my feelings are a normal reaction to what i have been through all the years of my life’ (30 year old female) and ‘i wish that there had been resources like this available 15 years ago when i had to deal with these issues alone. As an adult that is only now learning to come to terms with domestic violence and its lingering after affects I offer mountains of praise for this information that could save lives and offer hope in situations where all hope of a solution had faded.’ (28 year old female)

These responses highlight the need for resources and support for older people to assist them to recover from the long-term effects of witnessing domestic violence.

The use of the website by counsellors and teachers

Teachers, school chaplains and counsellors, and youth workers report that the materials have assisted them in working with young people and in health education classes.

Other material:

Download the booklet ‘Bursting the bubble’ for young people below (based on the website) 16 page full colour booklet

Printed copies of these booklets, as well as stickers and posters, are also available from DVRCV. There is a small charge for multiple copies. To Order: Ph. 03 9486 9866 or post or fax our DVRCV resources & order form.