We created an online tool to help people explore their brain-health behaviours and get personalised guidance on simple lifestyle changes they can make to reduce the risk of dementia later in life.
What we did
- Content strategy
- Service design
- Usability testing
Many factors shape brain health and influence the risk of developing dementia. Some can’t be changed, like age and genetics. But others, like diet and the things people do to challenge their brains, can.
Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) created the Think Brain Health campaign to raise public awareness of how people can keep their brains healthy and help reduce the risk of dementia later in life.
The three central themes of Think Brain Health are:
- Stay sharp
- Keep connected
- Love your heart
A key application of the campaign is the Think Brain Health Check-in tool. This online checker helps people explore their brain-health behaviours and provides personalised guidance on simple lifestyle changes they can make.
This project was delivered in partnership with Claremont, a behaviour change communications agency.
It was so important when dealing with a new and sensitive health concept that our users both understood the information and purpose of the tool, and also felt comfortable using it. Exhaustive testing, careful iteration, and attractive and super-functional design all culminated in a brilliant free resource for the public. It is one that Alzheimer’s Research UK is proud to launch. This Check-in will be a focal point of our Think Brain Health campaign in the coming years, and we expect tens of thousands of people to benefit from it.
Tim Parry, Director of Communications & Engagement, Brand & Digital, Alzheimer‘s Research UK
As soon as the tool was released, it was picked up within the mainstream press and across social media. Featured on the BBC homepage, the coverage drove over 200,000 visits to the tool on the first day alone.
Tens of thousands of people have completed the check up already, with thousands signing up to the onward journey to find out how they can improve their brain health.
Visits to the tool on the first day
Check-ins completed in the first five days of launch
Co-designing with people who care
The tool was created and tested throughout the project by people who would really use it. The concept of the checker came from a group of people close to ARUK who explained how they would find it a useful tool to start conversations about dementia with their friends and family.
There were seven rounds of usability testing, taking in wireframes, designed prototypes and finally build. Many participants already had experience of dementia through friends or family, which is often a key way that ARUK meets supporters.
My mum, who was 90, was as sharp as a needle. In six weeks dementia completely changed her. I felt frustrated as I didn’t know what I could do.
Usability testing participant
Constant iteration and refinement
Following the design principle of ‘one thing per page’, the questions were presented in three sections reflecting the three key campaign themes.
The content design of the questions was repeatedly tested and iterated, to be as clear, understandable and realistic as possible. For example, on a question about sleep we discovered that we needed to reassure users that waking in the night is normal – it’s the frequency that is important.
Over a week I might [sleep for] a mix of 4 to 6 and 7 to 10 hours … I’d say 4 to 6 but would prefer 7 to 10; sometimes I feel lethargic.
Usability testing participants
Educating while taking action
People learn as much while using the tool as they do when receiving their results. The ‘why are we asking this?’ explainers contain digestible, research-backed information that explains the link between each question and dementia.
In testing we saw repeatedly that this was the most valuable content to users, as it was new information to them. Of particular interest was the link between hearing loss and dementia.
Handling a sensitive topic
The tone of the tool was carefully considered to be sensitive without being condescending. With health and lifestyle a potentially difficult and often emotionally-charged area, the content was written to avoid any feelings of judgement.
Copy and imagery were iterated with an expert panel that already had a deep expertise in dementia research, to ensure it created the correct impression for both them and the ARUK brand.
Creating a connected user experience with the wider campaign
The Think Brain Health concept is used across ARUK’s entire fundraising, communications and campaigning portfolio.
People may come to the tool in a variety of different ways, having seen a range of materials beforehand. It is therefore crucial to create a joined up experience for them, but without compromising the quality of the check-in tool itself.
This meant working within, but also developing the existing campaign identity so that when people arrived at the tool, they recognised and trusted it.
- To meet WCAG contrast requirements and allow the content to be as readable as possible, we avoided using the brand orange for body-size text.
- After unfavourable feedback in early usability testing, illustrations were presented in full colour instead of the monotone brand style.
With 40% of dementia cases potentially being preventable, there’s an enormous opportunity to reduce the personal and societal impact of this heart-breaking condition. It’s time for the nation to wake up to the idea of brain health and how looking after our brains can reduce the risk of dementia.
Hilary Evans, Chief Executive, Alzheimer’s Research UK
The tool summarises users’ feedback in a simple emoji-based overview. They are then able to explore feedback to their specific responses in greater detail. This feedback is split into two sections:
- Where users can make lifestyle improvements. Helpful tips and advice are provided, alongside links to relevant support services.
- Where users already scored well in their responses, with information presented under the banner of there being ‘always more to learn’.
By providing realistic and actionable tips and advice the check-in tool is more likely to have an impact on reducing the risk of dementia in life.
Impact on brain health awareness
At the end of each testing session participants were asked to name three things they could do to improve their brain health. People were able to answer readily even when they hadn’t been aware of the concept of brain health at the start of the session.