This section discusses the organisation and evaluation of projects to develop national websites for ChAPAPs. Issues treated are:
- Technical decisions to make before you start
- Project management
- Implementing interactive functionality
- Evaluating your website.
Technical decisions to make before you start
Implementing interactive functionality
Technical decisions to make before you start
Decide who is to design and build your website
- Build it yourself if you have the hardware, software, expertise and time.
- Have your website built by a professional web designer/builder.
- Since this is probably more costly than building it yourself, decide on the available budget before you start.
- Negotiate with the web designer about the design and price.
- To select a web designer/builder, it is common to put the website out to tender (invite several designers to submit proposals and price estimates for designing and building it)
What minimum hardware and software requirements will apply for the end users?
- Compatibility. Should your website be PC-compatible only, or should it also be accessible from Apple Macintosh?
- Resolution and screen width. To avoid horizontal scrolling, choose an appropriate resolution (e.g. 800 x 600) and a liquid page layout, which will adjust automatically to the end users’ screen size.
- Internet connection.
Will you host your website yourself or have it hosted elsewhere?
- If your organisation has a server, you may host the website yourself, provided the size and functions of the server allow.
- The other option is to have it hosted externally by a service provider for a yearly fee.
- If you host your website externally, be aware that service providers offer different levels of service at different prices.
Do you need a content management system?
- If you have your website built by a web builder, you will have the option to purchase a ‘content management system’ that enables you to make regular changes to texts and images in various parts of the website.
- A content management system will save you time and money if your website needs to be updated regularly.
- If your website does not need regular updating, a content management system may not be cost-effective.
- Two types of content management systems exist: tailor-made systems and general packages.
- Generally speaking, the systems are easy to work with for people who are familiar with computers.
Developing a website for ChAPAPs is a comprehensive process that requires detailed planning and coordination. To ensure this, you need a project plan containing information and decisions about:
- Required tasks. These extend from the planning process to the maintenance of the website after the launch.
- Allocation of responsibilities
- Timetable and deadlines
collaboration. Determine which colleagues or partners from other organisations can help to design, build and maintain the website.
Potentials for collaboration
The Internet offers unique opportunities for collaboration. People from different national and regional organisations are able to work together from their own locations and computers. This can have numerous benefits, especially if your website offers interactive services:
- Tasks such as moderating an information and discussion forum and answering e-mail questions from ChAPAPs can be shared or alternated from time to time.
- Sharing or alternating tasks can have cost benefits.
- Expertise from different organisations can be shared or combined.
- The end users get the information or advice from the organisation / professional with the best expertise.
For effective collaboration you need:
- uniform working methods (laid down in manuals)
- work plan
- collaboration or consortium contract
- plenary staff meetings to ensure smooth coordination
- project coordinator
The costs of designing and building a website are difficult to predict. Websites differ widely in their complexity, and costs may also vary from country to country.
Be aware that website costs are not limited to the development stage. To fully estimate the eventual costs, you need to consider the following issues and project stages:
- Planning and development: problem assessment, formulating the content
- Designing and building the website
- Alpha and beta testing before the launch
- Preliminary adjustments and improvements
- Promoting the website
- Evaluating the website
- Subsequent adjustments and improvements
- Maintaining and updating the website
- Hosting costs.
Implementing interactive functionality
Here are some tips and some issues to consider in implementing some common interactive services.
E-mails addressed to the webmaster
- Providing website visitors with an option to contact the webmaster is a common service that will probably not be very time-consuming.
- An auto-reply can be used to inform the questioner that the message has been received, and that you will reply within, say, 5 working days.
- The webmaster must regularly check the mailbox and answer the e-mails.
Forum. A peer-to-peer platform
- A forum is comparable to a notice board on which each person’s contribution is written, and is left on display to be seen by anyone who logs on or has registered.
- Explain on your website that the forum is intended as a peer-to-peer platform, and that it is not a place to contact a professional.
- Draw up rules for the forum, such as sticking to the subject, respecting one another, avoiding obscene language etc.
- Clearly state the forum rules on your website. One option is to require children to agree to them before they are allowed to register or participate.
- Require visitors to register if they want to take part. Require a self-selected nickname and password. To ensure privacy, only the nickname is shown on the forum.
- Decide whether the moderator is only to monitor compliance with forum rules or may also initiate and encourage discussion. If the purpose of the forum is confined to peer-to-peer contact, the former option is advisable. Children may otherwise start communicating with the moderator instead of with one another, and that can be time-consuming.
- How often the forum needs to be moderated depends on how busy it is, how the atmosphere is, etc. We advise moderating at least once a day. As long as participants stick to the rules, moderating only takes a few minutes a day.
- The moderator must be alert to protect the young participants from abuse.
- Different people from different organisations may alternate in moderating the forum. The ‘back office’ of the forum can be made accessible from any computer with Internet access. Moderators can log on with a username and password.
- Other types of forums are conceivable in addition to the peer-to-peer forum, for instance a peer-to-professional forum.
Example of interaction on a peer-to-peer forum for ChAPAPs:
‘Hi, I have a major question to ask you all. My mum drinks and I can’t stand it any longer. But how do I say that to her? And what can I do to get her to drink a bit less than she does now? Does anyone have any experience with this? Please let me know. I’m desperate. Ann’
From Jennifer: ‘Dear Ann, I understand you’re desperate. Just remember, it’s not your fault that your mum drinks. Go talk to her when she’s sober. Tell her you’re worried about her and want to help. Maybe you could ask her what she thinks this is like for you. Don’t forget about yourself! If you can’t talk to your mum, talk to somebody else. Wishing you success! Jennifer’
E-mail service. Questions answered by a professional
- Explain on your website what the e-mail service has to offer: ChAPAPs may send in questions by e-mail, and a professional will answer them by e-mail. Also state which staff member or organisation will be answering the question.
- An auto-reply can be used to inform the questioner that the message has been received, and that you will reply within, say, 7 working days.
- Questions asked by ChAPAPs can be very sensitive or grim (about self-mutilation or suicide, for instance), so they should be answered by responsible professionals who preferably have prior experience working with ChAPAPs.
- Answering questions by e-mail requires special skills that can only be gained through training and practice.
- Develop a manual that sets out working procedures and the guidelines for answering questions.
- The age and gender of a ChAPAP can be important to know when answering the questions, but most questioners forget to give that information. We advise you to ask for these two items in the pop-up e-mail form that appears when a visitor clicks on the e-mail service hyperlink.
- Different people from different organisations may alternate in answering questions. The ‘back office’ of the e-mail service can be made accessible from any computer with Internet access.
- How time-consuming your e-mail service will be depends mainly on the number of questions that are send in. According to the Dutch experience with their e-mail service, it takes on average about 30 minutes to answer one e-mail question.
- Be aware that you will receive questions not only from ChAPAPs, but also from people in their surroundings.
The e-mail advice service of the Dutch ChAPAP website was evaluated after a pilot period of 6 months. The most common questions posed by the children were about:
- Getting up the courage to talk to others about the situation or about specific problems
- Bringing up such topics in a conversation
- Feeling isolated, desperate, depressed or powerless
- Feeling responsible for a parent with a drinking problem
- Wondering how you can help your parent.
Example of an e-mail question from a ChAPAP answered by a professional:
Question from Dave
: ‘I’m 18 years old and I have a sister of 16. Our mother drinks too much. I want to help her, but the problem is that she doesn’t want any help. She denies she has a drinking problem. What can I do about this?’
Answer from professional: ‘Dear Dave, It can be very complicated when a person you know drinks too much, in this case your mother. It’s understandable that you want to change the situation and want your mother to stop drinking.
You asked us what you can do to help. It’s important to realise that your mother is the only person who can change her drinking behaviour. She needs to be motivated to change, otherwise there’s not much chance she will do it.
You could try to motivate your mother to stop drinking. I think it is best not to try that by yourself. Is there anybody who can help you with it, like another adult in your family or your family doctor?
It would be good for you and your sister to talk about the situation with somebody you trust. You also need to take care of yourself and keep involved in activities of your own.
Best wishes and good luck.’
With chat service we mean a service in which a ChAPAP can chat one-to-one with a professional. The chat is not accessible to anyone other than the ‘caller’ and the professional.
- Explain on your website what the chat service has to offer: ChAPAPs can chat one-on-one with a professional to get advice. List the opening hours and days of the chat service in a prominent place on your website.
- Since the topics that ChAPAPs want to chat about can be very sensitive or grim, the chat service should be staffed only by responsible professionals, preferably with prior experience working with ChAPAPs.
- Chatting with ChAPAPs requires special skills that can only be gained through training and practice.
- Develop a manual that sets out working procedures and the guidelines for the chat service. It should include information on how to approach ChAPAPs, as well as on the maximum consultation time and chat sessions per visitor etc.
- If a ChAPAP clicks on the chat service link outside the opening hours and you have an e-mail advice service too, you could inform the visitor that the chat service is not open at the moment, and offer them the option of posing their question by e-mail.
- Different people from different organisations may alternate in running the chat service. The ‘back office’ of the chat service can be made accessible from any computer with Internet access.
- How time-consuming your chat service will be depends mainly on how many hours the service is open.
- Be aware that not only ChAPAPs will use the chat service, but also people in their surroundings.
Stories from other ChAPAPs
In this section ChAPAPs can read and write about one another’s experiences.
- Explain on your website that ChAPAPs can read brief stories written by other ChAPAPs. Invite them to send in their own story, too, which can be posted on the website anonymously.
- Create an e-mail account to which ChAPAPs can send their stories, and place a hyperlink on your website pointing to this e-mail address.
- Most stories will need to be edited before they are clear enough to be posted. Correct the spelling and grammar, and shorten sentences and the story itself, if necessary.
- For privacy reasons, it is better to edit out any personal information. Stories can also be posted under a nickname or pseudonym.
- To provide this interactive service, you will need a content management system. It will enable you to post new stories and remove older ones. If you do not have such a system, you will have to contract out such tasks to a web builder, paying a fee each time you update your website.
- How time-consuming it will be to edit and post the ChAPAPs’ stories depends on how many stories are sent in. You can easily limit the time by posting only 5 or so new stories per month. If you choose this option, you should inform the users of it.
- Different people from different organisations may alternate in selecting and editing the stories received. They may all be given access to the e-mail account. The webmaster should do the actual posting on the website.
Example of one ChAPAP’s story:
From Peter (14):
‘I don’t fit in. Both my parents drink. My friends at school are okay, but they don’t know what goes on back at my home. They’re into different things than I am, like sports and girlfriends. At weekends they go out and do fun things with their families. I often don’t know what to talk about with my friends. I feel so alone.’
- In alpha testing, usability tests are carried out by the people who are designing and building the website.
- It needs to be performed at various times throughout the formative process, for instance whenever a new version is ready.
- In beta testing, selected end users try out the website.
- You should have several different ChAPAPs of various ages, both boys and girls, to test your website before it is launched.
- Suggested test variables:
- Name of the website. Is it catchy and appealing?
- Content. Is it what they want and need? Is there anything missing? etc.
- Navigation. Can they easily locate general or specific information?
- Design. How is the look and feel of the website (structure, colours, images etc.)?
- Understandability. Is the language usage clear? Are there difficult words? Do the users get the right message?
- Evaluating your website is crucial to identifying its strengths and weaknesses. It will tell you what needs improvement in the future.
- Process evaluation could be carried out during a pilot period of 4 to 6 months after the launch.
- Suggestions for process evaluation:
- Keep track of your web statistics (using a statistics program), especially those indicating the numbers of unique and returning visitors, which pages are visited most, etc.
- Ask visitors to complete an online questionnaire on the weaknesses and strengths of the website itself and the interactive services.
- Specifically evaluate the utility and functionality of the interactive services. What questions are asked? How time-consuming is the work of the staff? What weaknesses and strengths can be identified, and what difficulties have arisen in answering questions from users?
- Evaluate the back office functionality of your interactive services. Does everything work smoothly, which aspects need improvement, etc?
- Also after a pilot period in which you evaluate your website, you continuously need to keep monitoring and evaluating your website; do you still reach your target group, is there new information available for ChAPAPs and do you need to update your website etc.
- After the pilot period consider the possibility of evaluating the effectiveness of your website.