Your website

Many decisions need to be made while creating a website for ChAPAPs. The main question is the purpose of your website. Other questions are the age and the needs of your target group. This section tells you what information you need about the target group before you start working on your website. And what content and design issues you need to consider to ensure that the website meets the needs and wishes of the ChAPAPs?

Page contents

  1. Defining your target group
  2. Getting to know your target group
  3. Content considerations
  4. Design considerations

Define your target group

Children of different ages have different school levels, reading skills and interests. They must be addressed according to their age and their cognitive and emotional capacities, and this may require different information and different web designs. For example, the hereditary nature of alcohol problems cannot be explained in the same way to 8- as to 16-year-olds.

You could choose your target age group on the basis of the educational phase the ChAPAPs are in, such as primary (6-12) or secondary school (12-18).

If you wish to create a website for children in a broad age range, lets say 8- to 18-year-olds, you might divide the website into separate parts for younger and older children. ChAPAPs can then choose for themselves which part to visit, based on their educational and reading level, psychological development, interests etc.

In addition to age, there are also other characteristics of ChAPAPs you need to consider when defining the target group. These include the child’s role in the family, the presence of sisters or brothers, the gender of the drinking parent, and the gender of the ChAPAP. To illustrate: boys and girls may react differently to the problems at home, and a drinking mother may have a different impact on the family than a drinking father.

Most likely your website will be designed for all children in a particular age bracket who have problems due to a parent’s use of alcohol, or who have worries or questions about it. Within a broad design like this, you could set aside certain areas of the website for information aimed at specific subgroups.

Getting to know your target group

Problem assessment

Before you start writing for and designing your website, you need to know your target group well. What information can you obtain about the risks that a parent’s alcohol use can have for a child? What problems do ChAPAPs encounter, how serious are the problems, and what causes them? This requires a problem assessment based on state-of-the-art knowledge.

You also need to assess the viability of your website. Is the Internet an effective means of giving information and advice to ChAPAPs in your country? What percentage of the children and adolescents have access to the Internet?

Obtain your information from the latest research-based and practical sources

  • To assure the quality of your website, make sure the information it contains is based on the latest research (in particular on evidence-based and best practice knowledge) as well as on practical data.
  • Besides international findings, see if you can find national information pertaining to certain issues. Research findings from your own country may be more closely relevant to your target group.

Gathering information

Here are some suggestions for collecting information about the target group:

  • Research knowledge. Consult the ENCARE website. It summarises a wealth of information and also contains a literature list. Look up the latest evidence-based findings in the Cochrane Library. You could also search the Internet (sources such as Pubmed) or consult libraries, universities, research institutes or other organisations that focus on the target group.
  • Practical data. Interview health workers and other experts that work with ChAPAPs, and interview ChAPAPs themselves. Search for websites that might be of interest to ChAPAPs (youth sites about alcohol, healthcare and other subjects). Collect books, brochures, self-help guides and other materials written for the target group.
  • We cannot overemphasise the importance of involving the end users themselves at every stage of the project, including the information collection process. This is to ensure that your website meets the needs of your target group and make your website successful. Ask ChAPAPs what kinds of information they would like to see on your website. You may read more about end-user involvement in the content and the design sections of this toolkit.

Adapt the information to your target group

The information you gather about the target group needs to be thoroughly adapted if it is to be understandable, interesting and useful to your target group. For example, you may have discovered that the number of ChAPAPs in your country is estimated at 8.3% of the population. Many young children will not understand information expressed in that form. To clarify it, you could convert the percentage to an absolute number of children, or explain that 1 out of every 12 children have a parent with an alcohol problem. In the End-user perspective section, you can read more about issues you need to consider while writing for your website.

Keep in mind that most people do not like reading large amounts of text on the Internet. To make reading easier, you can:

  • Offer the information in layers within your website; visitors can go straight to the layers that interest them (clearly guided by the navigation structure) instead of having to search for specific information in a lengthy text.
  • Use multimedia tools, such as audio, images or video.

Literature references

If you use research or other literature or books for the content of your website, it is not customary to place references to it in the webpages as you would in a published book or article. Such information is especially unlikely to interest children, and it could be distracting.

If you do refer to any publications in your webpages, limit this to references that will be useful and understandable to your target group.

It is definitely useful to keep a reference list, both for your own use and that of other people who are interested in the data you have drawn your information from.

You might mention somewhere in your website that as much information as possible comes from the latest research findings and practical sources. Also be sure to state which people and organisations are behind the website.

Content considerations

Theoretical and end-user perspectives

Theoretical perspectives. Different theoretical perspectives exist concerning the impact of alcohol problems on children. These include the ‘coping’, ‘family system’ and ‘genetic’ perspectives. You need not choose between these approaches; your website can cover several different ones. It is useful, however, to be acquainted with several of the major theoretical perspectives. You can read more about these on the ENCARE website.

End-user perspective. Your website should be written from the end-user perspective. This means that the information you provide should satisfy the needs and wishes of the ChAPAPs. To make sure that happens, you might question several ChAPAPs to find out what kinds of information they would like to see.

  • Do they want general information about what parental alcohol problems are and why adults have alcohol problems?
  • Do they want to know about the experiences of other ChAPAPs?
  • Do they want practical, detailed information about what they can do about their situation – for example, how to plan a conversation with their drinking parent about the problems?
  • Do they want to know what types of help are available (telephone helplines, Internet, professional counselling etc), or where to find confidential or anonymous help in their area?


Not all ChAPAPs suffer negative effects from their parent’s drinking problem. But that does not mean they never experience problems or difficult times. Some children are resilient and come through their experiences without developing significant problems (at least no more problems than children in non-substance misusing families). A number of protective factors and processes have been identified, such as high self-esteem and self-confidence, a good relationship with at least one adult in a caring role, a good support network, and involvement in a range of activities.

You could address these types of protective factors on your website too, in addition to the risk factors. Inform the users, for instance, what factors can protect them against problems (giving some concrete examples). You might also encourage them to talk to an adult they trust and to get involved in some regular activities for themselves, like sports or hobbies.

Facts about ChAPAPs

Awareness of some of the known facts about ChAPAPs can help children to feel less alone. They will understand more about themselves and the situation they are in. Here are some examples of facts you could mention on your website, along with some ideas you need to consider.

  • Number of ChAPAPs in your country. This will be of keen interest to your target group, as ChAPAPs often think they are the only child that has a drinking parent. Many other people will also be interested in knowing how many ChAPAPs there are. These include prevention and health workers, teachers, journalists and people who personally know a ChAPAP.
  • Problems experienced by ChAPAPs. An important fact is that ChAPAPs experience more personal problems and more family and school problems than many other children. Since the list of difficulties ChAPAPs face is quite long, you might consider mentioning only the problems that are most common, most serious or most worrisome to the target group. It is good to emphasise that most ChAPAPs do not have the problems mentioned. Such information can also be distributed over different webpages (layered), and perhaps further structured according to age group or type of problems.
  • ChAPAPs’ elevated risk of alcohol problems. This is a significant, but sensitive issue. Some ChAPAPs wonder whether they will later develop the same problems as their parent. If you do decide to mention that ChAPAPs have a greater risk of alcohol problems than other children, you might consider explaining the possible genetic, psychological and social causes, and stressing that most ChAPAPs will not have alcohol problems later in life.
  • Foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Whether to mention FAS on your website may be a point of discussion. You may believe information on FAS is too confronting for ChAPAPs, or you may be afraid they will mistakenly conclude they have FAS themselves. On the other hand, since some ChAPAPs indeed suffer from FAS, your website could be an opportunity to inform them about its symptoms and causes and about what help is available. It may also give them a sense that their specific problems are recognised.

If you want to give information about FAS on your website, you should at least explain what the condition is and what its causes and symptoms are. You could also point out what treatment is available for some of the symptoms, and where the users can find more information and help.

Information about alcohol use

On your website you could give general information to your target group about normal and problematic alcohol use. This might include the following topics:

  • Why people drink alcohol: they like the taste of it, it is a way of socialising, etc
  • What happens when people drink alcohol: the various physical and emotional effects
  • Health risks of drinking alcohol: hangovers, aggression, accidents, diseases etc
  • How much an adult can safely drink: what is considered safe drinking in your country, male-female differences, risk of drinking and driving, taking medications etc.
  • Different types of alcohol problems: binge drinking, problematic alcohol use, alcohol dependence etc
  • Alcohol legislation: what laws exist about drinking alcohol in your country, about drink driving, about minimum ages for buying and consuming alcohol etc
  • Effects of alcohol when drunk by children and adolescents: information about the harmful consequences of alcohol use for children at different ages, ideas from ChAPAPs themselves about drinking alcohol (now or later in life) etc.

How ChAPAPs feel and cope in their situation

It can help ChAPAPs to read about some behaviours and feelings that we know to be common among ChAPAPs. They may feel relieved that they are not the only ones, and they may correct certain misconceptions they have. Here are some feelings and behaviours you might point out, with some suggestions on how to address them.


  • Blame-taking. Assure them that their parent’s drinking problem is not their fault.
  • Mixed feelings towards parent. Tell them it is confusing but okay to have mixed feelings.
  • Shame about parent’s behaviour. Tell them it is understandable and normal to feel ashamed. Let them know that many other children are ashamed of their parents occasionally and would recognise their feelings.
  • Anger and disappointment. Assure them they have the right to be angry and disappointed. Give tips on how they can better cope with these feelings and release some tension (telling somebody how they feel, writing it down, playing football, taking a walk, stomping their feet etc.)


  • Keeping the problems a secret. Explain that this is understandable, but not usually good for them. Motivate them to talk to a person they trust, and give tips on how to start and continue such a conversation.
  • Trying to help their parent stop drinking. Explain that they cannot help their parent stop drinking, and why not.

What ChAPAPs can do about their situation

Although most ChAPAPs handle the situation at home as best they can, some will be open for new suggestions or alternatives. You can describe some of the possibilities on your website. In addition to recommendations about what they can do, ChAPAPs will appreciate receiving detailed, practical information on how to do it. Some examples follow.

Things you can advise and encourage ChAPAPs to do:

  • Talk about their situation. Explain why this is important, to whom they can talk, and how they can plan the conversation.
  • Seek help. Give them information about what kinds of help are available and where to find it (Internet links, names, addresses, phone numbers etc).
  • Become better informed. Tell them what kinds of information can be helpful and where they can find it: reading tips, websites, children’s helplines, e-mail advice services etc.
  • Have fun. Explain to them why this is important, and what kinds of pleasurable activities they could try: sports, hobbies, seeing friends etc.

An additional option is to give ChAPAPs advice about what to do in specific situations, such as:

  • if they worry about their siblings
  • if their parent drinks and drives
  • if their parent becomes aggressive after drinking.

Design considerations

End-user perspective and involvement

In designing a website for ChAPAPs, you need to think from the end-user perspective in terms of:

  • Interface: What do they like to see (in terms of graphics and colours)? Is the presentation appropriate to the age of your target group (e.g. not too childish)?
  • Language: What level of language do the users understand? What difficult words do you need to explain? Try to focus on an average reading level of your target group.
  • Tone of language: How do the users like to be addressed? Most likely they will prefer an open, informal, non-patronising, but nonetheless serious approach.

To ensure that your website meets the needs of ChAPAPs in terms of website name, design and content, you should closely consult with end users while developing it.

  • Before starting to design the website, ask ChAPAPs (e.g. organise focus group or online discussion group) for their opinions about what it should offer, what it should look like, and how they would like to be addressed. Dutch informants, for example, made it clear they wanted a website that would provide serious information, but still be appealing, colourful and entertaining, and not overly serious or childish. This was partly in contrast with the original ideas of some professionals, who thought the website should also look very serious.
  • If possible, show several different drafts of the website design (interface) to some ChAPAPs and ask them which one they judge the best.
  • You could also ask them what they think about the name you have chosen for your website, or suggest several names and ask which they like best.
  • If you cannot consult with ChAPAPs themselves, you might speak to other children of their age group about the interface. After all, ChAPAPs are no different from other children in most respects.

After designing and building your website, you can also have ChAPAPs pre-test it; the design and content. Read more about this at beta testing.


The homepage is a visiting card for your website. It should be both informative and appealing to the target group. In a matter of seconds, the homepage should give the visitor a good idea of what the site is about, for whom it is intended, and what it offers.

The homepage also serves as a table of contents. It contains hyperlinks to the main topics of the website, to other information, and to the available interactive services. It usually also includes a disclaimer, as well as general information about what the website has to offer, whom it is meant for, who developed and designed it and who funded the project.

Here are some examples of homepages from European websites for ChAPAPs. The German and Austrian website is for youth only. The Dutch website is for both youth and adults; the main address of the website leads to a so-called ‘splash page’ where visitors can choose to access the youth or the adult section.

German website for ChAPAPs aged 10 - 14

Users navigate to the main topics by clicking on the triangles.

Dutch website for ChAPAPs aged 12 - 18 (

This is the homepage of the youth section of

Austrian website for ChAPAPs aged 10 - 18
(Onysos’ Chat,

This is a chatroom where ChAPAPs can meet other ChAPAPs.

Dutch website for adult ChAPAPs (above age 18)

This is the homepage of the section for adults of

Navigation structure

The navigation structure helps visitors to find the information they are looking for, and it reminds them where they are in the website.

To ensure a clear navigation structure, all webpages need:

  • the logo of the website
  • a hyperlink to the homepage
  • hyperlinks to the main topics (sections) and other service pages (FAQs, information and peer-to-peer forum etc.); this is usually shown at the top, bottom or left side of the webpage.

All section pages (which contain your main topics) need:

  • an index of hyperlinks showing the contents of the present section
  • a section title and page title; for instance ‘Facts about ChAPAPs/ Number of ChAPAPs in country’
  • a consistent, recognisable layout.


Graphic representations (photographs, drawings, animations) can give a text-based website more appeal for the target group, and they also help to visualise the information or message you want to put across. They are vital to the look-and-feel of your website. Whether you use funny, serious or sad images depends partly on the wishes of the target group. Too many graphics can be distracting and annoying, so post only graphics that serve a specific purpose.

How can you obtain your graphics?

  • Create them yourself.
  • Have a designer produce them.
  • Buy them in an online image market such as iStockphoto or Getty Images.
  • Download images from the Internet. Try using search engines to search for the term ‘images’. Remember that some images have copyrights.

Web address and name

You need to devise the right name and web address for your website, ones which people can easily remember and find on the Internet. The name should be catchy and unique. It should be fairly simple – not too lengthy, easy to spell and type.

Interactive functionality

The design of an information website for ChAPAPs may range from purely static to highly interactive. In a static website, information and advice is given only in the form of text and graphics. To make your website more interactive, you could add one or more services to your design, such as:

  • Hyperlink to the webmaster, to enable the visitors to ask questions or make comments on the website
  • E-mail address to which ChAPAPs can send in ‘their story’, which can then be posted (anonymously) on the website
  • Information and discussion forum in which ChAPAPs can make anonymous peer-to-peer contacts
  • E-mail advice service to enable ChAPAPs to ask questions to professionals
  • Chat service where ChAPAPs can chat live with a professional
  • Chatroom to allow ChAPAPs to chat with one another

Click here to find out more about implementing interactive functionality.

Service pages

It is common on Internet sites to offer service pages in addition to providing information in the main sections (your main topics). For instance:

  • FAQs (frequently asked questions)
  • links to other websites
  • reading tips
  • list of organisations or people that can provide help
  • interactive services

Disclaimer / Legal issues

A disclaimer informs visitors to your website

  • what you and other organisations that build and maintain the website are, and are not, legally responsible for
  • how you treat personal information you receive from visitors (e-mail addresses, for example).

The disclaimer is also a good place to let your visitors know that

  • as much information as possible is derived from the latest evidence-based knowledge
  • your website cannot be a substitute for professional care.
  • The disclaimer is usually shown by a hyperlink on the homepage.