It’s been a good year for San Digital. So we wanted to pass on some of our good fortune. We made a call on LinkedIn for ideas from charities under the hashtag #SanForGood and got some very interesting replies.
- Do you really want an app? What can you offer that deserves space on people’s phone?
- Can you generate the content for the app? Can you deliver the high production values, original content, and elegant interaction that people expect?
- Can you keep going with the app? Can you foster, promote and grow the app that will move it in front of the eyeballs of your audience?
Understanding what an app can do
They answered yes, yes and yes. They hoped that an app would help with one of their keenest problems - how to broaden access to their unique face-to-face training for men about to become fathers for the first time. We wondered if an app was the best platform to solve that problem.
Yes, apps can be effective in training, using techniques like spaced repetition to overcome the gradual loss of retention from Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve. Think of some of the better language learning and dieting apps.
But much of the power of Future Men’s training came from a group of men being together, challenging each other, and learning collectively. That is difficult to reproduce in an app, where Tuckman’s forming, storming and performing group dynamics is particularly hard to reproduce. But, in talking with Future Men, we realised we could develop an app that would act as a wrap-around to the in-person training and also be useful as a stand-alone guidance app. It would help take men through what is both a very structured experience: the birth of a new child, and yet a uniquely personal one too, often chaotic and overwhelming.
Our Future Dads app design
We designed the Future Dads app to give new dads:
- Timely advice so as not to overwhelm them, based where he was during the pregnancy or after childbirth.
- Evergreen advice, that isn’t time specific, but always good to have access to across a range of topics.
- A reflective space for new dads to consider their attitude to becoming a father and compare that to significant father figures in their own lives.
To this simple structure we added an onboarding feature to capture a few personal details to personalise the app (recorded locally to retain privacy) and a quick tour feature. So the resulting structure looks like:
A tale of two Timelines
Key to offering timely content are two dates - the due date and the birth date. In an ideal world they would be the same, but having a baby is rarely that neat. So there needs to be two timelines.
One offers advice during pregnancy and is timed from before (minus) the Due Date. The other offers advice for early baby care and is timed from after (plus) the Birth Date. For example, on ten days before the baby is due might be advice on how to support your partner in the final days of her pregnancy, so on -10 Due Date a message will appear in the notification bar of the prospective dad’s phone. All the dad’s have to do is let the app know that the baby’s been born, and the app will swap over to the post birth timeline.
This feature lets the editors at Future Men to create a comprehensive set of advice to guide men covering the run up to having a baby and the precious time afterwards. It is also a useful feature for any before and after timeline, when the actual event can only be guessed at, but once it happens becomes a fixed point.
As well as timely advice, the Future Dads app also supports evergreen content, content that it useful at any time. These articles (and the timely advice) are stored in a knowledge base called Dad Tools, as a handy reference.
Setting the right tone
Of course, potentially there is an overwhelming amount of advice you could give new dads. But Future Men are very close to the men they work with and know how to talk to them. They understand that some of their men often have fewer resources to draw on than most. While some may carry the weight of some poor choices in their earlier lives. So getting the right tone of voice is essential.
Reflecting for a moment
As is giving the men a chance to reflect on attitudes to fatherhood - theirs and those of parental figures in their lives. The attitude section allows men to pick from a long list of parental characteristics, prioritising them between most and least important. Is being the Bread Winner a father’s most important characteristic? Or being playful? Or being a role model? The men can think through the most important attributes a father should have for themselves. They can also do the survey again and answer as they think their own father might have. And they can take the survey later and see how their thoughts have changed.
Keep it short and practical
The last important element of the app for Future Men, was the content model. We wanted to keep it short and practical on two counts. For Future Men, who, like most charities, are resource constrained, we wanted to keep this as simple and straightforward as possible:
- Easy to deliver articles.
- Repurposed content curated from trusted partners to avoid (re)creating everything themselves.
- Lowest admin overhead possible.
We used the community version of the Contentful content platform to allow them to be self-sufficient in the development and management of their content.
Likewise, we recommended that the content:
- Show short bite-sized articles.
- Contain links to external trusted authorities where greater depth is needed.
- Uses embedded videos (ideally curated) to show rather than tell.
- Focus on practical how-to topics, rather than theory.
That way the new dads will have a valuable resource that was easy to understand and quick to read, and Future Men will be able to populate it with content and manage the app well within their resources.
That gold star feeling ⭐️
We are proud of the result. Pleased that we could comfortably deliver a #SanForGood project. Delighted that Future Men are thrilled to have a powerful app that they couldn’t have dreamed of having a couple of months ago. Excited to see it go live after all the content has been created.