Te Hiringa Hauora Clearhead Aro Digital Small Steps | Te Ara Ora

  • Pou Auaha / Creative Director
    Racheal Reeves
  • Ngā Kaimahi / Team Members
    Kirushi Arunthavasothy, Michael Connolly, Ezra Whittaker, Elyse Cairns, Sam O'Sullivan, Andy Ellis, Anglea Lim, Lulu Yu, Connor Clements, Miles Gaffney, Tim Dorrian, Samson Phommachack, Jess Shaw

New Zealanders of all ages and walks of life face a multitude of barriers in their wellbeing journey. These include social stigmas, biases and digital equity.

We have completed numerous studies and user research projects to understand how to contribute to our people flourishing. Research has identified that responding early with digital tools can assist the most impacted, who are young people, and those affected by trauma, colonisation or socio-economic disadvantage.

Small Steps takes an iterative approach to mental wellbeing, with design and development founded on the Māori concept of Poutama. The steps in the Poutama pattern symbolises each user's inner-growth. We launched an MVP in April 2021 with six interactive tools to improve one’s quality of life.

We created Small Steps to remove barriers for all people in Aotearoa — with a particular focus on Māori and Pasifika (19-35 year olds) — so they can take a small step towards their mental wellbeing journey with a series of free interactive tools.

The tools were developed in collaboration with multiple communities to craft an experience that relates distinctly to them. A bicultural approach was taken in designing these tools, weaving together the principles of Te Ao Māori with the cognitive behavioural threads of Te Ao pākehā. The tools express: aroha and whānau ora, whenua as identity, and e Waa Po, Te Waa Ao. The overall design reflects these values, illustrating the journey like a weaving pathway through native New Zealand flora and fauna with a diverse range of people interacting with natural elements.

Mental Health can be complex to navigate, so we reduced language barriers by using in-depth SEO research to understand what related keywords New Zealanders have been searching for. We translated the concepts and language into Te Reo. These keywords were then integrated into our website content, tools and ads.

A user with mental distress is at the core of each design decision. The website meets AAA for WCAG 2.0. The colours, layout and typography empathise with heightened sensory needs and the difficulty of choice in those moments.

Small Steps carefully avoids dark design principles like driving retention (average use time 5mins) or habitual use because of the sensitivity of the subject matter. It is developed to provide a non-judgemental, pressure-free space to explore and experiment with key mental wellbeing concepts and provide gentle prompts for applying them to real life.

We also removed common barriers to entry by making the website Zero Rated (no need for data to access) and encouraging users to try tools without signing up. This has resulted in 63% of users (87k) opening a tool and half of these users completing a tool. We have notably seen a diverse range of users throughout Aotearoa, from Gore to Kerikeri.

Small Steps is still in its infancy, and we will continue to run user testing, focus groups and track engagement online to keep moving forwards in the creation of a better experience that will be of benefit to New Zealanders.