Issue 31 | Online Resources for Young Audience

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NEDC e-Bulletin

Issue 31

teenagers in a classroom


Welcome to the thirtieth edition of the NEDC e-Bulletin.

NEDC recently launched a new online resource and report, both focusing on using online tools to communicate about eating disorders with young people. In this edition of the e-Bulletin we're highlighting key findings from this report as well as other issues of relevance to eating disorders and young people.

If you are interested in getting more involved in the NEDC we encourage you to join the collaboration and become an NEDC member.


1. Eating Disorders & Online Resources for Young People

2. User Experience Goals for an Online Youth Resource

3. NEW online resource for young people

4. Two Weeks until the 2015 NEDC Members’ Meeting


Eating Disorders & Online Resources for Young People: User Experience Guidelines for Prevention and Early Intervention of Eating Disorders

young people and eating disorders

User Experience Guidelines for Prevention and Early Intervention of Eating Disorders

Developing strong prevention and early intervention programs and tools online is critical in addressing the increasing prevalence of eating disorders in Australia, and this is especially the case for children and adolescents, who regularly interact, learn and connect in online spaces.

In 2014, a need was identified in relation to online access to information for young people about eating disorders. The National Eating Disorders Collaboration partnered with to run workshops with young people, to better understand their online information needs and to explore how to increase engagement with online resources.

Studies have shown that digital technologies are a significant part of a young person’s everyday life, with Internet usage ever increasing. Research has also indicated that young people search the Internet and use online resources to assist them in finding information on various mental health issues.

This project sought to explore young people’s help seeking and information needs online, particularly in relation to eating disorders. This was used to inform the development of an online resource that would be relevant and engaging to young people who are either at risk of or experiencing an eating disorder or who want to access online resources to help a friend or family member.

Findings from the workshops indicated that young people possess low literacy around disordered eating and eating disorders. Participants were not able to recognise the need for relevant support for those in the early stages of an eating disorder and believed that personas could overcome an eating disorder via self-help and information seeking.

Friends and family were seen as the first points of contact for support and participants stated that friends or family would be instrumental in motivating change or help seeking for an eating disorder.

Identified barriers or deterrents to help seeking included the portrayal of unattainable body images in the media, lack of community awareness and education, general stigma around eating disorders and a lack of information or advice around a ‘healthy alternative’ to help prevent or overcome an eating disorder.

Young people’s low literacy about eating disorders means that they would be unlikely to seek out a dedicated online resource in this area. They were more likely to seek help or information for comorbid issues rather than an eating disorder specifically.

Participants generated a set of User Experience Guidelines and goals to help stakeholders understand what young people want in an online resource. It became apparent that products for young people need to: help them understand what is happening, provide easy access to relevant information, provide actionable help, show them they are not alone, be accessible on their smartphones and allow them to remain anonymous when accessing information.

Young people also stated that language, messaging and design and experience in an online resource also need to be tailored in order to reach and appeal to young audiences. Language used should be informal, to the point and easy to understand, with minimal use of statistics and complex terminology. Messages should be clear and relevant, with an emphasis on letting young people know they are not alone in their experience. Messaging should also avoid any use of confronting terms (e.g. “mental illness”).

In addition to being accessible on a smartphone, resources must also be designed in a way that is simple to navigate, highly visual (infographics, videos), relevant in terms of imagery (i.e. no generic stock images) and gender neutral.

All of these findings have been summarised in the new NEDC report: Eating Disorders and Online Resources for Young People: User Experience Guidelines for Prevention and Early Intervention of Eating Disorders. Download the report.

If you had any questions about the report including how to implement its findings in your professional practice please contact us at

The collaborative process between the NEDC and to carry out this project has been invaluable, bringing expertise in evidence-based eating disorders information together with expertise in engaging with young people and interpreting their needs.

Special thanks also to the young participants who took part in this research. The NEDC and appreciate your enthusiasm, dedication and generosity.
Details on the online youth resource developed out the findings from this report can be found later in this e-Bulletin.

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User Experience Goals for an Online Youth Resource

teenage girl in her bedroom

From our youth consultation workshops, a set of user experience goals or “rules” were established to guide the future creation of online resources. These were developed by actual young people aged 15-25 and were used to inform the development of our online resource

The aim of these goals is to make the user experience easy, straightforward and helpful for young people.

Goal 1. “Help me recognise what’s going on for me”

The participants stated that any product designed to address an eating disorder issue would first need to help the user work out “what was going on for them.” Half of the groups mentioned that quizzes, questionnaires or the ability to build their own story would be useful.

Goal 2. “Help me easily access information that’s relevant to me”

When accessing the online resource, young people wanted to access information that was highly relevant to them. To achieve this, they mentioned that the resource should include: easy to navigate tabs, relatable language within the navigation menu, search bars, and stories of other young people they could identify with.
Participants noted that if they felt a website, upon first viewing, was either difficult to use or “not for them”, they would be unlikely to persist or browse further.

Goal 3. “Provide me with actionable help”

Young people saw actionable help as the highest priority for an online resource. There was an emphasis on content that is solution-focused. They stated that fact sheets should always contain practical information, and this information should stand out. Participants also said that they would come back to a product/resource if they felt it was useful or contributed to their recovery progress.

Goal 4. “Show me that I’m not alone”

A number of participants wanted to hear or read about real stories of others who had been through the same eating disorder issues. However, they did not want these stories to be sugar-coated.

Goal 5. “Be where I am”

In order to make any given resource accessible, it also needs to be presented in a context relevant to young people. All participants suggested that an online resource should be available and easy to use on their smartphones, as this is where they would be most likely to access such information.

Goal 6. “Give me the choice to remain anonymous”

Participants claimed that they would prefer not to have to sign up to a site to access information and would prefer to remain anonymous. The also stressed that it was important for information to be free to access, so that they could afford to participate and could do so independently without having to disclose their activities to an adult.

Goal 7. “Show me that I can trust the site”

For young people to use and engage with a site/app, it was very important that it appeared trustworthy. Including hyperlinks to other sites or being endorsed or supported by other organisations added credibility. Some of the participants also stated that if a site was endorsed by a celebrity, it would also increase credibility.
Download the report. Eating Disorders & Online Resources for Young People: user experience guidelines for Prevention and Early Intervention of Eating Disorders.

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New Online Youth Resource

The National Eating Disorders Collaboration are very excited to launch a new online resource focusing on using online tools to communicate about eating disorders with young people. collates a broad range of evidence based information in an easy-to-navigate online tool that guides young people to the right information and support for an eating disorder.

Developed in collaboration with digital agency Bliss Media with reference to the youth generated user experience guidelines and goals from our Eating Disorders & Online Resources for Young People report this resource has been designed to be relevant and engaging to young people who are either at risk of or experiencing an eating disorder or who want to access online resources to help a friend or family member.

This new resource can be explored at:
If you are in a position to do so we would greatly appreciate any efforts to share this new resource with any young people. NEDC also have print collateral promoting the resource that we are happy to send out.

More resources for young people can be found on the NEDC Research & Resources section.

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Two Weeks until the 2015 NEDC Members’ Meeting

2015 nedc members meeting

We are now two weeks out from the 2015 NEDC Members’ Meeting.
To be held on 22nd June at the National Convention Centre Canberra, this free event will showcase the collective impact of knowledge building and research in eating disorders.

We are very lucky to have secured NEDC steering committee members Dr Sloane Madden and Associate Professor Jane Burns to facilitate our afternoon session Eating Disorders and Young People: Harnessing technology for early intervention. This session will test-drive new approaches to accessing the youth audience and empowering them to seek help for eating disorders. This session will draw on some of the information that has emerged from our recent report.

About the facilitators:

Dr Sloane Madden is nationally and internationally recognised for his expertise in the treatment and management of eating disorders. He is co-director of The Eating Disorder Service at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, the largest public eating disorder service in NSW and one of the two largest adolescent eating disorder services in Australia. Dr Madden’s research has three major foci, early onset eating disorders, the treatment of anorexia nervosa and the neurobiology of eating disorders. Dr Madden was the lead investigator in an Australia wide study exploring the eating disorders in children under the age of 13 years and is a chief investigator and the clinical coordinator of a current, NHMRC funded, inpatient treatment trial of adolescent anorexia nervosa. Dr Madden is the author of over 30 peer reviewed journal articles and book chapters on eating disorders.

Associate Professor Jane Burns is the founder and CEO of the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, an organisation that unites young people with researchers, practitioners and innovators to explore the role of technology in improving mental health and wellbeing for young people aged 12 to 25. Jane holds a Principal Research Fellowship at Orygen Youth Health Research Centre and an Honorary Fellowship at the Brain & Mind Research Institute. She has led the youth agenda for beyondblue, was a Commonwealth Fund Harkness Fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, and was Director of International Partnerships at Inspire Foundation. She holds a PhD in Medicine from the Faculty of Medicine (Public Health and Epidemiology) University of Adelaide and was a Victorian Finalist in the 2012 Telstra Business Women's Awards and was listed in the Financial Review and Westpac Group 100 Women of Influence in 2012.

If you aren’t yet an NEDC member, registration for the collaboration is also free. More details on membership and registration can be found on our website.

More professional developments events can be found here.

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See also

Issue 37 | Evidence-Based Practice

NEDC e-Bulletin Issue 37 Editor’s Note Welcome to the thirty-seventh edition of the NEDC e-Bulletin.

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Issue 34 | Pregnancy, Early Childcare and Eating Disorders

NEDC e-Bulletin Issue 34: Pregnancy, Early Childcare and Eating Disorders This month the National Eating Disorders Collaboration publicly launches our latest evidence-based resource for people at risk of eating disorders.

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Issue 64 | Members' Meeting and Peer Work Guide

NEDC e-Bulletin Editor's Note: It is strange to reflect on the 10th anniversary NEDC Members’ Meeting 2020, held only a month ago on February 27-28 in Melbourne, with the knowledge of the drastic changes made to society due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Issue 4 | Evidence Based Practice and Implementation Principles

NEDC e-Bulletin Issue Four | October 2012 Editors Note: Welcome to our October issue of the NEDC e-Bulletin.

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