Reflections on our cost of living event
In April 2022, not many people were searching for the term “cost of living”. In May, that changed.
Creating content quickly
We're now in December. In just 8 months, countless pages of content have been created on the topic. And the associated phrase people search for is “cost of living help”.
If you look at that content, 2 things are clear.
First, organisations, charities, and governments are publishing content at speed. And speed often means sacrificing content design principles, particularly user research and testing. Content becomes policy and stakeholder driven, rather than a response to user needs.
Second, a lot of content does not give practical solutions. For example, many pages link to a benefits calculator as the solution. But what if you’ve claimed all the benefits you are entitled to, or you aren’t eligible? Or the calculator does not work because your situation is complicated?
Sharing voices and ideas
So what happens when we need to write content for a problem that content alone cannot solve? And when we do not have the time, or access, to speak to the people using the content?
We ran a webinar to share some experiences to help content designers working on this topic.
Cost of living and disabled people
Our first speakers were Ruth, a disabled maker and activist, and Jack, a senior content designer from Scope. Scope is a charity that provides information for disabled people and their families.
Jack and Ruth told us that the cost of living crisis is changing how disabled people live. For example, they:
- eat less and are hungry,
- reduce the hours they get care support,
- work more hours,
- are getting sick and are in more pain.
But the cost of living is not new to disabled people and unpaid carers.
"It's only a crisis now that it affects the people that 'matter'”, Ruth said. “Balancing money, energy, time, pain and stress has been a way of life for us for a long time. It has high stakes and our essential costs of living are higher. Many disabled people are already experts in this."
Only make content if content helps the problem
“Content designers have a cognitive bias towards trying to help people with content”, Jack said. “Only make content if the problem can be helped by content.”
If you’re working on cost of living information, Jack and Ruth suggested being:
- kind - helping people make decisions without panicking them,
- clear - not overloading people’s cognitive and browser load,
- aware - remembering that tasks cost people limited energy.
Impact on young women
Next we heard from Ire and Xheni, peer researchers from the Young Women’s Trust (YWT). It supports young women aged 18 to 30 who are living on low or no pay.
Research shows young people are the most impacted by the cost of living crisis. YWT has been researching the impact on young women in particular. Their recent survey showed that young women are:
- facing financial difficulty due to rising costs,
- often filled with dread when thinking about household finances,
- more in debt all the time compared to previous years,
- struggling to know if they’re eligible and apply for benefits.
When it comes to content about the cost of living, Ire and Xheni told us what young women are looking for.
“Young women want acknowledgement that they’re already disadvantaged by different things”, Ire said. “Wage gaps, not being able to get higher paid jobs, doing more hours, getting extra jobs, being carers, having a disability. They forgo their physical and mental health just to carry on.”
Create clear guidance
They also want accessible and clear guidance on how to better manage household finances, access food banks, and find second-hand appliances.
Xheni suggested content designers could help by making benefits information clear, and opening up research to make it easier for governments to use.
A digital tool to help in the cost of living crisis
Warm Welcome was set up in June 2022 for organisations to register a “warm bank”, a space where people can go to get warm. On the Warm Welcome website, the online map now shows the locations of 5,000 warm banks around the UK, and people can search for ones nearby.
Our third speaker, Ed Perry, is director and founder of charity consultancy, Freedto. He leads the communications for the Warm Welcome campaign. Ed told us how setting up a steering group was essential to developing the website and map.
The team found that the idea of warm spaces was not new. Community buildings, councils, charities and libraries had been doing this a while.
To learn from these organisations who had been working with people who needed and used these spaces, they formed a steering group. As organisations started registering their spaces, the Warm Welcome team used surveys and weekly emails to ask what they needed to keep running. They use the information gathered to inform the next steps in their campaign.
£460 raised for the Trussell Trust
Thanks to our brilliant speakers and attendees, the webinar raised £460 for the Trussell Trust.
And our work does not end there. The cost of living crisis raises challenges we’ll be grappling with for a while.
At CDL, we’ll continue to think about how we learn and share information around this topic, and how we can all continue to support each other through it.
If you're designing content for or about the cost of living crisis, we'd love to hear about your work. Please do get in touch.