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Case Study: Trauma-informed digital design

Kim Preston, Design Director, Tigerspike
10 May 2018

We’re pleased to include the follow-up case study from our February Workers Webinar, Trauma-informed digital design: Applying the Practice Guidelines for Trauma Informed Care and Service Delivery to the digital space. In an innovative approach, 1800RESPECT engaged web design agency Tigerspike to redevelop the 1800RESPECT website using trauma informed design principles. We spoke with Kim Preston, Design Director at Tigerspike about their approach to applying the guidelines to the redesign of the website, and how other organisations might approach trauma informed design in their projects. 

What were some of the key steps you and the project team took when preparing to apply the trauma informed design guidelines to the 1800RESPECT project?

First and foremost, we undertook training to understand what trauma informed design principles were and how trauma affects users of any service, and more specifically, digital products. Then we did an ideation session with some trauma psychologists and people from 1800RESPECT to see how we might apply those principles to a digital service. We validated those assumptions with users through testing our ideas thoroughly.

We tried to apply the same approach to all of the ideas against the Trauma Informed principles of safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration and empowerment, by speaking to users and seeing if the design ideas did indeed make them feel that way.

Now the site has launched, it’s really important to track these features through Google Analytics and assess, per item, how successful they are. It’s really important to continually analyse whether the ideas are working.


What were the key challenges or considerations integrating the trauma informed principles into Tigerspike’s practice?

One of the challenges we had was in making sure that the way we engaged with users was trauma informed. Particularly when you are doing user interviews and user testing, generally as a tester you’re trying to create a little bit of distance between yourself and the person you are interviewing. You might be more clinical, you might be following a script to make sure you are getting all the answers to all of the questions that you want, you control the room, you have your cameras set up and so forth.

Because we wanted our user engagement to be trauma informed we had to rethink our whole approach to user testing.

We let people choose where they wanted to sit in the interview room, we tried to make it comfortable, we said that they could stop it at any time, we didn’t follow a script because we felt that was overly clinical. We also needed to allow a bit more time for those user interviews to make sure that people were feeling heard. Definitely that part of the project took a bit longer, just to make sure that it was more trauma informed.


What advice do you have for organisations looking to apply trauma informed design principles to their digital products?

Undertake training. Blue Knot Training was really useful. I also read “Becoming Trauma Informed” by Nancy Poole‎ and Lorraine Greaves helps you to understand how trauma affects people. I don’t think there’s anything that we learnt on this project that would necessarily be applied to other projects. So, if we were working on a site for war veterans we would need to talk to that particular audience and make sure we understood the trauma that they experience and the way that manifests and how it may affect the way that group of people interact with technology. It’s really important to make the solution specific to the needs of the user and keep that in mind first and foremost. 


1800RESPECT is the national domestic, family, and sexual violence counselling, information and support service. If you or someone you know is experiencing violence or abuse, you can call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732, text 0458 737 732 or visit our website for online chat and video call services: 

  • Available 24/7: Call, text or online chat
  • Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm AEST (except national public holidays): Video call (no appointment needed)