Photo of a wooden signpost pointing the way. Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

How can we improve signposting for young people?

By Penny Nkrumah and Jenny Lowthrop 17 April 2024 4 minute read

While many young people have grown up in a digital world, navigating information online can be tricky. Algorithms and search engine optimisation are designed to maximise profits, rather than with young people in mind.  

We found during our collaborative My Best Life project, that navigating search results and online service information is challenging for young people, especially those with additional needs. And we learned that online information can be patchy, inconsistent, and out of date. There are a variety of services and resources aimed at young people experiencing problems, however, these are of no benefit if they can’t find them. This can lead to frustrating experiences for young people when they need support. 

We live in a world where it is easier to find a takeaway or a good deal on a purchase than to find support when we need it.


At NPC, we imagine a world where digital infrastructure is open and well-funded, where different collaborators come together towards the common goal of providing young people with relevant information when they need it.  

And we’re hoping to contribute to this vision in the second phase of our Signpost + programme, which aims to understand the impact of signposting on young people and identify good practice. 

We began this phase with two questions:  

1. What would digital infrastructure look like if it was open, collective, and collaborative?  

2. How might this lead to a better experience for young people searching for support? 

And we’ve been working with four organisations to test our assumptions about what young people need and explore what makes good digital signposting. 

Why does signposting matter? 

Investing in signposting can do more than benefit young people; dedicated signposting services provide a checkpoint through which the wider sector can monitor who is accessing what services, and when 

These insights from signposting are an important part of NPC’s vision for how digital infrastructure can shed light on the youth sector, allowing: 

  • Young people to find the right services. 
  • Youth organisations to offer what is needed most and adapt when this changes. 
  • Funders and investors to target their resources towards the gaps and opportunities in an evidence-based way. 

Signpost+ is not just concerned with the user experience for individual young people. It’s also concerned with how providers of service data can take advantage of the opportunities to learn about their users; who they are, what they’re looking for, what they’re missing, and what the sector can learn from this. 

To that end, we’re working with four signposting organisations, who deliver different models of signposting, to test the usability of their service with our user research group. These organisations include: National Support Network, Mind of My Own, Chasing the Stigma (who run ‘Hub of Hope’), and The Mix. 

We’re also collaborating with Neon Tribe, a digital agency who will lead our user research group of young people.  

What do young people want from signposting services? 

Having completed our first test, we’ve learned that signposting is about providing relevant information, but also guiding young people to find the information that they need. Often, people are looking for information because they aren’t sure of what they need or have tried other options that didn’t help. It is therefore crucial for organisations to be clear about what kind of support they can provide, to prevent young people from becoming frustrated and abandoning their search. By empowering young people to continue their search for support, we can help them to feel more in control of their situation. 

We look forward to sharing more insights with you as we continue to learn. If you would like to find out more about Signpost+, please get in touch. 


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