PPIE panel and the STEPS app animation

Those of you who have been following the progress of the OPTIMA study will know that the research team is supported by a ‘PPIE[1] panel’ of parents with lived experience of the referral process for NHS child mental health or behavioural support services. You can read more about the responsibilities of the panel here.

We – the panel – have been involved in several different areas of the study in 2023 and we are particularly keen to share how we contributed to the production of a short animation about the STEPS app (you can watch the animation by clicking the link at the end of this blog).

Towards the start of 2023 the research team reported that, whilst they were successfully recruiting parents to take part in the OPTIMA study, they would often be asked what the STEPS app was and how could it potentially help. Also, the team was hoping that the animation would encourage parents who had been given access to the app to use it more. We agreed with the team that producing a short, easy-to-follow video would be the best way to highlight key features of the app and hopefully encourage study participants to use it more.

We were involved in every step of the production of the animation. Initially we brainstormed what features of the app we felt would be appealing to parents. For example:

  • how it can help you learn new skills.
  • that the information is delivered in bite-sized chunks, so it is easy to fit into a busy day.
  • that the experiences in the app are based on those of real parents.
  • the importance of working through the eight steps to the end.
  • how to use some of the tools in the app e.g. reflections.

A smaller group of us then worked with the researchers and the design agency who were producing the app on the storyboard for the animation. We felt it was especially important to get the language right – that the video sounded empathic rather than directive. Panel members were involved in:

  • selecting voiceovers – we chose male and female voice artists to appeal to both parent genders.
  • suggesting a tagline “small steps add up to make big changes”.
  • designing the colour scheme and images for the animation to make them appealing and understandable.
  • offering practical suggestions of how parents could fit using the app into their busy day.
  • selecting quotes from parents that had already used the app.


We also felt it was important that the animation make the point that individual steps will resonate more with some parents than others.

As mock-ups of the animation were produced, we then took part in focused sessions with the design agency which allowed us to provide objective feedback on the images, content and voices. We were keen to ensure that the people presented in the animation represented the diverse group of participants. We also wanted it to be relatable to the parents that the STEPS app is aimed at, namely those who may be going through a challenging time; we wanted to get across the message that the STEPS app is a tool that parents may find useful and can dip in and out of.

We are proud of the final animation, and you can watch it here! [link to animation]


[1] PPIE = patient and public involvement and engagement