Utility of Web-Based Resource Guide for Youth
Founder Arik Marcell, M.D., M.P.H., examined Y2CONNECT.org Baltimore’s users, viewed content, and usage patterns from its launch 11/1/2016 to 6/30/2022. Using Google Analytics, he tabulated user engagement, demographics, device and acquisition usage, and content viewed. Over the five-year period, 65,046 unique users made 73,774 sessions and 114,732 pageviews. Most users were locally-based (54%), female (64%), aged 18-34 (54%), and used a desktop device (58%). Viewed content by users crossed sectors, with most viewing health content (47%) regarding family planning/sexual/reproductive health, youth-focused clinics, and mental health; followed by school/job content (16%); social service/recreation content (13%) regarding volunteer opportunities and youth development programs; LGBTQ+ population (13%); and essential service (11%) needs. Additional analyses demonstrated significant average yearly increases in monthly new users, sessions, pageviews, and users who were male, female, and aged 18-24. These findings highlight Y2CONNECT.org Baltimore as an important strategy to connect users to locally-based youth-focused resources across sectors.
Web-Based vs. App Utility
The Y2CONNECT team was surprised to find that utilization of a trial version of the Y2CONNECT app was significantly lower than utilization of its web-based platform. Given the primary youth audience, Y2CONNECT staff hypothesized that young people would prefer to use an app to access the resources provided on the website rather than navigating to the mobile website. However, after piloting a Y2CONNECT pseudo-app for iPhones and Androids, staff found a low number of app downloads and much higher usage on the mobile-friendly website than the app. This unexpected finding revealed that, had the Y2CONNECT team invested funding into creating a permanent app, they would have spent additional time and resources on a medium with lower performance than their original website.
Website Maintenance and Program Sustainability
Y2CONNECT staff describe the maintenance of the web-based resource guide as the biggest lesson learned since Y2CONNECT’s launch in 2011. They note the importance of regular website scans to ensure the sustained accuracy of the resources they share with young people, parents, and professionals, especially the vetted local resources. Particularly during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, many programs and youth-serving organizations have had to permanently close their doors. Beyond the impact of the pandemic, physical/mental health care and social service programs often experience funding disruptions at the federal and state level, making it unfeasible for them to remain open. Y2CONNECT has had to invest staffing and resources toward frequent scans of the community and their website to keep information on programs and services up to date.
Regular scans are important not only to maintain an updated record of local resources and programs that have closed, but also of new programs that have launched. Although the website contains a form where organizations and programs can submit information on their services, not all new programs know to do so, or even know that Y2CONNECT.org exists as a platform to amplify their services. Consistent scans of new community resources and programs is a key component to maintaining a useful, updated guide for young people, those who serve them, and caregivers.