What we changed

‘Find support for your family’ and ‘Connect families to support’ use the same age filter. Users previously had to select a checkbox to say that the support service they were searching for was for ‘children and young people’ before the age filter was revealed. We removed this.

In addition, we:

  • changed it from a dropdown single age select to predefined age range checkboxes
  • made the age filter more prominent, by moving it up the page so it’s the third filter
  • defined the age range boxes from previous research, which indicated age ranges that made sense for users
  • made it possible to select multiple age ranges
  • added hint text under ‘age’ to make it clear that users should select the child’s age

Why we changed this

We know that long dropdowns can be frustrating, and best practice design suggested that age ranges would work well in this scenario.

Research showed that:

  • age is a really important search criteria for users, after category and cost
  • our users were not finding the age filter in its existing format and location

Users also said that they wanted to be able to search for multiple ages if they had multiple children.

User research participants grouped the age ranges as 0 to 1, 1 to 4, 5 to 12, 13 to 19 and 20 to 25 with SEND. We know that SEND is only available from age 19 up to, not including, age 25, so we adjusted these last 2 ranges to be 13 to 18 and 19 to 24.

We realised that we could be adding potential confusion unless we explained that the age ranges were for the child, not the parent, guardian or carer.

The previous age filter

Previous age filter described in design ‘what we changed’ section.

The new age filter

The filter is called ‘Age’, with hint text below it which says ‘Select the child’s age range’. Below are checkboxes for the age ranges, as described in ‘why we changed this’ section.

How it works

If a user does not select an age range the search results show all services - including those that are not for children or young people.

If a user selects one or more age ranges, the search results show services that are for children or young people within those age ranges.

Further considerations

We still need to do more research on how people use this age filter, and whether it needs any iteration.

We know there is a crossover between the age ranges 0 to 1 years and 1 to 4 years - this is intentional because we believe that the needs of 1 year olds could vary. We hope to get more insights into whether users agree with this overlap or not in future testing.

We have chosen to group ages by what our users asked for, but the Department for Education (DfE) groups age ranges differently. The DfE age ranges change as children progress from early years through primary, secondary and on to further education. This means that services may be set for the age ranges 0 to 4 years, 5 to 11, 12 to 15, 16 to 18 and 19 to 24 with SEND. We do not think this will present problems, because the search function will always include services for the age ranges that users select, but we will monitor this going forward. We know that straddling 2 DfE age ranges could make for a lot of search results.

We’ve also seen some inconsistency in how local authorities group age ranges. This suggests that ‘how to define age ranges’ is a problem for other organisations, too.