Lifeline Australia NFP case study

Improving access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services

About Lifeline

Lifeline is a non-profit organisation that provides free, 24-hour telephone crisis support service in Australia. Volunteer crisis supporters provide suicide prevention services, mental health support and emotional assistance, not only via telephone but face-to-face and online.

The challenge

The Lifeline Australia team needed a flexible and modern platform with improved accessibility and WCAG compliance, easy-to-find tools and information for those seeking help, and options to quickly connect people with crisis support when they need it.

Lifeline Australia case study - Lifeline website displayed in a mobile device

The Lifeline Australia website was recognised as a finalist in the Best Healthcare Solution category of the Umbraco Awards 2021.

Umbraco Awards 2021 - Best Healthcare Solution - Finalist

Project background

Supporting a nation in need

2020-2021 have been the worst years in living memory for many Australians. Throughout 2020, droughts led to devastating bushfires, quickly followed by the global Coronavirus Pandemic. Even as things started to improve in early 2021, record-breaking floods caused further destruction in many parts of the country. These dramatic events have taken a huge toll on the mental health of the nation. During this time, Lifeline Australia (a not-for-profit organisation providing vital suicide prevention services) has been key.

Since the start of the pandemic, their 4,500 crisis supporters have answered almost 90,000 calls for help – equivalent to one call every 30 seconds. This equates to a 25% increase in people looking for help – the highest in Lifeline Australia’s 57-year history. At the same time, the organisation was also undergoing a huge transformation; introducing new SMS and webchat communication channels, rolling out remote crisis support services and reimagining their website, a project that kicked off with Sitback in March 2020.

“The website is our foundation. It provides a clear, simple and stable destination for people to find help – whenever and wherever they need it.”

Photo of Dane Glerum from Lifeline Australia, wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, smiling at the camera, standing in front of a rocky background.

Dane Glerum

Head of Digital Product, Lifeline Australia

The challenge

Lifeline Australia recognised that their existing website was not just lacking in innovation, but also failed to address the needs of their multiple user personas.

It was essential that the new site improved accessibility and WCAG compliance, made it easier to find tools and information for those seeking help, and quickly connect people with crisis support when they need it.

They needed a flexible platform with a modern look and feel, better Information architecture, and a solid foundation for their ongoing content strategy and future innovation, including future integration with their other business tools like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics.

“Previously, we had an audience we didn’t fully understand because we couldn’t see how we were engaging with them online – we couldn’t measure the right things, make the changes we wanted to”

Dane Glerum, Head of Digital Product, Lifeline Australia
Man with dreadlocks and a nose piercing, wearing a fawn coloured jumper, being comforted by a woman in a grey top who has their arm on the man's shoulder.

Our solution

In order to deliver this, Sitback turned to the open-source solution, Umbraco.

Lifeline Australia already had a preference for a .NET tech stack and Umbraco is best-in-class, providing the right balance between flexibility, extensibility, security and out-of-the-box functionalities. The fact that Umbraco is free to use with no ongoing licencing costs is essential for a Not-For-Profit organisation like Lifeline Australia.

Creating a high-performance platform

Umbraco provides multiple features out of the box that reduced the time to deliver, including management workflows, content versioning and user role management.

Multilingual capabilities made it easy to address non-English speaking communities and Sitback’s experience building fully responsive and highly accessible sites to WCAG 2.1 AA standardsensured that Lifeline Australia’s content is easily findable and accessible.

Lightning-fast web pages, many of which load in under a second, make accessing Lifeline Australia’s content easier, especially from rural and remote areas where Australian’s are worst hit by the events of the past year, meaning that no one gets left behind.

Screen shot of the Lifeline Australia website homepage

“Compared to this time last year, overall website speed has improved by over 30%. The best part is, this is only the beginning!”

Photo of Dane Glerum from Lifeline Australia, wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, smiling at the camera, standing in front of a rocky background.

Dane Glerum

Head of Digital Product, Lifeline Australia

Website engagement is up with more page views and a 31% reduction in bounce rate. A 53% reduction in server response times and front end optimisations have seen the average page load time reduce by 31%, with many pages loading in under a second.

Extensive customisation

On top of Umbraco’s extensive core abilities, Sitback’s web development team worked hard to extend the functionality in useful and meaningful ways for the Lifeline Australia team.

A simple, user-friendly admin interface makes content moderator’s lives easier. And while Umbraco already has a robust page layout and component management functionality, Sitback extended this to create a truly powerful Content Management system, enabling the reuse of content modules throughout the site in any combination. Boasting nearly 30 bespoke components, many are highly complex, including a dynamic “listing” component that automatically updates its content based on a chosen tag or its relation to other content on the site. This means content moderators can create new content with complete freedom and without the need to bring in developers.

Smart, on-site search has been shown to increase visitor engagement — doubling visitor time spent on a website and increasing page views by as much as 50%. Sitback leveraged the AI-powered site search capability provided by Sajari to continuously index and optimise web and PDF content for discovery. This smart search technology has been shown to increase visitor engagement by making it easier to find relevant content and related information.

Safari logo

Vital to help seekers’ ability to get the support they need, we built a custom “Help Status” widget. This clearly shows help seekers what types of support are available to them in real-time, across live chat, SMS and telephone.

Lifeline website displayed on an iMac desktop computer

The capacity to scale

The Lifeline Australia website is, without a doubt, a People Critical Platform. With up to 15% of help seekers being at immediate risk, it is vital that the website is online and capable of serving visitors.

Sitback have maximised the availability of information to users through a high-performance, scalable and reliable website platform leveraging Azure WebApp, Front Door, Blob Storage and Auto-Scaling to handle spikes in user volume, which occur seasonally and, increasingly, in line with public health announcements.

Utilising a decoupled architecture, the Admin server is separated from the Front-end content delivery server. This setup powers two separate Umbraco installations and means any increase in load on the admin database does not affect the front end, protecting the experience for website visitors.

Sitback brings Lifeline Australia further peace of mind with a 24/7 SLA-backed support and optimisation service providing reactive and proactive maintenance and enhancement of the website, including a full Disaster Recovery plan.

Increasing ROI through affiliates

As the initial development of the flagship Lifeline Australia website came to a close, Sitback set to work utilising Umbraco’s multisite functionality to create multiple affiliate websites.

Here, a single Umbraco instance and database is capable of serving multiple domains and websites. Lifeline Australia can provision a new website with ease for any affiliated organisation that requires an online presence. This reduces onboarding and setup time, minimises the effort of ongoing maintenance, and ensures consistency in brand presentation.

A successful partnership

Working in partnership, Sitback and Lifeline Australia have created a fit-for-purpose platform to deliver the level of quality needed for a people-critical service.

Compared with the previous year, website engagement is up with more page views and a 31% reduction in bounce rate. The new hosting setup has resulted in a 53% reduction in server response times and front-end optimisations have seen the average page load time reduce by 31%, with many pages loading in under a second.

Ultimately, Sitback provides the knowledge and support needed to scale the organisation as Lifeline Australia move towards non-voice help channels, facilitating self-service crisis-support options and growing their remote crisis supporter workforce.

“Half of the project is design work. Half is creating a platform we can make changes to ourselves and observe, with real insight, what people are responding to.

The website is our foundation. It provides a clear, simple and stable destination for people to find help – whenever and wherever they need it.”

Dane Glerum, Head of Digital Product, Lifeline Australia
Close up of two people holding hands, with the person on the left supporting the person on the right in a compassionate and caring way.

Does your not-for-profit organisation need to improve access to vital information, recruit supporters or increase donations?

We have extensive experience in the NFP space, working with leading ‘for purpose’ organisations like Lifeline Australia, Médecins Sans Frontières, ReachOut and Black Dog Institute. To find out how we can help you too, get in touch.

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