Background: Teenagers with chronic health challenges are not disclosing their health on social media. Yet, social and emotional support has an impact on health. Currently there is no online health community in Norway targeting teenage patients. Initiatives such as Upopolis have failed to generate critical user mass because they were not age-appropriate.
Objective: This study examines how a ‘cool’ online health community looks like when designing it with teenagers. The study aims to extend design guidelines from teenager’s perceptions of what is cool online and look at properties of ‘cool’.
Methodology: The study is located within participatory design using qualitative methods to involve teenagers in the decision-making in the design process. With 9 teens a low fidelity but high resolution prototype was developed. The prototype was further evaluated using semi-structured prototyping interviews.
Results: Using the cool wall made it possible to map what functions the teenagers perceive as cool. The analysis demonstrates that ‘cool’ is a situated and gendered concept and that teenagers are not satisfied with how social media are dealing with privacy settings. The teenagers want a health community to be entertaining and provide an option to contact health care professionals. They don’t want the site to be focused on illness and rather provide the users with entertainment.
Conclusion: Cool can be used to design age-appropriate and engaging technology. The concept of ‘cool’ was useful in keeping the focus on what teens need or are interested in. Further research is needed into the concept of cool and involving other actors in the design of an online health community and the cool wall needs to be tested in hospital settings allowing for including bedridden patients.