Case Study

Meeting House Media

Alleviating the grief of creating funeral media


This project was run in conjunction with the Academy Xi UX/UI Design Transform course in a 6 week sprint. I was initially asked to assist with gathering some assets for their new website when I suggested they let me take it through the User Experience Design process – they and their customers would benefit and it would give me a real project for my coursework.

My experience (6+ years) working in the business, dealing with grieving families gave me real context and understanding of their situation – empathy and insights that could not have been gathered in the time that I actually spent on this UX design project.


Established in 2014, Meeting House Media (MHM) is a small design studio for a group of funeral directors located in Melbourne, Victoria. They provide their services to approximately 1200 families a year in producing print and audio visual media (ie. booklets, photographic slide shows, music) to be used during funeral services.

The project was initiated due to an overload of customer requests for information which was having a negative impact on a small team of media consultants and designers – there was a need to assess the user needs and reduce their need to contact the team.

MHM logo and funeral brands


As you will find out as you read further into this case study, what I thought was going to be a straight forward process, turned out to be deeply-rooted in the grief that families are experiencing in dealing with the death of a loved one. This grief is compounded by emotions, time constraints and a lack of knowledge about funerals.

I delivered a high fidelity prototype website that is based on user research insights, designed to alleviate the grief of creating funeral media by focusing on educating and informing families about process and products, as well as placing emphasis on support and related knowledge.

Collage of website images


From the get-go, I was told that I would have limited access to the funeral directors’ user base due to the nature of the business – they wanted to avoid anything that might be seen as ‘ambulance-chasing’ which may harm their reputation – a bulk of their business is generated from returning-families and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Definitely no cold calls, but emails and surveys were acceptable, so I was given access to their CRM of previous clients, as well as a few subject matter experts (SME) in the form of highly-experienced funeral consultants to provide their thorough insights and knowledge.

Not having access to families for interviews was not ideal, but it's their call. I will have to dig deeper elsewhere – especially with the funeral consultants – it was always evident in my own observations that the funeral consultants know their families intimately and should be able to provide some good insights as they always advocate for, and carry a burden of care for their families.

Initial Problem Statement

After scoping the project with the stakeholders, we hypothesised the following problem statement:

Grieving family members are stressed and confused about gathering and providing assets to us to create funeral media because they don't know what to do because they haven't been provided with enough information.

My goal was to explore the problem, test the hypothesis and find out what the users needed so that we can provide them with a suitable solution.


  1. Online Surveys (43 respondents from 334 sent)
  2. Desktop Research
  3. Interviews (3 SMEs, 1 family member)
  4. Contextual Observations (Approx. 6 years)

Knowing that interviews with families will be a constraint and limited, I put together a survey that would gather both quant/qual. data to gather as much as I could to understand their experiences. These were sent out to over 334 families who had used MHM to create funeral media between the months of May and July 2022 – not too long ago that they will still remember their experience clearly (as difficult as it may have been), and being careful not to be too pushy as they are certain to be grieving and coming to terms with their loss.

The aim was to get them to review their experience with MHM in terms of the service provided and not so much emphasis on the end-products created. ie. Feedback on aspects of communications, information provision, timing, and staffing. There was also some emphasis on who was helping them through the process – as arranging funerals is not usually a solitary process. The surveys were also used to invite participants for interviews.

I then did desktop research which looked at CRM data, existing feedback, competitor analysis, as well as spending time noting the contextual observations from my time as an employee.

Comp analysis

After looking at initial responses from surveys and the desktop research, I then conducted 1-on-1 interviews with the SMEs (funeral consultants) and one family contact (I managed to entice from the surveys) to dig a little further.

Some interview quotes:

"I'm sorry, I'm really struggling"
(Family during an arrangement trying to take in the instructions being given about media)

“Well, this is what it is and feeling like we really can't do anything about it now. It's too late.”
(Family on the subject of time constraints)

"The communication thing is a big thing for us all"
(Consultant on timing of communication)


Analysing Research Data

The research findings were synthesised into an Affinity Map in Miro to organise them into clusters and themes to try and make sense of it all.

Affinity Map

To gain some perspective, an Empathy Map was also created to allow us to empathise with the user.

Empathy Map


  • Most client contacts are women (67%)
  • Only 8% of them organised media by themselves
  • 43% had help from their familes and relatives
  • 32% relied on their celebrants – which validates the insights from the SMEs
  • 70% rated MHM a 10/10, and 90% gave 8/10 or above in all areas evaluated
  • Families just don't know what to do when it comes to funerals (observation)
  • They always check-in with their funeral consultants, who are actually always advocating for them (observation)
  • Lots of variables and dynamics affecting their judgement when it comes to decision-making (observation)


  • Families don’t know our internal processes 
NOR the general process of funerals.
  • Some families have a “that will do” attitude and are making compromises on decisions due to time constraints and the emotional distress of losing someone.
  • Families like to have creative options available to them but don’t always know what they want.
  • Having good communications early in their journey could be key to a smoother process with families.

Pain Points – families are:

  • Naive about general process (ie. who does what, when, how)
  • Unsure if media team are aware of them - no acknowledgement.
  • Anxious, when we don't get in touch till much later (than they expected).
  • Frustrated with not having input on creative direction.
  • Compromising end result due to time constraints or lack of input from beginning.
  • Overloaded with all other things to organise for funeral (ie. Eulogy or tributes).

This data was further digested into a Persona and a Customer Journey Map to provide us with direction on ideation for a 'real' person. These are basically tools which allows us to empathise with 'Anna' and understand her motives, feelings and what she might be going through to achieve her goals.

Customer Journey Map


When the project began, I thought it was going to be fairly straight forward, but as I progressed, a different picture began to emerge – what MHM thought was just a series of repetitive tasks that could be removed by putting some documents online – is actually deeply-rooted in the grief that families are experiencing in dealing with the death of a loved one.

I found that families were mostly really happy with what MHM were doing. They were highly appreciative of the work, but something didn’t add up until I had an opportunity to speak in depth to a family member about their recent experience, where they approved everything – but in reality, they ran out of time, the pressure was on and they had to commit with what had been done – this is despite the fact they wanted to make more changes to the media which they weren’t actually happy with.

💡 This was a revelation for me as it explained the countless times that some families approved with an emotionless “That’s fine”, “OK” or “That’ll do.”

This was actually present in the empathy map where families were saying one thing, and doing another. They compromised the end result because they felt it was a necessary sacrifice.

It promptly reminded me of a quote from an experienced funeral director: “There’s no time for do-overs, we have one go at this.”

The real problem

Grieving families are making uninformed and compromised decisions because they are emotionally distressed, time-poor and lack the knowledge about organising funeral media.

It wasn’t just about funeral media and knowing what to do. It was about the pain of losing someone and the distress of organising a funeral in a limited timeframe.


Ideation and Direction

From this point on, with the updated problem statement, the focus was on alleviating the difficulties that families face in organising funeral media – in the context of the big picture – to make the overall experience less painful. Being empathetic and helpful wasn't enough, we had to give them as much of an advantage as we could, as early as we can, so that they are informed and making good, uncompromising choices.

With those thoughts, I facilitated an Ideation Workshop with the team at MHM to look at three key areas where we considered the following:

  • How might we provide the required information and instructions to ANNA easily, and in a timely manner, so she is more prepared?
  • How might we contact ANNA early, before she gets anxious?
  • How might we give ANNA more creative input on the media we are creating for her mum?

They voted on the ideas generated and these were charted on an MVP matrix where we decided on the following delivery plan:

Delivery plan

Service Solution Storyboard

Although not within the scope of the website project, one of the solutions generated was a change to the internal process for the team to improve the timing of communication via SMS notifications and changing the timing of an introductory call to the family. I generated a storyboard to help the team understand it.

Storyboard image

Information Architecture

Next up was working out the content and functionality of the site. From our MVP, we know that there needed to be focus on educating the families with the following:

  • The Process (What steps families need to take to create funeral media)
  • FAQ
  • Product information
  • Instructions of what needed to be done
  • Checklists of items required
  • Samples/Gallery of products
  • Support documents

These were mapped into a site map to understand the complexity and volume of the content.

Information Architecture

Sketching, Wireframing, Lo-Fidelity Prototyping

The next steps involved getting the ideas from paper to low fidelity prototyping for initial concept testing of functionality and usability.

Likes: General sections, names, FAQ, Simple enough

Dislikes: Fine blocks of text, Scrolling timeline, Jargon

Observations: Uncertainty around the timeline process map, FAQ too hidden away, 1 tester unsure how to navigate home.

Low fidelity wireframe

With some adjustments to the Process Map (time line), I then went onto a hi-fidelity prototype and remote unmoderated tested via Maze where the original IA proved to be too convoluted. 2 out of 9 testers had a lot of trouble with the overall navigation, possibly due to naming conventions as they seemed confused with a couple of tasks.


Project Status

After the last round of testing, the information architecture was revisited and simplified with feedback from MHM and Funeral Consultants, and next step is further user testing.

However, at this point in time (where this case study ends), I had to put the project on hold to prioritise the rest of the Academy Xi course. I had done enough in terms of meeting the project criteria for Academy Xi, and MHM were also keen to get moving and asked me to provide all assets to their developers (Naoca) to get the project rolling at their end. To that effect, I have passed on all design assets, a style guide and instructions to Naoca.

There is still much more to do, content-wise, including the full product catalogue (descriptions, specs, tips and checklists) and additional support documents – this is where MHM will have to take over themselves to supply to Naoca.

Style guide

Final Iteration

The core of the solution was designed to educate the families on MHM’s processes, and more importantly, how it fits into the overall funeral process. Understanding the process and timing allows our persona, Anna, to navigate this journey with a clearer idea of her goals and expectations. We follow this with an FAQ section to support any underlying questions or doubts about the process.
The next part of the solution is related to the products – we provide Anna with detailed and specific product information, tips and checklists needed to understand what it is, and prepares her for the tasks she needs to accomplish (amongst many tasks burdened on families when someone passes away).
This is then backed up by a Support section with a knowledge base of supplemental, technical or instructional documents to ‘help them, help us’. To give us further efficiencies of precious time.

Link to Prototype



Next steps after going live will be to:

  • Setup permanent, ongoing feedback and reviews from users to ensure continuous iterations and improvements.
  • Ensure that analytics and SEO are setup well to monitor usage patterns.
  • Continuous updating of support docs by the internal team.

The research also indicated ample opportunities from a Service Design perspective to improve back stage processes for designers, media consultants, as well as for funeral consultants. ie. double-handling, communication silos, misalignment of priorities, etc.

Retrospectively, there are two areas where I feel needed improvements. The first is getting access to families for interviews and really get to know their thoughts – this would require a lot more planning and resources to carefully navigate the fragility of grieving families. The second area of improvement is usability testing – I needed to do more in-person, moderated testing to get a better understanding of their issues.

This website has spent years waiting in the wings, and although I am no longer working for MHM, I was glad to play my part in its creation and especially excited that we were able to use a human-centred approach with the UX process to help families in need.

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©2022 Lawrence Raphael Fung