Elissa Santamaria
A Sydney based UX Designer.
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Case Study: Improving mental wellness for students

About Uprise 

Uprise is a mental wellness platform for employees dealing with stress, anxiety, depression and feeling overwhelmed by their work load. We were recruited to work on this project as Uprise is now expanding to uni students, so the content and layout will need to be tailored to suit their needs.

Agile Project | Two Weeks 

My Role

Client Briefing                  ✓

Competitor Analysis

Persona                              ✓

Ideation Workshop          ✓

User Flow                           ✓

Wireframes                        ✓

Prototype                           ✓

Usability Testing               ✓

Presentation to Client     ✓


Students are required to complete modules of work however capturing student responses in a form seems to be redundant. This is causing students to drop out at this point which ultimately results in a loss of profit for Uprise.

Team Member: Jason Yang 

Phase One

Competitor Analysis

At the beginning of our project we conducted competitor analysis to find out how Uprise compares with its competitors. Our competitors included Headspace, Woebot and Calm. 

We compared mental wellness products based on how they presented content aside from a form.

We found that our client stands out as it is targeted towards students. And the main point of different is in having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy online. 

However Uprise cannot compete on features like audio, gamification, positive quotes, chat-bots and AI.

Our goal is to present three different designs to our client and even the playing field between competitors.



Uprise had four personas previously created for them however we agreed with Uprise that this could be refined to one. 

We leveraged off previous personas to create Ava version two and minimal previous research. 

We introduced Ava to guide stakeholders through the ideation workshop and the entire design process, as Ava was at the forefront of our minds.

What the client wants

The client knows drop outs are occurring when the students get to the form "retraining your first thought." Therefore they'd like us to design different concepts of how to present this information.

What the user wants

Ava does not want to use a platform that she feels is even more work because she is already time poor. However she would like to manage her stress levels better so she can focus on achieving the grades she needs. 

Design | Ideation

We held an ideation workshop with stakeholders which "Ava" guided. This involved a 6-up 1-up to quickly sketch up ideas based around three objectives:

  • Relaxing after a long day to improve students mood.
  • How to de-stress to focus on tasks ahead.
  • How to stop feeling tired to get the grades students need.

The creative ideas that came from this session were further developed in the next steps which was to present content in other ways than a form. 



Firstly I started by drawing up three different concepts in the format of a user flow to give me a starting point for wireframes. 

This is such a vital part of the solution as it allowed us to develop step by step how the final concepts would play out.

Three concepts included:

  1. Automated responses 
  2. Guided Audio
  3. Avatar concept 

Therefore we created three different low fidelity prototypes using XD to test with users and get their feedback. 


Automated Responses

The first design that came through from ideation and consisted of automated responses to the questions in module one. The idea behind this was that bubbles with the responses inside would float up the screen and users could select the ones that resinated with them. 


  • Daily check-in
  • Selection of automated responses
  • Type your own response 
  • Set reminders
  • Positive quote
  • Short video about learnings
  • Locks on modules
  • 11 screens


Guided Audio

The second design featured a mediated guide for module one in Uprise "retraining your first thought." 


  • Daily check-in
  • Introduction
  • Guided Audio 
  • Personalised Video
  • Activities to relieve stress
  • 11 screens


Avatar Concept

The third design included gamification with the introduction of an avatar at sign up that would change expressions to match the responses given. 


  • Create Avatar
  • Daily check-in
  • Short focus meditation
  • Record levels of tiredness
  • Personalised animation
  • Recommended activity based on free time recored 
  • Upgrade avatar based on progress
  • 15 screens

User Testing

User testing was conducted face to face with three uni students for a total of 45minutes each. I had students sit in-front of a laptop and go through the three different prototypes, in total 37 screens. I asked participants to continuously speak out-loud about what they were seeing and thinking - this was treated like a conversation.

From 27 insights that came from user testing here are the top 5;

  1. All users loved unlocking new modules "this would be a good incentive for me to come back!"(Uprise immediately implemented this change)
  2. "Long repetitive videos may get a bit much." Users would rather short personalised videos. 
  3. Overall users received the language as being negative. "If I'm having a bad day and I'm confronted with negative language, it doesn't help me."
  4. Students like the suggested activities, "it's something I'd use when stressed and a good reminder that I should always make time for myself." However students want to learn more tips on how to relive stress, overcome anxiety and learn to meditate. 
  5. Bubbles feature was found to be playful and automated responses were helpful as when students are stressed the cannot eloquently describe their feelings. 



We presented our insights in front of two stakeholders at Uprise and they were highly receptive to our work. They implemented some of the features immediately. However, due to the new student version launching in a few weeks some of the suggestions were too difficult to build within the given timeframe. 

Phase Two: Back to Basics

My Role

Client Briefing                      ✓

Paper Prototypes                  ✓

User testing / Ideation        ✓

Presentation                         ✓

What the Client Wants

As the new website for students will be officially launching in three weeks the client suggested it would be most beneficial to test the current website.

What we agreed on

In our client briefing we agreed on focusing our attention around four main objectives that came from user testing in phase one. 


  1. How might we improve the "language" of the instructions and questions in the platform so that students are more likely to continually engage with the platform and complete the modules (i.e. prevent drop-offs).
  2. How might we present the progress a user has achieved in completing modules and/or engaging with the platform without the stress of percentages and the tyranny of metrics?
  3. How might we improve the videos in the modules or the way the videos are presented so that student users will have more frequent and continued interactions with the uprise platform? 
  4. How might we make it easy for student users to trust their coach so that they can  start chatting with them and have frequent and deepening interactions with the uprise platform?


How to improve language

The users found the language to be negative. Having studied psychology myself I understood the purpose behind the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Questioning so I did a mock up of new questions to suit users needs and compare in user testing. 

Insights from user testing

  • Original Q’s were too wordy and hard to digest so participants were left feeling confused.
  • Refined Q's were received a lot better but could be broken into seperate Q's. 
OpportunityQ's need to be broken up into easy to process amounts. The questions should be effortless for participants, they don't want to feel like it's work. 


How to improve progress bars

In phase one students did not like progress bars with percentages as it made them feel guilty if they had underachieved. We created a low fidelity prototype of how this could be presented differently.

Insight from user testing

  • All users had a preference for the revised progress bar with stages.


How to improve videos 

In phase one users were unsure of videos as they thought they may become repetitive. 

Insights from user testing
  • All users love the analogies in the video.
  • Majority of users skipped parts of the video as the became bored and were unsure if they should be doing tasks at the same time as part of the module.

The intention of the video should be clearly introduced so users know if it is interactive or not.


How to build trust with the coach

In phase one use testing we asked participants to observe the current website and comment on the coach feature. All students felt like they wanted to know more about the coach before engaging with them. In phase two user testing we introduced a low fidelity prototype of the coach in a dashboard format. 

Insights from user testing
  • Users think a 24 hours response time from the coach is too long.
  • Users want the coach to engage with them as they go through the module.
  • Users need to know the importance of speaking to a coach.
  • Users like the idea of coach being a dashboard feature. 

Having an active coach always available and introducing the coach slowly like a guide so that the user can build more trust with the product.


Having completed this project I can now see it would have been best to go into a round of user testing with the initial website first. This would have given us a better starting point. In addition I would have done research with students in the initial stages to find out what their expectations would be from a website regarding their own mental health. 

Finally recruiting participants was a huge challenge I've learnt to allow more time to arrange participants and account for drop-outs on the day. 

"Elissa worked on a two-week user experience (UX) sprint with us at Uprise. She was very thorough, professional and insightful. She gave us plenty of insights we could implement into product improvements. It was such a delight working with Elissa."
Oliver Damian, Product Manager at Uprise