The University of Toronto (UofT) is experiencing higher demands each year for mental health services from students. Despite tremendous efforts made by the Health & Wellness Centre (HWC) to offer support, student accessibility to mental health care in a timely manner remains to be less than ideal. Lengthy wait times can cause poor health experience, and may lead to worsening mental health in students.


My Role

I was part of an ambitious project and team to redesign the health care experience for both HWC staff and students. While all four team members contributed to the UX research, I served an additional role as the UX/UI designer: 

  • Visual design of all presentation & recruitment materials

  • Prototyping final products

  • Usability testing and implementation planning

Project Overview

The Process

We began by conducting an extensive literature review and 20 interviews with various stakeholders (students, health care providers, and representatives from different post-graduation institutions) to explore the issue of long wait times for mental health support across Canadian universities, and what it means to the health of students. 

Making Discovery

Empathize and Define Pain Points

We then conducted 7 focus groups with HWC students and staff (receptionists, nurses, general practitioners, psychiatrists, and psychologists/counsellors) to explore their journey and their unmet needs. We analyzed the data collected with the Nvivo software. I also made a user journey map. 

I'm a visual systems thinker - I like to draw out complex systems to contextualize interactions for better understanding. And so I personally created a user journey map that showed all touchpoint of the mental health care pathway. It made identifying user pain points that much easier.


Following a few iterations on redefining the problems identified from our previous research, we invited staff and students to our co-creation workshops.


Why co-creation? We held co-creation workshops as part of our participatory design process to ensure student and staff's active involvement and engagement in the ideation process. Co-creation allows participants to contribute to the final solution, maximizing its value proposition and chance of adoption by end-users eventually.

Why issue cards? I illustrated a set of issue cards to facilitate the ideation process. Each card contained a drawing and a description explaining a pain point. Cards were used to induce interactive dynamics among participants. In fact, we were told by participants at the end of the workshop that the cards were really helpful and reinforcing for brainstorming.  


With the help of the issue cards, and lots of sticky notes, sketch papers and markers, we ended the workshop with many ideas. 

Concept Development

We organized and divided the ideas into 2 categories moving forward: recommendations and potential prototypes. For the latter, we proceeded with redesigning the HWC website and creating a mobile app for students to improve accessibility to mental health services. 

These resources serve 3 main purposes: 

  1. To educate students about available resources on campus 

  2. To clearly communicate HWC service expectations 

  3. To provide a step-by-step guide through their potential care pathway

A lot of solo and collaborative sketching happened. In addition, I personally did a site map and a heuristic evaluation to identify ways to improve the information architecture and usability of HWC's site. This is crucial for students who are in distress - confusing information will only frustrate them even more!

Finally, I took on the role of wireframing and prototyping. While wireframing, I considered UI design principles including heuristics, microinteractions, and functional elements. 

Wireframing & Prototyping

To piece everything together, I used Sketch to create the visual designs, and subsequently Invision to prototype the website, and Flinto for the mobile app. 

The Result

HWC was very impressed by our work, and were very eager to launch the resources for its students as soon as possible. In particular, they really appreciated that we used a human-centred approach to create the list of recommendations and design the prototypes.  


I am currently working collaboratively with the internal teams to prepare for implementation. This includes conducting usability testing (qualitative and quantitative), and communicating with developers to ensure they understand how each piece of functionality is meant to work. 


Timely has been featured in multiple events including presentations and conferences. We were also interviewed by a university magazine and a podcast. I am very excited to see its launch soon!

Some of the information is blurred out to maintain confidentiality.


Improving timely access to mental health support for students

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© 2017 by Cheryl Tsui