TechForge Publishing


  • Research
  • Concept Development
  • Hi-Fidelity Prototyping
  • Project Management


16 Weeks


The Brief

SAM is an app provided by the University of the West of England to help students understand and manage anxiety. As part of a module on designing for the user experience the brief was to examine the needs of post graduate students in this area and create a solution that extended the existing app to give specialist functionality for this user group.

The final results should include a set of hi-fidelity prototypes and requirements suitable to be handed over to a development team.

The Outcome

Following a research and ideation process a task management tool was prototyped. It was designed to provide students with a way to stay on top of their workload, recognize upcoming stressful times and be able to discuss them and take action with their supervisors.

Key functionality included

  • Create tasks and assign stress levels
  • Clear overview of stressful periods to be managed and discussed with supervisors
  • Visually break up stressful tasks to help maintain a sense of control

Deep Dive

To fully understand the issues specific to post-graduate students initial secondary research was undertaken. This included a review of several research papers on related topics, investigation into current support systems for students, analysis of online student support forums and competitor analysis of similar tools.

Discussions were also undertaken with Phil Topham, the counselling psychologist for the original SAM app who had a lot of insights to share.

Informal interviews were conducted with both supervisors and students.

Several key issues kept coming up, such as difficulties with time management and supervisor relationships. These were identified as areas in which we could have an impact with a mobile app.

A heuristic evaluation of the current SAM app was also carried out to identify opportunities for improvement of the the User Experience.


Based on the initial research carried out two personas were created to help identify with the needs of the user group. One of these focused on the needs of an undergraduate, the original demographic of the SAM app and the other on a Post Graduate perspective, the new target group.

Although this was a useful tool and helped to focus discussions, given the wide nature of the demographics it was important that this persona did not become used as a generalisation.

Paper Prototypes

Initial ideas were quickly explored through paper prototyping allowing for rapid generation and testing of ideas.

Most of these were deliberately rough with the intention of working through as many ideas as possible. But as ideas developed one or two were slightly formalized to allow some basic user testing (they had to be legible!). In some cases they were created with transparency’s and sticky notes to represent interactivity.

Informal User Tests were carried out to identify which ideas provided the most potential for genuine SAM management improvements.

Story Boarding

The most likely ideas were storyboarded to sort and condense thoughts and help find a compelling point of view and clear direction for ideation.

At this point the two main ideas being explored were of a “Personal Coach” app and of a “Task Manager / Share” app that was ultimately pursued.


The strongest concept identified was that of a time management tool that allowed users to identify times of greater stress and to be able to share that information with their supervisors. This idea was roughly created with wireframing tool Balsamiq.

Lo-fidelity interactive prototypes were created to encourage user feedback and these prototypes were tested with five users who helped to identify and resolve issues regarding the flow of the app and expand on the functionality they would expect from it.

At this point it was decided that it was beyond the scope of the project to create a tool for sharing data with supervisors and that this would be considered a second stage for the project.

Hi-Fidelity Interactive Prototypes

As part of a hypothetical handover to a development team a specific series of functional and non-functional requirements were produced.

Using Adobe XD  a series of high-fidelity prototypes created for all required screens in the required functionality.

To aid communication with the development and demonstrate animation much of this was created as interactive prototypes.