project case study

CMHA Recovery College Website Design & Development



The Challenge

CMHA Calgary’s Recovery College is a successful program that was stuck on a slow, unintuitive, non-scalable web platform that was hindering the program’s growth. With three locations already up and running and more on the horizon, Recovery College needed a comprehensive multisite platform wherein new instances could easily be deployed for future locations, while serving each location’s unique needs – from six to 250 courses, depending on the location.

The Solution

In addition to designing an easy-to-use registration flow with calendar views and event filtering, we delivered an easy-to-set-up and expandable web platform via custom WordPress multisite development for generating and managing new Recovery College locations. Each new location can now have its own content and administrators, courses and event attendees – effectively, its own site under the Recovery College umbrella on the same platform and using the same design system.

Project Services

  • Agile Approach
  • Moodboards
  • User Stories
  • Functional Prototyping
  • UX/UI Design
  • User Journey Mapping
  • Email & Text Messaging Notifications
  • WordPress Multisite Development
  • Event and Goal Tracking
  • View Live Site

The Details

Recovery College is an initiative started by CMHA Calgary (a division of the Canadian Mental Health Association) that provides free courses on mental health and wellness. Since the program’s launch, the initiative has proven wildly successful and had expanded to three total locations before reaching out to Paper Leaf. Since the launch of this project, two more Recovery College locations have opened (bringing the current total up to 5), with aspirations to continue expanding the program across Canada.


Our Discovery Phase started with a full day kick-off and needs assessment workshop where both Paper Leaf and CMHA Calgary gathered to uncover Recovery College’s users. objectives, visions, challenges and goals. During this workshop we also worked with CMHA through an information architecture discussion, the paper prototyping of key user stories, and a creative direction exercise to narrow down the platform’s visual aesthetic. Tackling these items as early as possible proved an efficient and effective use of time for both us and CMHA Calgary, and allowed our team to hit the ground running post-kickoff.

mobile wordpress multisite

Prototype Makes Perfect

Getting individuals into the mental health courses that are right for them is the single most important function of the Recovery College platform. After unpacking user personas and information architecture, we were able to effectively map out how a user would move through the registration flow. After iterating with the client, these workflow maps turned into a functional prototype.

Prototyping is a critical step in designing for user experience as it provides a low-fidelity tool directly into the hands of end users, with the ability to effectively identify pain points, UX/UI friction, and opportunities for improvement. With that in mind, we conducted early-stage user testing with this prototype, with actual Recovery College end users in the Welcome Centre – often, where workshop attendees end up registering. They were able to provide critical feedback and suggestions with regards to course discovery and registration, which in turn informed the next round of iteration on the product.

Engineering for Expansion

As we worked through the design and development of Calgary’s Recovery College site, we had to keep in mind that we weren’t just building one site or even three, but instead a system that could support an undefined number of sites – each site at a different location, with unique needs, content and course offerings. We also had to keep the back-end users in mind, as they would be administering their location’s site with varying contexts – urban and rural, young and old, from locations across Canada, with varying technological expertise. We planned out the multisite platform architecture to inform server/infrastructure setup and worked with CMHA to understand the roles and user permissions that the staff at each Recovery College location would need. Throughout design and development, we needed to be mindful of how location-specific items such as logo upload or course filtering would need to be flexible through the CMS in order to accommodate a wide range of needs.

The End Result

The new Recovery College platform is easy to use for both end users looking for mental health courses and the Recovery College staff updating courses and content every day, with Recovery College staff spending nearly 30% less time on site updates. In the initial four months since the launch of the Calgary, Edmonton and Wood Buffalo sites, over 1,000 people registered for courses at a conversion rate of 8.8%. We’ve also seen a huge improvement in page load speeds (over 60%!) and an average of 2,500 new users a month discovering the Recovery College program. Since the initial launch of three sites on the platform, two more locations have successfully launched their Recovery College sites: Lethbridge and Central Alberta. Through a collaborative design and build process, the Canadian Mental Health Association now has the tools they require to grow their program and continue to help those in need address their mental health.

I was so impressed by their project management skills. They use Asana as a project management tool and tracker, and they're so easy to communicate with. Everything they did was laid out clearly, and I always knew who was responsible for what. We got weekly status updates with tasks they had completed, the issues they faced, and the information they needed from us. We had a phone call twice a week, and they were on top of their project management and timelines. They were top-notch in every respect.

Amy Ball

Communications Lead, Canadian Mental Health Association

contact us

Let's make something amazing together.

Interested in working together, or maybe just having a conversation? We’d love to hear what you have in mind, and answer any questions you might have. Let’s make whatever’s rolling around in that brain of yours happen.

Onwards to view The Next Project →