Head To Health Website

Department of Health

In 2016, Apis was engaged to work with the Department of Health to design the concept for a new online mental health portal that would give Australian consumers and carers the tools and information they need to successfully navigate the digital mental health system, and make informed choices about their care.


The Department’s modelling estimated there are more than 640,000 people with mental illness that would benefit from lower intensity, cost effective, services such as digital mental health services.

Australia’s digital mental health services are clinically effective, accessible anywhere and at any time – often with no waiting lists, and free or low cost. Through the Australian Government’s previous investments in digital mental health, here are a number digital mental health services available to these people. While many of these services have proven to be equally effective (as traditional face-to-face services), their uptake continues to be hampered by:

  • A lack of community awareness that evidence-based digital mental health services can be an effective treatment source;
  • Scepticism regarding the performance of digital mental health services over more traditional face to face approaches; and
  • A lack of established pathways to access digital mental health services – making it difficult for people to navigate on their own to the right service in their time of need.


The new portal was designed in accordance with the Digital Transformation Agency’s Digital Service Standard. At the core of our approach was a multi-disciplinary Apis team, comprising service designer, user researcher and product manager.

In the Discovery stage, the team’s first task was to uncover why the existing website wasn’t working. Through service mapping (visual representations of the current service landscape) we identified those organisations and experts best placed to assist with our investigation.

Through expert interviews (with more than 30 subject matter experts, service providers and researchers) and more than 40 immersion sessions we discovered the website had struggled to gain traction with its target audience because it fails to filter information and service recommendations based on need.

As an example:

A person using the search term “anxiety” was receiving over 1,100 search results; feedback from end-users is that this is overwhelming and discourages help-seeking behaviour

(as is evidenced by the low number of website visitors clicking on outbound links to 3rd party operated digital mental health services).

This discovery finding was essential to our design concept for the new online mental health portal. That is, one of the most important user features for the new portal would be its ability to present users with a personally curated view of digital mental health services.

To ensure we got its design right, we developed a series of low fidelity wireframes to seek user feedback. These wireframes provided the blueprints for Sam – the Head to Health virtual assistant. (developed by a digital services firm engaged off the Digital Transformation Agency’s Digital Marketplace).



Apis delivered a design concept for the new online mental health portal that was universally endorsed by its end-users, service providers and subject matter experts. Through an Agile development methodology, we subsequently oversaw the translation of this concept into the Head to Health website; a website that is quickly gaining traction with its target audience.


Key Success Criteria

  • Immersion observation sessions (researchers observe participants in their natural environment e.g. home, office etc.) are an effective way to avoid the biases that limit the usefulness of findings gained through interviews (e.g. participants not giving honest answers);
  • Tactics traditionally reserved for e-commerce platforms (such as Search Engine Optimisation) can be effectively applied in the government sector to increase service uptake;
  • The use of visual aids (e.g. Service Mapping) to show how the new portal would complement the existing range of services helped garner initial support for the new portal;
  • Establishing an Advisory Committee of influential stakeholders assisted with the sector’s acceptance (and subsequent promotion) of the new portal; and
  • Using visual design artefacts such as user personas, user journeys and service blueprints enabled our design team to quickly and cost effectively test multiple concepts with our reference groups.