Course Platform for Personal Growth

Prior to pivoting to become the meditation app named Ten Percent Happier, the team and I at Change Collective aimed to build a mobile course platform for all areas of personal growth: diet, fitness, productivity, and mindfulness. This case study takes place when the company was about two thirds of the way through our seed financing and yet to find true product/market fit.

Each course had several days and each day had several tasks. Prior to this redesign, the app had a course view, a day view, and a task view. The app UX made did not clearly communicate this course architecture, which prevented users from advancing in the course.

Design Challenges

We built courses that aimed to help our users kickstart their behavior change. Each course was two to three weeks in length, and included a daily assembly of content (audio, video, or a short article) and a daily challenge (such as a short workout video or guided meditation).

The current business model included a free trial. Users could complete the first three days of any course for free, but were required to pay to access the full course. The conversion ratio from free trial to paying customer was significantly lower than expected and we needed to understand why.

Scope & Constraints

As with any early-stage venture, we were racing to reach product/market fit before we ran out of money. With only about six months of funding left, we needed to quickly diagnose and fix this problem.

In the proposed redesign, I collapsed the course view and the day view into a single view. This did a better job of setting expectations and helping users understand where in the course they were, as they advanced from the free trial to a subscriber.

Design Solutions

I started by reaching out to a few dozen users who completed the trial, but did not purchase the full course. There was one complaint I heard over and over again: the trial ended before users were able to complete all of the trial content. I had a hunch about what this meant, but I scheduled a few usability tests with users currently in their trial window to better understand what was happening.

The free trial did not simply make the first three lessons available. Instead, the content was on a schedule. On they day that a user starts a course, the first lesson is revealed. When they open the app on day two, they are brought to lesson two. If life gets in the way and they don’t return to the app until later in the week, they immediately hit our paywall. This auto-advance design intended to help users build a daily practice, but instead proved to be an unforgiving design that prevented many users from actually trialing the course.

This problem was exacerbated by the UI design. A course had three main views: a table of contents that showed all days in the course, a day view that showed all tasks in a lesson, and a task view. When a user opened the app, they were brought to today’s lesson. The problem with this was that today looked awfully similar to yesterday, so users did not have any feeling of progress through the app.

To fix these problems, we made a few crucial changes. First, we removed the auto-advance. We continued to encourage users to complete a lesson each day, but the app would no longer skip lessons when the user missed a day.

Second, we collapsed the day view into the course table of contents. When a user opens the app, they would now see a full timeline of course tasks, broken out by day. We also added a simple checkmark as a way to show the user which tasks they had already completed. User testing showed that these changes greatly clarified how far along users were in the course.

As we added courses to the app, we would need a catalog to allow users to browse courses. This concept worked for a small number of courses, but we did not end up building this.


This was a crude fix, but it stopped our bleeding. In the month following this change, we observed a 105% increase in conversion rate from free trial to paid course. It more than doubled our sales!

This company remains one of my best learning experiences. There were several other crucial product decisions that we made along the way, and many other personal learnings that I have since reflected on from this experience. I’m always excited to talk about this experience!