In mid 2016 DesignMap was hired by Kaiser Permanente to kickstart renewed UX design efforts. As Kaiser built up their internal team, DesignMap busily was put to work designing core features of their updated patient experience. Simultaneously we created a visual style guide and component library.
I came on mid-way through the engagement to help solve outstanding design issues. I was tasked with ramping up on a short timeline and delivering new designs quickly.
In seven months I cycled through several (frequently overlapping) projects. I began working on updating doctor and facility search functionality and moved on from there : redesigning flu vaccination location pages, updating their podcasts page and conducting feasibility research, performing a content audit with another designer, helping Kaiser implement a new appointment booking experience, and creating internal process documentation.
Here are a few highlights from that experience.
Designing for Kaiser was an exercise in managing complexity. First the development process was still rigid and required highly elaborate red line and functional specs. Second, Kaiser is actually composed of several regions, whose requirements and feature functionality varied. On top of that, healthcare is heavily regulated and all updates require legal and expert scrutiny. This created high design overhead.
Two projects, Find Doctors and Locations (FDL) and Flu, were prime examples of this. I was often designing incremental improvements based on improved data, or moving content around pages as our team thought about how patients would use the site. Designs also had to work their way through the doctor approval process. One change could easily ripple through 10-15 pages, creating hours of rework. My designs functioned as both interaction and visual design. The visual style guide was a work in progress at this point, and I would frequently have to update our mocks as spacing or element styling changed.
I managed the design overhead two ways. The first was through immaculate file hygiene and organization. Symbols, pages, and styles were groomed and obsessively maintained. The second was through good project management and communication. I created inventories of feature requests, changes, and deadlines. Visualizing the complexity for stakeholders helped set appropriate expectations, since a “simple” change often met hours or days of rework. The result was that both projects were implemented with a minimum of developmental complexity and workload was kept reasonable.
Through careful time, file, and relationship management files were delivered to development on time and easily absorbed.
Next, Kaiser had an existing site full of health related content whose design hadn’t been updated in over 15 years. They knew they’d eventually have to migrate the content to their new CMS. Unfortunately no one really knew how big their site was, as different sections of the site had different owners who didn’t communicate. Kaiser’s new UX director asked another designer and I to figure out a potential solution the UX team could propose.
We audited the site and found a structure that had been tailored to SEO circa early 2000’s. It was rife with short, light bursts of information and a sprawling link structure. Often pages that had ostensibly useful content were actually pages of links, which frequently linked to other pages of links. We saw an opportunity to design a process to cut redundant and irrelevant content and make a more streamlined experience for Kaiser customers. We also thought we could make it with relatively low development effort.
We hosted a workshop with project managers, copywriters, and development to facilitate possible solutions. We ended up creating a series of steps that could be taken by content owners to audit and trim down their own sections of the site. In tandem we proposed a design that leveraged existing components from the new CMS to streamline development. We summarized this in a proposal that was presented along with several others to executives.
Though our proposal eventually was put in the care of permanent design staff, we were proud of what we had proposed. We ultimately
Finally towards the end of our engagement I was able to sit down Kaiser’s new director of UX and work on an internal brochure of sorts that would describe the design process to potential internal clients. The new team would function more like an internal agency, where project owners would present the problem and the team would iterate on solutions collaboratively. This was a completely new way of working for the company.
My time on Kaiser was characterized by bursts of rapid activity. Helping on a variety of projects gave me respect for the vast design needs of a large organization. It also made me appreciate the difficulty in designing effectively for a diverse set of stakeholders in a heavily regulated industry.
Above all I am most proud of being able to shift gears rapidly and maintain a high level of quality. My ability to quickly deconstruct a project and understand its component parts meant that usable designs were being produced shortly after landing on a project. I was able to adapt and succeed despite the tight deadlines and sheer variety of work I was tasked with producing.