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A small sampling of projects, challenges, approaches, and outcomes.


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  • Heuristic Evaluation: SmartNews mobile app, using a modified version of the Neilsen Norman group's Ten Heuristics criteria provided by Impekable, the digital agency that contracted me

  • Competitive Analysis:  3 news outlets, 4 news aggregator apps, and 3 social media platforms with popular news sections


Google Sheets


Surpassing the Joneses
Validating Against the Competition Led to a Seismic Strategy Shift


Identify the low-hanging fruit of design advantages among the competition (minor interactions, messaging, aesthetic features, etc.) compared to the current SmartNews mobile app experience, and recommend which to adopt to increase SmartNews' membership and user engagement.


  • Client contact was extremely busy, and therefore inaccessible for collaboration

  • Client did not communicate product strategy or commit to metrics for project success 

  • Early findings indicated that the SmartNews app wasn't just keeping pace with the competition. They were in fact ahead of those outlets by multiple heuristics.

It became obvious that one-off design tweaks were not what they needed, and we had no way of guaranteeing even the perceived success of any changes I might recommend. It would be unethical for me to meet the original request. 


At first, the client was understandably disappointed that the requested design tweaks were not to be delivered. Those would have been relatively easy wins for their Design team and I did not judge them for their frustration.  


I instead advised them of what they did need, and gave them the analysis that would win internal support to invest in the determination and codification of their organizational and product goals, targets, and metrics - then explore only the design changes that directly and specifically support them. 

They appreciated that I prevented them from wasting a year's budget releasing and evaluating unnecessary work.  Eventually.


What this project got me thinking about

Handling a taciturn or unavailable client is a necessary professional skill, and it can be very hard for those of us who generally require collaboration to feel confident in outcomes.  Sometimes your real job ends up being working with whatever information you can get. Sometimes it means telling the client something they don't want to hear.


Transparency and direct honesty are best employed when tempered with a clear and sincere expression of sympathy for their position...and when supported by your own leadership. Having executive support is crucial when a project has to pivot so far in a different direction. 

State of CA Child Welfare Digital Services CWS-CARES Program

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  • 50+ Existing Research and CWD Research and Documentation Reviews

  • 1:1 Interviews: 

    • Social Workers

    • Juvenile Probation Officers

  • Group interviews:

    • Child proxies - Adults who were in foster care as children 

    • Social workers & supervisors

  • Contextual inquiry: observation and walkthroughs of Social workers:

    • Working in their offices ​

    • Conducting site inspections of foster caregiver homes and residential facilities

  • Participatory Design Workshops: Met regularly with a dozen Social Worker, Probation Officer, and Policy Analyst and stakeholders to validate and improve the application interface and user flows

  • Journey mapping: 

    • Children's experiences during and after being removed from their home and placed in  foster care

    • Social Worker's experiences in the office and the field

  • Technical feasibility checks:  Met regularly with Engineering to check the feasibility of designs during the research and design process ​

  • Accessibility testing:

    • Manual design checks prior to build​

    • Manual software testing before release​

    • Automated software testing before release


A11y Color Contrast Validator





WCAG Checklist

Outputs (unavailable due to NDA)

Accessibility Guidelines for CWS-CARES and the CWDS

Interview scripts

User Journey Maps

Taskflow Diagrams


Workshop guides

Voice and Tone Content Recommendations

Crying in the Bathroom
How a Government Software Project Evolved into Service Design


Inform, design, build, and test the CWS-CARES system to replace the patchwork of different tools used by California's 58 county Child Welfare departments, in order to more quickly place children taken in custody and reduce the trauma they experience from that event.

Challenges  ​

  • We discovered that CA State Social Workers managing the worst day of a child's life had their emotional burdens and work hours doubled by poor tech - digital obstacles to critical data, fragile legacy systems that required paper-based workarounds, and limited connectivity in the field. Finding our Social Workers occasionally having a good cry in the ladies' room gave us even stronger motivation to improve the tools for these heroes.

  • Introducing design thinking into a rigid state government environment hundreds of stakeholders required a very flexible and patient approach.

  • State leadership did not include a tech-savvy strategist until partway through the engagement.

  • One of the key stakeholder groups - children and youth - could not be contacted in order to protect their privacy and avoid re-traumatizing them.


  • We shifted State leadership's vision from "just" a software project to a comprehensive service design effort appropriate for the enormous breadth and depth of online and offline tasks, Federal and State policies and reporting requirements, security levels, and legal compliance we needed to support. 

  • We successfully engaged multiple key SMEs and stakeholders in journey-mapping exercises.

  • I identified the need for, then developed, clear and immediately actionable WCAG and Section 508 accessibility guidelines for complying with an opaque and subjective set of policy requirements for:

    • Interaction and visual design

    • Digital and downloadable content

    • Manual testing tools and processes

    • Automated testing tools and processes


What this project got me thinking about

Empathy for the children is the driving factor for why Social Worker subject themselves to the frustrations of a sub-optimal welfare system and all the secondary trauma of witnessing child abuse and neglect up close and personal all day, every day, for less pay than junior designers. It is not for the faint of heart or the financially ambitious.

Empathy was also our driving factor for staying motivated and active in a simultaneously rigid and chaotic environment. Everyone with boots on the ground from the state and counties was smart, purpose-driven, dedicated,  honorable, and really trying their damnedest to do the best they could for these children and their families...and we wanted to do our damnedest to help them. The state of State technology is still, over all, shockingly unacceptable for being the home of the digital revolution.

Women's Foundation of California

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  • Donor statistics review: Context for the existing state of WFC's donation patterns

  • Heuristic Evaluation: Review of the existing website experience and our redesign against the SFCAT heuristics I co-developed at Hot Studio

  • Content Inventory: Deep dive into the content already presented on the website compared with the new content features they wanted to share.

  • 1:1 Phone Interviews: 

    • ​10 interviews with 6 WFC Board Members

    • 2 WFC Content producers

  • Casual competitive analysis:  Undocumented reviews of other donation-funded organizations in the giving landscape to compare basic donation features and messaging, especially around calls to action (CTAs)




Google Docs


Research Summary Document

Strategy Document

Wireframe templates

No Leaving Money On The Table
Content Designed to Engage a New Generation of Donors


Broaden the WFC's donors beyond their almost exclusively wealthy, white, educated base and better serve their various users by redesigning their web experience to illustrate the dynamism of their policy, grantmaking, and activist leadership programs.


  • WFC, like many non-profits, had a shoestring budget, which limited some of our activities.

  • WFC had no regular content publishing workflow or content management system, but the design had to accommodate one.

  • I did not have direct access to users except for Board Members who also led Giving Circle donation groups.

  • I conducted the Discovery/Strategy phase of the project at the Hot Studio premiere design agency with a technical analyst before the WFC determined they would not be able to afford to have Hot Studio complete it.

  • I am such a strong supporter of this vital organization that I put a lot of extra pressure on myself to deliver.



  • In Discovery/Strategy, I articulated the full breadth of their existing user base into Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary user groups and identified the content and tasks most valuable to them.

  • The Hot Studio tech analyst provided recommendations with strong technical and practical rationales for their CMS adoption.

  • My research convinced them to begin engaging younger women at lower donation levels, in order to cultivate long-lasting and deepening don't relationships.

  • My research convinced them to offer micro-donation options, a key missing piece to their donor engagement strategy.

  • I lobbied for and was allowed to complete the redesign through an independent partnership with the talented visual and brand designer Arin Fishkin.

  • We delivered a full site redesign compatible with their existing BlackBaud donor database and then-new CMS. It was recently redesigned again, but still employs the IA and navigation I provided for them.

What this project got me thinking about

Honestly, I just wish I'd known about the WFC when I was younger, and would have the bandwidth for the education required to do deep policy work. I believe my inner documentation dork and inner activist would have attained a happy partnership by focusing solely on improving the lives of girls and women. Because by extension, I would be helping everyone, of all and no genders.

I get a similar satisfaction whenever I work on...wait for it: enterprise projects.

Enterprise end-users are true captives, with no consumer choices about the digital experiences they must have. Improving the UX of a facilities management app is a mitzvah whether used by janitors or a customer service platform used by live agents. As we know, bad software experiences make people less efficient, less productive, and emotionally drained. Ultimately, suboptimal UX makes employees hate their jobs.

No one's tools should make their lives worse. I will always strive to improve someone's day.

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