US NAVY

bringing new insights to
an old industry 

Image by Michael Afonso

OVERVIEW

Throughout my employment with defense contractor, InnovaSystems International, I was able to provide UX expertise on a variety of projects for the US Navy. My primary area of focus was with two teams:

The Navy Readiness Application Suite (NRAS) — a suite of integrated web applications for reporting and displaying the readiness posture of Navy units. For this agile team, I provided high-fidelity designs and functional prototypes to our development team while maintaining our software design system. I also conducted routine design reviews and user research with our product constituents.

The Navy Readiness Reporting Enterprise Business Intelligence Unit (NRRE-BI) — providing data visualizations and reports associated with readiness posture used throughout the US Navy and Department of Defense. For this team I facilitated design thinking and ideation sessions to promote a culture of innovation and unique visuals for our reports. I also conducted user research with report admins and business analysts to improve the authoring and viewing experience with our third-party PowerBI and Cognos tools. 

SECTOR

Military, Defense Contractor

MY ROLE

Lead UX Designer and Researcher — oversaw user research and design for large-scale Navy Readiness  applications.

PROJECT DURATION

Multiple application contracts of varying lengths — I typically had 4-6 projects in my area of responsibility at a time.

CROSS-FUNCTIONAL COLLABORATION

Being the only UX specialist assigned to each project afforded me unique opportunities to gain insights form other team members. I functioned as the voice of design and research on our diverse team. Other voices included developers, system architects, business analysts, product owners, and QA testers. This environment broadened my view forcing me to consider things like technical feasibility, established mental models in the defense space, and budgetary concerns.

Image by Oskar Kadaksoo
Taking Notes

WORKING WITH UNIQUE CONSTRAINTS

Designing for classified environments, whether they be on vessels or in offices often means no analytic data, non-standard screen sizes, unpredictable technology and internet performance and inconsistent hardware and browser support. We were forced to consider graceful degradation on older systems and performance was prioritized before any design decision.

 

This varied widely across the fleet and admin spaces. Each design had to be considered and tested for performance on multiple systems.

Developing applications for the Navy often means working on projects that will not be utilized for a long time, sometimes even a year or more throughout the fleet. This means designing tried and true, thoroughly researched interfaces that will stand the test of time. It means abandoning trends and being flexible with best practices to consider the nuances of each decision.

These systems are also highly customized. Entire systems can be designed for what may only be 10 users. Quantitative research and industry trends mean little and instead we prioritize personalization and a specific solution to a specific problem.

INTRODUCING IDEATION

Card Sorting & Affinity Clustering

Round Robin

Abstraction and Contraction

Group Whiteboarding

Bringing design thinking to the business intelligence team in the military sector was a new opportunity to shake things up. While team members were often eager to innovate, most of the data analysts had little to no experience with the types of exercises I was proposing. To my surprise, once the ice was broken, bringing together these different types of thinkers allowed us to create new solutions to old problems and ideation sessions became a regular part of our meeting cadence that everyone looked forward to.

Image by Jason Goodman

USER RESEARCH METHODOLOGIES

Card Sorting

User Interviews

Contextual Inquiry

 

First Click & Heatmap Analysis

Conducting user research for the Navy took me to some interesting places and forced me to think outside the box. 

Classified environments often meant no recording and limited technology for user research. Just me and my notepad, I most often used contextual inquiry in the user's spaces. This provided insights that could never have been gained virtually.
 

Gaining access to our actual users proved to be a consistent challenge as we ran against deployment schedules, access issues, technical roadblocks. We found creative solutions to gain as many insights as possible by conducting research with customer support representatives and subject matter experts to represent our user-base.

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