This class project is partnered with an industry partner Focus Brand.

Original Project: August to December 2018

Second Iteration: October 2019

Tools Used: Paper and Pen, Sketch, Adobe Illustrator, Recording Devices

My Contributions:

Research and Evaluation: I led the initial user interview design and the final user testings design. I have worked with the whole group to support all research and analyzing activities, such as conducting interviews and user testings, recording, and transcribing the activities throughout the entire project cycle. Finally, I took charge of giving design recommendations after carefully analyzing the testing results with the group.

Design: I helped with the initial ideation process and supported the leading designer on interface design and labeling user flows throughout the project.

Iteration: Since our project ended with some design recommendations, I wanted to work on improving the overall designs and also want to see how much I have grown as a UX designer. I evaluated and improved on the original designs and conducted some heuristic evaluation sessions on the new iteration.

Design Objective 

Problem statement from Focus Brand:

"Focus Brands is made up of independent brands/units that are all targeting the similar consumer groups. Research is being conducted that is redundant, while simultaneously, decisions are being made without any research. Focus Brands would like to figure out the best way to create a repository that can easily be accessed across the company for employees to find data related to potential business decisions."


Why is it important?

Our Process


Initial Research Activities 

Our Goal 

Remote Observation 

Information Goals

By observing people going through the existing system, we hoped to:

We hoped to use the tasks observed to conduct a preliminary task analysis and performance estimations to establish a baseline. Additionally, we believed the remote observations might highlight implicit constraints that influence users' behaviors.

Semi-structured Interviews 

Information Goals

We realized that we needed to gain more insight into the different kinds of users who interact with the current research storage system. Since user needs and expectations may vary between users who occupy different roles, we want to make sure we capture as much breadth of the research experience to incorporate into our final design. Specifically, we want to gain understandings of:

Task Analysis - Research Analysis 1 

We performed a hierarchical analysis to understand better and organize the different processes users go about retrieving and sharing research files in the context of creating a new research project using the current research repository. We also hope to learn the following questions:

Affinity Mapping - Research Analysis 2 

We organized our data into an affinity map to identify common themes and behaviors between users. This process of data analysis would also allow us to separate information gathered about user aspirations (i.e., user's wants) from information about the status quo, leading to a more honest analysis of the problem space.

Affinity Mapping

Competitive analysis - Research Analysis 3 

We also conducted a competitive analysis on the multiple platforms in use at Focus Brands to better understand the use cases and structure of each platform.

Empathy Mapping - Research Analysis 4 

To gain a better understanding of our user group, we began to map out the data that we captured, including quotes, thoughts, feelings, and actions of people we interacted with.


Who are the users 

What are their common needs & pain points 


We first created a set of sketches of feature ideas to address some of the common pain points we found in our data. Here you can see a few representations of our initial ideas. We had some ideas around searching for files, organizing files, and even thought about a dashboard interface and notifications for managing files.

Final Design 

Our solution is an add-on pack of features that would fit into existing platforms in use at Focus Brands. We wanted to utilize the existing infrastructure to eliminate the difficulty of learning interactions on an entirely new platform. We have divided the solutions into near-term and long-term user flows.

Near Term Solution - Using technology to strengthen human infrastructure 

Preview for files, contact cards, and document access

When the user runs the search, results are returned in a list format. The user can then single click on a file to get a content preview window, which gives a short excerpt of the file's contents. This interaction also works to get people's contact cards and showing a file/folder's access.

Gaining Access 

To address some of the frustrations we saw surrounding access of a file, we came up with a process for requesting access in the file list view.

The administrator can then accept or reject that request in their notifications, as indicated by the bell icon in the top right corner of the screen.

Long Term Solutions - User-and-system generated tag based file management system 

Associate tags with documents 

A user would add files and folders to the platform. They are presented with a window where they can tag the file to provide some brief contextual information and strengthen search results and suggestions by the system. They can also specify where the file should live and who should have access to that file.

Advanced Search 

We also wanted to improve on the current search behavior within each platform since it was a commonly used technique for finding relevant files with the users we spoke with. Here the user can enter a few keywords to search on, as well as filter their search across a date range, file type, and brand.


To relieve some of the burdens of managing a standard file structure, we had the idea of implementing an auto-organizer. This would identify files that appeared to be out of place based on their associated tags and suggest new locations for those files.

The user would then select which suggestions they would like to carry out by clicking the checkmark next to that file, hit movie, and then the organizer would carry out that move. Recommendations would continue to populate in this list until the organizer has gone through all of the files in the selected folder.

Post Design Evaluation 

User Study Design

Findings & Iterations 

Although our sample size of participants was small, the scores gathered through the SUS and TLX surveys show that there were necessary improvements to be made across the entirety of our prototype.

Our recommendations for improvements to our proposed system are listed below:

General confusions around navigating 

The access point and the state for each feature was arbitrary (pop-ups and sidebars); thus it gave the user a hard time to navigate through their desired functions.


We organized a new spatial model and placed all main functionalities in a more permanent display (side-panel), and others can be more of an interstitial state.

Accessibility Issues 

Low color contrast for folders 

On the folder view screen, we used a lighter grey to indicate the folders that users do not have access to. However, since we used a darker grey for regular files, it does not provide the users with enough color contrast to tell the difference, especially for users who are suffering from visual impairments and color blindness.

Small texts and icons size 

We realized that the text and icons for search results screen are very small to read. It is hard to even for users with normal vision abilities to read through the information presented. As we observed from the evaluation sessions, users were often leaning their heads towards the screen to try to identify the texts.

Accessibility issues iteration

Made sure users can change display to facilitate their visual needs.

No searching habits 

When we asked the users to search for a file, many users would ignore the search bar on the top left. Instead, they wanted to go into the folders and try to find the files. Although we introduced this new search feature into the system, it would be ineffective if users are not using it.


Improve the discoverability of advanced search to encourage users' searching behavior.

Lack of preview for folders 

The folders lack a preview functionality, unlike files in the system. Folders, albeit different from files, afford certain features that parallel files'.


Rearranging preview window and adding preview for folders.

he tree structure in the Auto-Organizer was foreign to the users. & Need for more manual control in Auto-Organizer 

There were a lot of confusions around the auto-organizer due to the fact that it relies on new technology and is foreign to the users.

Iteration on Auto-Organizer

Uncovering the automation process, giving users more visibility of what's going on in the process and giving users more manual controls throughout the process.

Missing reason for rejecting for requesting access 

Users were concerned about what happens after they hit the "Reject" button, as:


Guide users to write messages alongside with the request/reject.

Thank you