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2021 - PRESENT

A complex application analyzes and downloads forecasts of flood events caused by hurricanes

Target audience

The flood community experts

The experience

Experts can view geospatial data and analytics from models of a flood event uploaded by modelers such as research organizations

MY ROLE & responsibilities

UX Lead
1. Led the UX team through the design process
2. Communicate with PMs, Dev lead, sponsors for project needs and progress
3. Distribute work and budget for the UX team


Department of Energy
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

Context & Outcome

Project background & goal

Five-year deliverable

The product had been developing for roughly five years to bring collaboration and serve the flood community with open-source data.

With the addition of UX, we brought the product experience closer to what the flood community needs.

Design question

How might we ease the process of finding and analyzing flood data for experts?

The flood experts have had access to their database for years, but it's a painful and sophisticated process to navigate and analyze data.

During disaster events like hurricanes, having quick access to current and past event data can help decision-making tremendously.

Project outcome

Value of UX

In a short time, through the co-design process and frequent review sessions, we improved the product to answer some of the flood community needs and prepared for a public rollout.

The product is currently under development.

User Research

user needs

Building trust and understanding

I led the team to discover the product mission and needs. However, through a couple of rounds of user interviews, we couldn't understand anything the experts showed us.

One day, in the middle of a sponsor conversation, I decided to share screen and share the sponsor our approach. We co-designed with them and opened up to a good collaboration relationship.

Divergent & convergent thinking

Mental models

Post conversation with the experts, and to get everyone on the team on the same page, my team quickly drew down our mental models to compare the gaps in our understanding and prioritization of user needs.

What we found

Findings: Geospatial & Analytical Data

From our co-design session and each person drawn down their mental models of the problem, we found these are important to our audience:


Select data based on time and similarities


Visualize geospatial and analytical data


Download data for sharing or further analysis

Divergent & convergent thinking

Moving findings to a workflow

From our mental models, we extracted the interview data to a functioning workflow.

In our workflow, we reviewed with our flood experts to ensure it's the right direction and asked follow up questions before ideating.

Quick Lesson Learned

Fault of skipping user flow

"How would people skim for data?"

I sent everyone to brainstorm ideas. However, I found myself having a hard time getting started just using the workflow.

After checking in with others, we all felt the same. I realized we are missing the user flow and I.A. step.

I gathered the team and we worked through user flow and information architecture (I.A.).


sketching away

Mapping information in the most reasonable way

Below are some of my sketches I brought to our design review.

My ideation sketchMy ideation sketchMy ideation sketchMy ideation sketchMy ideation sketchMy ideation sketch

Some of my ideation sketches

Design Challenge

combating limitations

How to visualize a matrix table of forecasts?

The problem

To present forecasts data qualitatively and quantitatively

We projected forecast shapes on the map, and the problem is to protect the data on a matrix table.

the challenge

To better use the space and present the information to eliminate not useful data

The solution

Though people are used to viewing quantitive data in a table, I thought to present it beyond a table.

update on the solution

We ended not using any of the solution and taken out the feature temporarily on the first release due to scientific disagreements.

Design & Prototyping

The steps

Experience: Find, view and download forecasts

The overall experience consists of finding a hurricane event and selecting forecasts to view or download the data.

01 Find an event

I was responsible for the finding events experience.

People can select hurricane events from both the map and the panel. Filters are there to help eliminate options. We used some map interaction and filtering references from Airbnb and Zillow.

02 Select forecasts

I was responsible for the start interaction in this step.

People select forecasts from a timeline because that's close to their mental model.

03 View and download data

I was responsible for the map layer interactions and data analytics panel. I designed the initial iteration of the selected forecast panel.

After selecting forecasts, people can download the data and see simple analytics to help them make decisions for the hurricane event.


Lesson learned

Co-design with the stakeholders

Sometimes it's hard to gather user needs for domain experts because we might not understand their background and context. I learned it's useful to co-design with them and map out the story together.

The importance of user flow

Skipping steps are never good. I learned that each step in the user-centered design process builds upon each other so we can tackle the problem with less of a gap in our thoughts.

Without a user flow, my team would be taking a big leap in ideating with only some structure. With a user flow and a story, we are able to build and get closer to the vision of the product.