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Atlas Design Project: Extensive Data, MVPs, and Team Building

05-23-24 Angelica Cramer

Sorting through large datasets takes patience and empathy. This is one of our favorite types of problems: one where you have to step into someone else’s shoes.

Understanding the Needs

NCSBN had an existing microsite that allowed users to filter to a specific location in the world and view information about local nursing laws and practices. This tool is called the Global Regulatory Atlas. Each year, NCSBN sends out an extensive survey to each nursing jurisdiction to collect that information. The data we needed to organize and display on the site was being pulled from the survey questions and responses, so we had no control over the length of each response. Each question was lengthy, and not all questions were answered on every survey, so the amount of data was inconsistent as well. A major concern was having so much text on the screen. 

The UI and flow of the Global Regulatory Atlas were a bit clunky, and sometimes data didn’t load correctly. It did not feel as elevated as the main brand, or their other microsites. NCSBN wanted users to have an improved experience, quickly locate the information they needed, and discover any additional information or benefits they could provide to their users.

I didn’t know much about the world of nursing, and I had many questions. Why do users need this information? What does this information help them decide? What user groups need this tool- is it only nurses? Will every user understand the data provided, or is it possible some terms are confusing? It was time to put my empathy cap on. 

After talking more with the NCSBN team, I learned that users visit this site for many reasons. Individuals may want to understand how moving to another country will affect their nursing careers, understand the legal environment in their current area, or look up details on nursing regulators. The Atlas allows hiring managers to see what regulations are in place at a new hire’s previous place of employment, as well. It also seemed some terms were location-specific, or confusing if the user is unfamiliar with legal jargon. 

Drafting Ideas

It can take many ideas to land on the right solution. We had to make this site easy to understand, easy to sort through, and easy to compare. With the amount of text per location, that was not going to be a simple task. Plus, we still needed to build the rest of the microsite. 

Early Sketching

I don’t always start with sketching. In fact, I often skip this step. But I was feeling a bit overwhelmed-  so much content, so little space. Throwing together low-fidelity sketches helped me see a path forward, and gave me a few other ideas, too. Sketching led to the possibility of creating custom routes per user base. Are you a nurse or regulator? Could we display information differently to prioritize our users’ needs? 

A notebook with many rough sketches for a wireframe.

Creating a Sitemap

To help me push the idea of custom routes further, I next created a site map, introducing the possibility of pages that provide resources and helpful guidance to specific roles. The sitemap also allowed me to think through how we handle the filter and comparison tool. Are they located in the same space, or do we need two separate pages? How does a user navigate between them? This process let me ask questions, dive deeper, and truly understand how to provide the best user experience.

A screenshot of the brainstorming process, within Figjam, used to create the sitemap for the microsite.

Interrupting the Normal Flow

With all of these possibilities of how NCSBN could improve the user’s experience, it started to become obvious that this project could get very big, very fast. We were on a tight budget, and our client had a strict timeline. We strayed from the typical workflow of design completing all work before development began, and broke the project into sections. We knew the Atlas filtering tool would take most of the time, and wanted to jumpstart development as soon as we could, so I completed the wireframes and design of the homepage, navigation, footer, and glossary before starting on the tool. Doing so gave our development team the ability to begin their work building the site, as I continued to iterate on ideas for the Atlas functionality.

We also introduced more frequent design-development review time. As I was working through the most challenging flows and functionality on the site, our review time gave me the opportunity to run my ideas by our development team and check for accessibility issues. Together, we explored what it looked like to have our compare feature be a separate process, or ingrained into the filter, and realized it could be as easy as adding a plus icon and some text.

Desktop view of the Atlas before a user filters to a specific location. Below the filtering inputs is a link allowing users to add an additional location to compare the data.

I also looked at multiple layouts for the data, and how a user could navigate through the data. Speaking with the development team often allowed me to toss around the idea of sidebar jump links, expandable sections, or no navigation at all, keeping in mind the effort required in development, and the accessibility of these solutions.

Three wireframes displaying three solutions to page navigation and organization. The first wireframe shows expandable sections. The second shows a sticky navigation with jump links, and the third shows a jump link sidebar.

The review time also allowed for the development team to run their designs by me for QA. I got to see things change while we spoke through issues with live code adjustments. Over the course of these working sessions, we built more trust and felt united against the task at hand. It was not a design handoff- it was “how do we solve this problem together?” This project helped me grow in my understanding of pain points and processes my teammates experience when building a site. We’ve since been implementing more of these reviews into our other projects.

Final Direction

We ultimately decided on an MVP version of this project. NCSBN wanted this site ready for a marketing campaign and understood they only needed to be able to present regulations for each location to provide the needed experience. To filter by locations, we created a solution for users to search by country, province, and state to find the nursing laws in that specific area. This simple microsite consisted of the homepage, Atlas, glossary, and a contact link back to the organization’s main site.

The client opted to hold off on a few features during this project. At the time, they did not have role-specific content ready to go, and they also weren’t ready to implement the comparison functionality. They knew both would add to the timeline, and their priority was on getting users access to the regulations, knowing that our solution still allowed users to switch between pages to compare on their own if needed.

Atlas Solution

A secondary nav with jump links would stick to the top on the page, allowing users to jump between sections of data. 

A screenshot of the top section of the Atlas design, displaying the page navigation.

A simple select menu within the Licensure section would allow users to filter per role, reducing some of the length of the page. 

A section of the design shows a selection menu to filter the Licensure/Registration data.

We introduced a character limit onto each data point, with an expandable “view more” link since we had no control over the text. This provided spacing consistency on each page, giving us the power to keep each response in the same spot for every location. 

A wireframe showing the extreme differences in length between each response, and a design showing a view more button to make each response take up the same space.

We renamed each data point by statement, rather than by question, eliminating some of the content overload.

Two images of the same design. The top one had headlines following the survey's content. The bottom design is the chosen direction, with reduced headline text.

All in all, the site provides more benefits to the user now. MVP does not mean providing a lesser experience but allows us to prioritize the most important information while hitting a strict timeline. We landed on a clean and easy user experience with designs available to expand whenever we are ready.  

In this project, I learned how to create a comprehensive, custom solution in a time-restricted environment, while respecting the needs of my teammates. I was reminded of the importance of iteration, trial, and error, and understanding my users’ needs. If we just focus on providing the best experience for our users, clients, and teammates, each project will be a success.

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