City of Seattle Cornerstone Optimization

Project for General Assembly UX Immersive Bootcamp


Seattle is a seaport city on the West Coast of the United States. It is the seat of King County, Washington. Seattle is the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America. According to U.S. Census data released in 2019, the Seattle metropolitan area’s population stands at 3.98 million, and ranks as the 15th-largest in the United States.

This was the fifth and final project of my User Experience Design Immersive (Cohort 31), at General Assembly Seattle. The City of Seattle were my first “real” UX clients in the program.

Project Details

Project Goals

Project Outcomes

Methods (Click to see insights and process):
Sample Questions:
  • How often do you login to your account?
  • What are pages that you visit/access the most and why?
  • What else can you tell us about your experience? (Your likes and dislikes)
  • What are some features you would like to be on the home page and very accessible?

User interviews were conducted with our entire team alternating who interviewed who. Our lead researcher was tasked with synthesis of the data. This required a lot of clear team communication and organization. Since we were working remotely, we relied heavily on Zoom, Slack, and Google Drive to keep all information accessible to the team.

Who Our Researchers Interviewed

Employees of The City of Seattle

(Who were system administrators)


End Users

Those Who Do Not Have Admin Access

Via Zoom, we interviewed City of Seattle employees and asked them complete the following tasks and got their feedback on the current website
  • How would you view your performance review?
  • How would you review the performance of a subordinate?
  • How would you request and/or assign a training?
  • How would you browse for training?

(Where consent allowed) We recorded each user interview via zoom, utilizing the screenshare option to record contextual interviews. We then recorded interesting insights and comments from our users. We used those comments to begin defining our user problems and their solutions.
User Insights, City of Seattle Employees
Our user researchers compiled their data into Google docs. Our lead researcher synthesized the information from all of our data. After we identified trends in the user data, as a group, we further compiled the user points to one motivation/desire statement per grouping.
The System Usability Scale (SUS) provides a “quick and dirty”, reliable tool for measuring the usability. It consists of a 10 item questionnaire with five response options for respondents; from Strongly agree to Strongly disagree.
Originally created by John Brooke in 1986, it allows you to evaluate a wide variety of products and services, including hardware, software, mobile devices, websites and applications.

Based on research, a SUS score above a 68 would be considered above average and anything below 68 is below average, however the best way to interpret your results involves “normalizing” the scores to produce a percentile ranking.

Data was collected using a survey which was distributed to City of Seattle employees.
Developing Personas:
After synthesizing our data into a singular user need, want, and/or motivation based on affinity map trends, we translated these insights into one distinct user personas; Mindy Manager. We initially assumed that we would need at least two personas (one for end users, one for admins) but there was not enough user data to justify splitting into two personas.
Scenario: Mindy is a manager for the City of Seattle who manages a team of 25. She schedules training sessions and sets goals/expectations for her team. She checks into Cornerstone at least once a month to check their progress, but since she is not a daily user of the system, she finds it difficult to navigate- which takes time and resources from her other job responsibilities. Mindy wants cornerstone to be more intuitive and easier to navigate so that she spends more time doing her job, and less time searching for the things she needs.
User Needs:
  • “I want a more modern and engaging interface”
  • “I expect clear, visible button labeling and feedback”
  • “I expect intuitive training filtering options.”
  • “I expect class updates”
  • “I want my learning dashboard and the dashboards of those I manage on the homepage”
  • “I want clear navigation”
  • “I want clear menu labeling”
  • Assign and approve goals and trainings
  • Write performance reviews
  • Monitor team progress
  • Complete her own required training
  • Read her own performance review
Problem Statement

Mindy Manager

City of Seattle

Mindy needs Cornerstone to have clear navigation, intuitive training filtering, up to date information on training and classes, and easy access to learning dashboards because she has to manage a large team effectively and efficiently.
Information Architecture: Site Mapping
Our IA, Clarice, mapped the existing structure of the website and came to the following conclusions: a) Bio/About and Profile direct to the same page; separate from "My Account", which entails password change and reviews (this page has breadcrumb called "Preferences" which is diff from the other "Preferences" page
b) "Resources and Contact Us" includes some of the same info displayed on landing page for "Cornerstone, general info"
c) "Browse for trainings" and "Catalog" direct to the same page
d) E3 Performance Management is not in the top navigation, only the landing page
e) Admin > Preferences seems to entail editing the Welcome Page (landing page), however the division filter is unclear to how it is relevant to editing the landing page, seems to not update the Welcome Page at all
f) With current resources, current global navigation cannot be changed After a cardsort completed by city employees, we also reorganized some menu options.
Click to Expand
Reorganizing Menu Structure
Menu Structure Mapping- Before/After
Screen Shot 2020-05-27 at 11.58.21 PMScreen Shot 2020-05-27 at 11.58.05 PM
Now that we had complete understanding our our user, their needs, and the constraints of our design controls, we set to work to effect change in the parts of the website that we could.
Below are a sketch, lo-fi and hi-fi version of our design solutions. 
  • Remote Contextual Interviews
The next step in the UX Design process is to test. Are your solutions successful with users? Are they able to find the happy path? What changes could be made to make your solutions more successful?
Due to time constraints, we were only able to do one round of testing of our design changes.


User Testing Results

On average tested users said:
  • Our design was 85% more successful in helping them accomplish key tasks
  • Our design was 80% more engaging
  • Our menu restructuring was 92.5% more helpful
  • With changes, signing up for classes took 2 mins instead of 4
  • Users were able to reach performance reviews in under a minute
Screen Shot 2020-05-28 at 12.24.25 AM
This is an overall improvement of 85% from the previous solution.
Developing a Brand Voice
User Research indicated a need for standard communication and so I developed a "Brand Voice" for the City of Seattle.
Screen Shot 2020-05-28 at 12.12.45 AM
“I expect intuitive training filtering options.”
“I want clear navigation”
“I want clear menu labeling”

These insights suggest a need for a brand tone/voice so users have a standard level of communication to expect from Cornerstone- regardless of poster.
Screen Shot 2020-05-28 at 12.13.04 AM
The City of Seattle is a brand and a brand tone is a personality. 
The personality that The City of Seattle’s Cornerstone needs to have is:
  • Consummately professional
  • Concise and active language
  • Clear and direct
  • Austere but warm and engaging 
    Even when the style varies, it’s important to remember that the underlying tone should remain the same.


Our designs were successful with users, resulting in an overall experience that improved by an average of 85%.
Next Steps:
  • There was much actionable data from users that we could not change due to system constraints. We presented this information to the client in their final handoff report.
  • Additional user testing to validate results
  • Standardize language and design solutions across all departments

    Thank you for reading!