A laptop on a blue to light blue gradient background. The laptop screen shows a user portal screen for a fictional user, titled "Claimant eServices" and prompting the user to "Resume Weekly Claim".
User Experience Design

WA State
Employment Portal

Project Overview
Since early 2020, unemployment centers across the United States have been experiencing record high volumes of applications due to COVID-19.

This study focuses on a conceptual redesign of the Washington Employment Security Department’s unemployment website.

The main concerns I suspected that users are frustrated with are how difficult it is to communicate with the Employment Security Department (ESD), and have trouble finding information they need.
My Role
UX Research, UX Design
Timeline
1 Week

Research

User Interviews

I put together a discussion guide to engage with users of the ESD website who are currently undergoing the unemployment process.

These questions retrieved both qualitative and quantitative responses, aiming to dig at the core of what was most frustrating about navigating the website.
This guide included prompts such as:

Tell me how you arrived at your current unemployment situation.
How often do you visit the ESD site, for how long, and what for?
If you’ve ever attempted to contact ESD, what was that experience like?
Let’s say I’m brand new to using the ESD site, and I came to you for help. What steps would you tell me to take?
An affinity map of electronic sticky notes of many colors arranged into a board. Each sticky note has a comment from a user interview, and they are organized into large box sections with titles such as "Communication with ESD", "Technical Difficulties", and "Verbiage".

Research Insights

After interviewing five users, some key insights I found were:

Their main goals are: submit an application, file a weekly claim, and check their status or alerts.
Users get confused by question verbiage, which often causes them to answer incorrectly.
Users are pleased with how quickly a claim can be filed; however, the initial application was notably more frustrating because…
… the large amount of information overwhelmed them, even though most of it didn’t apply.
This caused many users to seek advice outside of the site, often from friends or colleagues.
Their main motivation is to receive benefits quickly.

Competitor Analysis

Though regional unemployment is a government site that doesn’t really have direct “competitors”, I analyzed indirect competitors, including unemployment websites for other US states, as well as tax filing websites.

These indirect competitors provided insight on what users expect from other webpages that involve digital government documents, and also deal with employment and payment information.

Feature Prioritization

From user and competitor analysis, I was able to generate lots of ideas for new features that could help the user. In the interest of keeping time and resources in mind, I placed each feature into this grid to get a quick glance of what was most important.

Each blue-outlined feature relates to improving communication with ESD, and each green-outlined feature relates to helping navigate the claim or application process.
Feature prioritization matrix, with several boxes of feature ideas laid out on a grid. The grid measures low to high effort/expense and low to high priority. The boxes are outlined in blue, green, and red.

Hypothesis

We believe that by making only information of interest to the applicant more prominent on each page of the ESD site, users will become more confident in their position to receive benefits, and we’ll know this when we see a noticeable decrease in ESD call center volume.

Ideation

User persona for Avery, a 26 year old who is new to unemployment. The graphic describes their story, behaviors, goals and needs.

User Persona

Based on user feedback I created the primary user persona, who throughout their user lifecycle, would visit the site for each of the three main goals: applying for unemployment, submitting weekly claims, and checking on their claims status.

Shown here are the user flows for the most common cases: a new user applying for unemployment and creating an account, and an existing user returning to the portal to file their weekly claim.

User Flows

Avery goes through the new user onboarding flow on their first visit to the ESD site.

From there, once Avery’s account has been made and their application has been approved, they return each week to file a claim, walking through the second user flow.

Prototyping

Sketches

I began with initial sketches of major screens, like the user portal. I focused on good visual hierarchy and not cluttering the page with more information than the user needed to complete a quick task.
Sketches for user portal, in states of claim not filed and claim filed.

Lo-Fi & Hi-Fi Wireframes

As I moved onto the higher fidelity wireframes, one of my biggest challenges was making sure not to get caught up in the stylistic details. I wanted the experience to feel cohesive with the branding of the existing pages on the ESD site, but still maintain focus on the important parts and emphasize good visual hierarchy.

I built the lo-fi wireframes first, then the hi-fi clickable prototype in Figma, iterating on placement of critical features each time.

Sketches for a message center, sign in, and getting started pages.
User portal after a claim has been submitted, showing pending status.Lofi wireframe of a user portal where a claim has not been filed yet.
User portal where a weekly claim was not started so the main action button asks to resume claim.

Unemployment User Portal

Weekly claim in progress where a help menu has been expanded from the right, further explaining the question on the claim.Application screen where a user has selected an option and is ready to move on to the next question.

Weekly Claim

Lofi wireframe of a question on the weekly claim
Lofi wireframe of a getting started screenGetting started screen where a user can start a new application or check eligibility.

Onboarding

The clickable version of the hi-fi prototype can be accessed in Figma using the below embed, or via this link.

Results & Iteration

Usability Testing

Once I had a few classmates walk through the prototype screens, listening to them think out loud as they figured out how to complete the main tasks pointed me in the direction of what went right and wrong in my new designs.

Among the feedback I received:
Users liked the help links on each question through the claim/app.
Occasionally unclear how to return to a previous screen; users would look for some type of breadcrumb that had not yet been added.
Users seemed to easily find the main buttons they needed in order to accomplish basic task scenarios.

Takeaways

Several potential improvements were identified in the user research stage, from which we can conclude the existence of a real problem. This research led to a great start on prototypes.

Some features to consider further in the future:
Live wait times for the ESD call center.
Consolidated message and alerts center.
Eligibility “wizard” that initially asks general questions, which can directly be imported into a new unemployment application afterwards.

Task scenarios:
Apply for unemployment benefits.
File a weekly claim.