CARES OF ALABAMA

In 2014 a team was assembled with the task of modernizing the enrollment and eligibility program for Medicaid, Child Health Insurance as well as Food Assistance and Subsidized childcare. The project was called CARES, or the Central Alabama Recipient Eligibility System and through this new system, citizens are linked with critical, life-saving services through a well designed user-centric interface.

The following static images are actual designs and prototypes. The Citizen and Worker Portals are only accessible as a Medicaid recipient or case worker.



OVERVIEW

REFACTORING MEDICAID

The Alabama CMS and Department of Human Resources established the primary goal of improving the design and usability for the client facing Medicaid eligibility system, or the Citizen Portal. The final deliverable would provide end to end eligibility enrollment for individuals and families with multiple pathways as well as support for assisters. It needed to be ADA compliant, vendor neutral and system agnostic.

MY ROLE

I joined the team in 2015 as the single UX/UI Designer on a team of a hundred contractors in an Agile environment, my work impacted every aspect of the client facing Citizen Portal. I rotated through all teams during the project and attended morning standup meetings while collaborating with developers, SME’s and stakeholders. I studied and implemented UI flows and patterns, produced wire frames and ultimately designed prototypes which were approved by stakeholders.

THE APPROACH

FOCUSING ON THE CITIZEN

The discovery phase was an intense, all hands on deck effort that allowed us to define project milestones, audit existing work and understand our client's vision while beginning the research into user needs and behaviors.

Although the team followed an Agile Scrum process, I incorporated my own lean workflow style which included rapid sketching, prototyping and design mockups. This enabled me to work quicker, making changes on the fly while meeting sprint deadlines.

THE PERSONAS

WHO'S USING THIS?

The initial research provided sufficient behavioral data to segment the user audience for the Citizen Portal. I created proto personas, a non-research-backed articulation of a customer archetype. This enabled me to shift focus from the anticipated final-product to the end-user, breaking everything down into activities ranging from frequency of use, availabile resources and comprehension of the technology.

DEFINING PROBLEMS

UNDERSTANDING THE FLOW

The ubiquitous nature of Medicaid as a service meant I was surrounded by people who had used it themselves or knew someone who did. Next, the team conducted a range of interviews with coworkers, stakeholders and SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) to understand the scenarios and motivations for its use.

Knowing who I was designing for allowed me to ask questions about how the process of enrolling for Medicaid eligibility worked in the everyday lives of citizens. My initial focus was on what I'd learned about the challenges users faced rather than getting mired down by specifics about interfaces, technologies or business goals.

A USAGE CONTEXT

THE CITIZEN EXPERIENCE

Understanding the personality of the Citizen Portal helped me to develop a clear vision of the brand tone. To communicate this personality the client and team, I developed a set of experience principles used to sense‐check design decisions, articulate core values and describe key attributes the app experience should uphold for citizens using the app while meeting expectations of the stakeholders.

LOOK & FEEL

A DESIGN DIRECTION EMERGES

I started by putting together some storyboards and thumbnail sketches while taking into consideration icons, page elements, flows and most importantly, color and typography. I chose the Montserrat Google font because that single type face offers a variety of different weights, is easy to read and is available from Google's CDN. The no-frills nature of the app alleviated the need for flashy transitions, so I kept everything limited to simple, easy to understand functionality.

A basic wireframe demonstrating the Citizen Portal flow.

THE FRAMEWORK & COMPLIANCE

GIVING IT STRUCTURE

I used Jesse James Garret's Visual Vocabulary to help the dev teams visualize the overall site architecture. The Citizen Portal utilized the Bootstrap front end framework as well as knockout.js and several other frameworks. Special consideration had it be given to ADA regulations ensuring the site/app was 508 compliant, so I continuously referenced the Government wide 508 accessibility program.