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Northstar Design Brief

Inheriting the UX of another Designer

The Challenge

In March, 2020, I accepted a role as a Senior UX Consultant. I was assigned to an application as the designer… joining a UX Researcher. The app was nearing it’s 2.0 release.


This app is a data-visualize tool built for the executive team of a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company. It allowed users to monitor the progress of ongoing research programs… and make informed decisions based on past performance and future budgets. “Northstar” was built to replace existing Excel spreadsheets and Tableau Reports.


The WIP Chart

Why is that upside down?

The WIP Chart was the landing page/dashboard for most users. It displayed the current projects in a Kanban-style fashion. Users could hover over the individual cards to see additional information (or navigate to the project page).

Flipping the world upside down
Printed paper reports don’t always translate into good interfaces

My Concerns

  • Column headers were not visible
  • Shorter columns were not visible on the screen
  • The distance between filters and filtering results

My Proposal

Using FireFox’s Inspection Tools, I changed a few lines of CSS to reverse the column order, and set the flexbox alignment to the top. These simple updates made the WIP Chart more user-friendly.

Giving users the ability to see more data
A simple design change to increase usability


This was an instance where changing minds was harder than changing the code. The business stakeholder said:

I’ll have to think about this. The WIP has looked like this for 20 years.

I asked the Front-end Developer if it was possible to get these updates made in a dev environment. After interacting with the new design, and being able to see the changes side-by-side, the stakeholder agreed to push the changes to Production.

Drawer over Card

The Project Overview Card

The Project Overview was a collapsed hero component that housed additional data points and monthly summaries behind a “View More” button.

The old design
A tall, skinny page design increasing cognative load

My Concerns

  • The body’s main container had a max-width of 968px
  • Cluttering the UI by repeating the project name
  • Opening the overview pushed the cards below further down the page
The hero element open
These important details couldn’t be viewed with the graphs

My Proposal

  • Remove the hero card to raise the other cards on the screen
  • Display the Development Stage and Business Unit as chips next to the project name (where they are visible at all times)
  • Create a larger overview that slides-in as a drawer
A new layout approach
Thinking outside the box

Removing the max-width allowed more of the timelines to be seen. By moving the overview inside a drawer, users can read the important information while still being able to scroll the left side… allowing them to read the Summaries while viewing the financial charts at the very bottom of the page.

Improving the Information Hierarchy for users
Thinking outside the box


The drawer was presented to users as a way to bring in additional information about clinical trials. It was implemented and became the pattern for drilling down for more information. Tabbed drawers allowed even more data to be displayed. The need to drill down any further would open a modal window.

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