DCR - Nutrient Management

VA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) works to manage both urban and agricultural nutrients found in fertilizers, manure, biosolids and other sources so that they retain their efficient use yet don’t impair the quality of Virginia’s ground and surface waters. The work contributes to the larger effort to conserve and protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

The current desktop nutrient management software lacks critical functionality and is poorly maintained. The challenge is to design a new web-enabled Nutrient Management Planning Module to be integrated into DCR’s existing best management practice, conservation planning and resource management system of record application.

Design a web enabled nutrient management planning module that measurably improves the user experience over the current desktop software. Ensure the business is not impacted by a sub-optimal system design. Allow stakeholders and the project team to quantify the performance of a system design with users before development begins, minimizing rework and maximizing success upon deploy.



My Role

User Experience Lead


Client stakeholders, project manager, lead developer, UX researcher, visual designer


VA Dept. of Conservation and Recreation

Skills & Technology

Business Development, Coaching, Mentoring, Lean UX, Scrum, Qualitative/Quantitative Research, Information Architecture, Ideation, Interaction Design: Balsamiq Mockups/Axure RP

UX Isn't Rocket Science, but...

User experience, like farming, isn’t rocket science, but it’s nice to have the science. Data-driven design should not blindly follow metrics. Delightful experiences are often a result of following seasoned instinct. This instinct should be tempered with realistic technical constraints and achievable business goals.


Overall, the design of the new Nutrient Managment Planning module proved to be measurably more user friendly in helping users accomplish their goals. Average task duration was shorter and the average task success rate was higher when using the new design.


Increase in Success Rate


Decrease in Task Duration

+20 point

Increase in SUS

Across all goal completion tasks, the new application design measurably improved the experience compared to the legacy system. Areas of improvement included increasing task success rate by 20%, decreasing time on task by 49%, and eliminating task excursions altogether resulting in an improved qualitative SUS score of 77 (B) from 57 (D). Personas were delivered to the client and created for the project using qualitative and quantitative research. Defining the primary audience segments will facilitate further iteration of the application far into the future. In addition customer journey maps were created for two primary persona roles identifying the customer’s online and offline touch points in context with the larger goals they are attempting to accomplish.


Team Lead

As UX Lead for the project I was responsible for developing the strategy and planning required for successful execution and delivery. In this lead role, I met with client stakeholders to understand business goals, developing proposals and statements of work, and managing resource needs.

Research & Discovery

We began the project with discovery and research to better understand the legacy system and users’ goals. We learned about the application customers using the following qualitative research methods: expert and customer interviews, surveys, persona development, experience maps and baseline usability tests. In addition, the team conducted an interface inventory of the legacy system to identify and detail opportunities for technical reuse and improvement in the future state module.

Ideation & Design

After understanding the customer, the team prototyped solutions to conceptualize and solve the workflow goals identified during discovery and user research. Along with the client, I led collaborative ideation sessions to leverage the collective wisdom of the team. Insights and requirements drawn from research and discovery were combined with artifacts of design studio ideation. The team created low-fidelity future state approaches for the Nutrient Management Module and presented these concepts for stakeholder review. Following review and approved design direction, the team created a high-fidelity interactive prototype to capture the rich interactivity and micro-interactions of real working software. The interactive prototype was subjected to in-person usability testing to validate the proposed solution.

Test & Validate

The team utilized a rigorous methodology for usability testing that emphasized quantitative data to drive decisions about the module design. We conducted baseline usability tests to truly understand how the current system performs and where it could be improved in a future state design. Afterward, I led the team in rounds of usability tests to validate future state design iterations to quantifiably compare proposed solutions to the baseline test results. Test plans and observation logs for all in-person and remote usability sessions recorded success metrics including: time on task (duration), success rates, interventions, errors, excursions, and subjective ease.

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