PacificSource hadn’t updated the user interface on their website in more than 6 years. Over time, the content had become bloated, the navigation was overly complex and confusing, and simple tools such as find a plan or a doctor were nearly impossible for the layperson to find. PacificSource needed a shift so their website would be more usable to their members.


I served as information architect, UX architect, user researcher, and UX designer. I worked with graphic designers, developers, and various directors of marketing technology to create a cleaner, simpler user experience.


Phase 1: Strategy

We began with an in-depth competitive analysis of local and international competitors. Though many competitors had a clean and clear design style, they often included too many elements, which would delay users decision processing.

We developed personas by combining a broad set of attitudinal data for the region with member data from PacificSource. The most interesting discovery was that income was a much higher predictor of tech affinity than age was.

Persona Example

Another issue that I discovered is that the biggest challenge for users interacting with Healthcare is the proprietary terminology of the health industry. Research showed that many users did not understand common Insurance terms. I recommended that as often as possible, we replace jargon with layman’s terms.

Phase 2: Information Architecture

While establishing the site flow, the goal was to get users the right information at the right stages. The greatest issue with the current site was the amount of content. By focusing on our personas, we were able to trim the fat (extra legal documents that were heavily featured) and bring user-pertinent functionality to the forefront (bringing the plan finder out of its hiding-hole in the catacombs of lists of links).

By organizing content by audience and need (instead of topic and type), we made a task-focused content hierarchy; showing high-level plan details, reasons-to-believe, and other important CTA’s (group employers needed summary info, brokers their login, and healthcare professionals needed quick access to claims data).

Phase 3: UX Design

In the prior step, we made a great effort to prioritize and narrow down the content. Since the content hierarchy was simpler, we could create a cleaner navigation (the old site had disorienting issues such as the (top-nav changing content without warning, left-nav alternating between drop-downs and new page links, and no clear orientation of the users prior and current location).

I took the lead in this endeavor, working to build desktop and mobile navigation wireframes that would be skimmable and discoverable. Some of my earlier attempts had a plethora of extra affordances that only cluttered up the navigation with too many elements (which would overwhelm the user as defined in Hick’s Law).

Later designs incorporated both hover and click functionality for desktop. When on the home page, we wanted the user to be able to hover over different sections and perhaps even drill down. When within one of the subsections (such as the Individuals subsection) that second level of navigation would always be open.

As to the page-level information architecture, the current site was a flood of links, with very little white space, warming content, or orientation content. Again referring to the personas’ needs, we prioritized CTA’s. Potential members most needed to see high-level reasons-to-believe, laid out in a way that wouldn’t lead them to random pages (and thus confusion).

They also needed fast access to plan search, doctor search, and drug search. I revised these as well, focusing on including the fields most pertinent (general search fields) with options for more filtering or prompts for more information, never blaming the user for ending with 0 results.

Using sites such as Oscar as inspiration, I redesigned the plan finder form to work more like a step-by-step questionnaire that would not only lead users to their proper place (whether they were a potential member, or even a broker

One of the biggest challenges users showed in the persona research was understanding different insurance terms and picking the right plan based on those differences. The questionnaire gave the option for users to indicate their preferences, higher premium vs higher deductible etc, but the copy was written in more clear layman’s terms (monthly payment vs. premium).

My motto was, whenever possible:

We should not expect the users to get an education in insurance jargon, we should change our terminology to match their mental models. This change ALONE would put us lightyears ahead of the competition.


Prototype Link

Usability Testing

Usability testing confirmed the prior concerns about jargon and disorientation, and users responded much better to the simpler layout. Their response time was better, and apart from slightly confusing copy the plan finder primary CTA on the home page was interacted with frequently.

One finding, however, showed that having audience pages that linked to external sites (Medicare and Medicaid) were confusing. Users were visibly disoriented on selecting those links.

We decided to create general landing/orientation pages for these rather than have a leave site icon (since that icon has not yet reached universal understanding, and orientation pages will allow users to understand where they are going before they commit to leaving the main site.)

Phase 4: UI Design

After all the groundwork had been laid, it was time to start establishing a design language. Older design aesthetics had focused on safe colors and standards. Blues and whites, with some strong forest greens. For the redesign, I wanted to emphasize what makes PacificSource different. We decided to go with a relaxed teal as a common theme. Not only does it bring in a local feel of cold, overcast days with water and trees, but it also brings a unique friendliness to the experience.

Recent design groundwork with ad messaging emphasizes PacificSource’s “human touch”. We wanted to get that across with the photography, focusing on crisp imagery with candid and smiling people of all demographics. The teal emphasis not only helps it feel more relaxed and less clinical than the standard healthcare blue and white, but due to its relation to nature it helps establish the brand as more alive. It’s also a commonly used color in Oregonian architecture (one of the main service areas of the brand).

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