Design with endless curiosity


United States Geological Survey

USGS, in partnership with Point Blue, recently launched an online flood map. They wanted to update the site to responsive web and make the tool more useful for a wider audience. In collaboration with a team of growth marketers I conducted a research phase and independently contributed designs for an onboarding experience.

Goals | Increase traffic and decrease user paralysis

Results | Social growth strategy and a clarifying onboarding UX

Roles | Researcher embedded with growth
| Sole designer for onboarding




This data is important to a number of groups of users - including home and land owners, planners, and activists - but it isn’t being widely used. Most people were unaware the flood projections exist in an interactive tool - and those who were didn’t know what to do with it.

To increase awareness we converted the tool to a mobile responsive product and integrated a social growth strategy.

In order to make the data more accessible to designed an educational on-boarding experience.


I completed this project alongside a team of designers working on this responsive map tool:



USGS has struggled with making their data relevant to a wide audience. Together with the growth team I interviewed users from three different user groups identified by the stakeholder survey: home and land owners, planners, and environmental activists. From these interviews, we formed three provisional personas which formed the basis for the growth strategy.

Three provisional growth personas

Three provisional growth personas


Comparative research

I also conducted comparative research to explore how other applications onboard users to their maps. This ensured that I followed patterns that would feel natural to users.


  • The onboarding experiences that allow users to swipe involve less friction for the user; it feels more like one step rather than several.

  • Explanation of the UI is worded in ways that clearly communicate the value proposition and why it will be useful for the user. 

  • The ratio of graphics to text is about 2:1

  • The onboarding screens are an extension of the main app: same tone, branding, etc.

Screenshots from several comparators

Screenshots from several comparators



Growth Strategy
During ideation I collaborated with a growth team to fleshed out a strategy to serve the three personas. I presented this strategy to the design team to inform their work on the UI. The main pillars are:

  1. Notifications such as Reminders, Alerts, and a Welcome Series

  2. Engaging content like blog posts and photo/video content

  3. Sharing 4/8 users I interviewed would share (or liked to be shared with) if something critical happened, so making all content shareable

A social growth strategy

A social growth strategy


Onboarding wireframes

Using the style guide created by the main design team I began to mock up versions of an onboarding flow. It was important to create something that could be changed and updated frequently by USGS as they continue to develop their content. Through conversation, it became apparent that in order to keep users engaged, we would need to provide them with the ability to take action before information overload and paralysis set in. With input from USGS and Point Blue I developed a couple small tasks that users could engage with in the onboarding experience to bypass paralysis.


Synthesis & Hi-fi



  • Growth and content are linked. In our case some of the growth strategy depended on developing content such as notifications and news. In the future creating more lines of collaboration between content and growth will result in a stronger, more realistic strategy.

  • There are significant constraints when working with government. Checking in early and often with government stakeholders ensured that we didn’t hit any stumbling blocks within the foundation of our work.

  • Don’t be too attached. Content was heavily scoped by the time I arrived at wireframing - which meant I was thinking too prescriptively about the solution and spent too much time making each wireframe “work.” Wireframes are all about coming up with many creative solutions, not just iterations of one solution, so in the future I’ll create a better separation between knowing the problem and pre-determining how to solve it - by wireframing more quickly and less perfectly.