Insights & Research Redesign

Turning the largest section of a website into a robust web application

Project Background

Northern Trust needed an easier way for visitors to find it's best thought-leadership content, and promote their top experts.

After receiving initial wireframes provided by an outside vendor, we realized the wireframes were missing key functionality we desired and lacked accurate, practical examples of content and layout.

Collaborating with technology and digital marketing teams, we quickly decided to rework them in-house.

Do the wireframes just say 'Title Title Title Title Title...?'

Rebuilding the Wireframes

The wireframes required substantial redesigning to achieve the correct search and filtering functionality and address all use cases.

We discovered that e-commerce sites such as Zappos and eBay helped provided great guidance for similar filter and search patterns.

Slowly but surely, the wireframes began to take shape. Once the design was finalized and we received the go-ahead from our stakeholders, it was time to move into the visual design then begin user-testing.

Northern Trust: Insights & Research before the redesign

The original vendor-provided wireframes.

Designing the Interface

I began adding visual design, utilizing two of my favorite design tools: Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop.

First I identified and addressed in any gaps in user interface from the inherited website styles. Then I started tackling one component at a time until the look and feel started coming together.

An early draft of the design

An early draft of the initial landing page visual design

Human-Centered Design with Iterative Prototyping

Visual designs in-hand, we used Solidify to turn them into clickable prototypes for one-on-one user testing sessions conducted in a lab I created on-site.

I wrote test plans to address concerns about specific functionality and the layout. In total, we conducted three rounds of testing with a total of five testers, iterating and updating the design after each round

Immediately, we began receiving feedback that helped influence key elements of the UI, including areas to improve the side bar filters and compound search.

Next step: build the darn thing.

Northern Trust: Insights & Research test plan

User-testing sessions provided immediate, tangible insights


After the visual design and interactions were complete, I coordinated with the team Business Analyst (or "BA") and members of the Digital Marketing team to write the extensive requirements to ensure all application functionality was captured.

As requirements grew more extensive, we knew we were building more than just a section of a website, this was an application to itself. Our developers began to wonder, could the website CMS even handle it?

Northern Trust: Insights & Research before the redesign

The final user-tested design with the new website look and feel

We just built an app!

The development time pushed past the new website launch of, requiring a whole new “re-skinning” to match the new UI styles. Separately, we worked extensively with each business unit to create a rich new taxonomy to power the new search features, creating an extensive and robust new extension of the website.

In June of 2015, overcoming all hurtles (including a very stubborn CMS), the final product launched, perfectly matching the new website and allowing incredibly deep, compound search of content and expert sections by multiple topics, publication, date and author.

Check it out