United States Census Bureau
Revolutionizing GIS Mapping Software for the 2030 Census
Web Application
Dec 2022 – Ongoing
Lead Product Designer
UI Design, UX Research, Accessibility Testing, User Research
The Geographic Update Partnership Software (GUPS) is a new mapping web application provided by the Census Bureau. The first version of GUPS launched in March of 2022 to empower the next generation of geographers to create and modify districts and state boundaries.

GUPS is set to become the standard tool by the Census Bureau and will ultimately influence how government funding will be distributed across the United States in the 2030 Census.
Project Goal
With early concepts launching and failing to meet the needs of census geographers and stakeholders, the Census Bureau hired Gunnison Consulting Group to redesign the web application.

The new software should be usable, accessible, findable, and credible as all Census Bureau geographers transition into using GUPS Web as their primary tool to perform their mapping tasks.
Title 13, U.S. Code - Private Information Confidentiality
Bound by the federal law, any private information (including names, addresses, Social Security Numbers, and telephone numbers) is never to be published or disclosed. Throughout the design process and proof of concepts, our team used sample and placeholder information.
Access to a limited pool of individuals approved by Security Clearance
Security Clearance restricted the amount of users our team was allowed to interact with during user research and testing. With low-level access, we met regularly with 12 representatives across the different program areas.
Leveraging the Design Thinking Framework
Design thinking is a nonlinear process used by teams to better understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and come up with innovative solutions to prototype and test. It is most effective when dealing with problems that are not well defined or unknown, since it includes five phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

Throughout the framework, I worked on cross-functional teams supporting stakeholders and analysts, development, and internal Census branding, testing, and accessibility teams.
Design Thinking framework used on the GUPS project.
Intended Audience
Creating Personas
After discussions with product owners, we were able to identify the different types of users for GUPS Web. Collaboratively, we created the following personas as a guide for our concepts.
To better understand and gain empathy for our target group, we conducted three design research methods: contextual inquiries, user interviews, and stakeholder interviews.
Contextual Inquiry
Our team conducted contextual inquiries with the 12 Census geographers to gain a better understanding of how they currently complete their tasks.

Due to COVID regulations, we asked participants to share their screens over Microsoft Teams and to share their thought process as they performed simple tasks such as creating a new state boundary or renaming a school district on the map.
Analyst from the Boundary and Annexation Survey (BAS) selecting an edited map.
From our observations, we identified three primary patterns.
• Users do not know where they can access the tools that they need to perform a task.
• Users continuously move/close any pop-ups to be able to view the map.
• Users are unaware of other users currently making edits on the same project.
User Interviews
During our interviews, we framed questions to allow for a conversation geared towards gaining insight into feelings and experiences related to their work. After analyzing the responses, we found a general pattern among these interviews.

• There are too many pop-up windows and up to 15 can all be opened at the same time.
• Navigating to find the appropriate tools and softwares needed to complete tasks can be time consuming.
• Users do not know which tool is active at any given time.
• The toolbar in the current application makes it difficult to see the map.
The case of too many modal windows that users identified.
Stakeholder Interviews
During the interviews with stakeholders, the program areas collaboratively outlined business wants and needs for the new application. We began documenting their requirements and notes in an excel sheet.
Excel sheet documenting all business requirements.
Based on our conversations, we determined the key performance indicators to serve as the measure of success. Stakeholders needed to see an improvement of click rates and time to complete a task.

The Census stakeholders and internal research teams also provided the following visual examples of existing web mapping applications:
"Our team likes the collapsable display, but the pop-ups are annoying. The arrow button placement is also weird being so close to the close button." - Ross J. (SDRP Manager)
Stakeholders expressed that they wanted a collapsable menu to house all items, but there were concerns over the amount and placement of pop-ups.
"We're going to need an easy way to access the Help section. I've had to jump through hoops to find documentation in the current design." - Jackie K. (SDRP Analyst)
SDRP stakeholders expressed the importance of making the Help/About section easily visible. They also identified mapping UI requirements such as a scalebar, zoom in/out, and default map view.
"Google has one of the better maps in terms of usability. I like the simplicity of the UI, but can we really have a clean look like this with all of the functionalities that we're planning to add?" - Sarah L. (BAS Analyst)
The stakeholders value the placement of Google Maps' buttons and metadata because of the larger space for interactions with the map. The primary concern is whether we can maintain a uniform look across all program areas and tools.
"It looks like there's a common trend among the maps and that's having a few core tools always available in a corner." - Cindy S. (SDRP Analyst)
The stakeholders identified that the placement of the core tools should always be visible to users when a map is present. The SDRP team would prefer the option to easily filter out content within a drop-down list.
Initial Sketches + Low-Fidelity Mockups
After defining the problem statements, identifying the personas, and limitations, the next challenge was to ideate as many potential solutions as possible. Through daily collaborative design workshops with stakeholders and representatives from the development team, I was able to rapidly iterate without any assumptions.
"I like the tools on the left, but I feel like the top toolbar could be scrapped. I'd like to see the tools bucketed into different tiers." - Ross J. (SDRP Manager)
Stakeholders expressed that they wanted a grouping system to organize and house all of the completed and anticipated tools. They also preferred having all the functionalities on the left side, allowing for more map real estate.
"The arrows are a little disorienting when the different directions are placed near each other. I'm curious as to how this design would work when all the different tool groupings are introduced." - Kenneth A. (BAS Analyst)
The BAS stakeholders want to eliminate multidirectional functions to simplify the experience. The stakeholders also expressed an interest in how we can display groups with over 15 tools.
"I can anticipate this list to get really long once we add in all of the tools. It's also a little distracting knowing that the top left of my screen is always going to be blocked when I'm working." - Madeline R. (BAS Manager)
With over 60 tools in development, stakeholders expressed concerns over the placement of the UI as a floating menu. While they appreciated the compact buckets and grouping, the BAS team expressed concerns over map visibility.
"The left-side bar organizes the content much better. I think this might be a good starting point for the next batch of tools." - Cindy S. (SDRP Analyst)
All stakeholders appreciated the push for modernity and simplicity, but did not like the labels under the icons or the placement of the user profile. SDRP stakeholders valued this design over all others the most to house the anticipated 60+ tools in the upcoming year.
"It's compact and sleek, but the tools are harder to find. Knowing our analysts, I think they might forget that those functionalities exist if we layer it like this." - Alan M. (BAS Analyst)
Stakeholders across all program areas reported that the drop-down tag is too subtle and can easily be overlooked. The BAS team also expressed concerns over the intuitiveness of the feature and if the tools would block out the view of the map.
Mid-fidelity Mockups
Based on the feedback gathered from the initial sketches and wireframes, I continued to iterate the screens and began introducing stylistic elements pulled from the Census 2020 branding guidelines.
To gain more direction, I continued to iterate the UI and provided options for the stakeholders and analysts to visually compare potential layouts.
High-fidelity Mockups
Following the mid-fidelity mockups, the stakeholders and users selected the most promising designs to continue to develop. The program managers began looping in the Census internal Accessibility and Branding teams to provide recommendations for the current UI concepts.
After meeting with the Census branding team, the UI's green was changed to blue (above) to better reflect the organization's newer line of products.

The high-fidelity mockups continued to take form as different fields and components were built using the approved designs.

Collectively, we started to explore scenarios in relation to how content can fit in the new UI layout.
To ensure ease of use, I partnered with the Census Bureau's Accessibility and our GUPS Testing team to discover more opportunities for enhancements.
To ensure that we meet Section 508 and WCAG requirements, we employed a combination of automated testing tools such as Colorsinspo, Stark, and the Accessible Name & Description Inspector (ANDI), along with manual testing tools such as Adobe's Color Contrast Analyzer (CCA) and Section 508 Checklist.

Through detailed usability assessments, we screened the designs and made adjustments to promote legibility and pass colorblindness tests.
Accessibility testing with Colorsinspo in Adobe XD.
Revisiting the Business Key Performance Indicators
As part of collaborating closely with the testing team, we used web analytics and compared the key performance indicators to serve as the measure of success. We tested with the 12 representatives of the different programs and discovered an improvement of 20% in click rates and saved users 2-5 minutes to complete a task.
Final Designs
The Geographic Update Partnership Software (GUPS) is a customized GIS software provided by the Census Bureau. It is based on the open-source platform QGIS. GUPS is tailored to meet the needs of participants without extensive GIS experience.
To ensure that we meet Section 508 and WCAG requirements, we employed a combination of automated testing tools such as Colorsinspo, Stark, and the Accessible Name & Description Inspector (ANDI), along with manual testing tools such as Adobe's Color Contrast Analyzer (CCA) and Section 508 Checklist.

Through detailed usability assessments, we screened the designs and made adjustments to promote legibility and pass colorblindness tests.
The Geographic Update Partnership Software (GUPS) is currently under development and was recently awarded the Bronze Medal Award, the highest honorary recognition awarded by the U.S. Census Bureau. The award recognizes work that has resulted in more effective and efficient management systems, as well as the demonstration of unusual initiative or creative ability in the development and improvement of methods and procedures. It is given also for significant contributions affecting major programs within the U.S. Census Bureau and superior performance of assigned tasks.
1. Design with accessibility from the very beginning.
Lessons Learned
With limited access to the Section 508 Web Accessibility team, it was important to include testing tools during the ideation and concepts stage. Plugins like Colorsinspo and Stark address some of the requirements, but not all.
2. Collaboration eliminates assumptions and speeds up the decision making process.
Conducting collaborative design workshops with the stakeholders, testing, and branding teams, we were able to collect immediate feedback and quickly drive decisions and design solution.