AIM Functionality

AIM Functionality stands for "Additional Implementation Monitoring," a technical set of monitoring requirements that represented a win for the environment – but was the burden too great for permit holders?
How might we support users as they comply with the new requirements in EPA's 2021 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP)?
3 months, presented November 2021
1 UX designer (me)
1 project manager
5 developers
Adobe XD
Microsoft Teams

Envisioning the future
of meal logging.

What is keeping advanced pattern detection from fixing our lives? It's those unregulated gut flora. How do we figure out what they're up to? Perfect meal logging is how – here's what it might look like based on our research based design process!

Context clues

Fox Tracks populates meal logs using real-time inputs and contextual data. Fox Tracks allows for retrospective edits to meal logs, enhancing its learning model with each update.

Confidence score system

Each meal log in Fox Tracks comes with a confidence score, a smart indicator of the log's accuracy.

The power of patterns

The average person repeats a total of 30 different meals. After 2 weeks of meal logging, sufficient data would be present to automate meal logging based on context and one-touch logging.

The user is in control

The user decides when a log is accurate enough.

Advanced pattern detection and context clues.

Meal Logging

Users have the option of logging food through audio, photo and timestamps. Then, edit them later on mobile.

One-touch logging derives statistically probable data using context clues and pattern recognition.



EPA agreed to propose Additional Implementation Monitoring (AIM) as part of the 2021 MSGP. AIM imposes a tiered structure of mandatory levels of corrective action responses that allow EPA to better protect the environment.

My Role
  • UX design of AIM functionality in coordination with development teams, internal, external and government stakeholders.
  • Multi-day presentation of full set of proposed functionality to an audience of government stakeholders leading to approval of proposed direction.
  • Coordination of development effort as informed by senior developers alongside implementation of manual and automated testing procedures.



What is AIM?

Problem Definition

A number of potential issues had been identified by stakeholders and the regulated community:

User problem:
Due to lack of clarity in permit language and the potential for corrective actions to be costly, industry quickly labeled AIM as confusing and burdensome.
Business problem:
With not much time left until implementation, things were looking grim as stakeholders struggled to define a complete set of requirements.

To begin, we studied the draft permit, reviewed industry's responses to it, and surveyed the data pipeline we'd be working with.

Among many valuable insights unearthed, we found:

  • Cause for concern – A survey of public comments revealed roughly 70% of the comments were related to the proposed functionality.
  • Exceptional luck – Each of the five "exceptions" to AIM (which would need to be claimed through our application) were found to fit into one of three categories such that all five could be facilitated with only three unique workflows.
  • Technical constraints – Because monitoring results are entered in a separate application two hops downstream, all inputs needed for the AIM calculation had to be pulled from an internal EPA database via API.
Outline permit
Understand backend approach



Socializing options to align the team

Gain confidence

After performing my own due diligence and addressing outstanding questions with stakeholders, I felt confident that I understood the scope of AIM well enough to begin mocking up concepts.

Grand table approach
Facility heading approach
Outfall heading approach
Options for claiming exceptions
Options to display violation data
Data field experiments

As a team, we discussed the pros and cons of each design. Technical team members weighed in on the feasibility of the various data elements that I wanted to show, while other analysts assessed the design's usability and adherence to permit requirements.

Ultimately, we converged on an approach that would give permittees and regulators all the information they would need, while limiting the scope to one the developers felt was realistic given our deadline.



Did I hit the mark?

Designs + Prototypes

With an approach that both functional and technical team members were happy with, I created a proof of concept, diagramming the full workflows needed to claim each of the five "AIM exceptions" described in the permit for presentation to EPA stakeholders.

Because each workflow fit into the same basic model, I was able to use symbols in Balsamiq to save time and then expand on each individual workflow according to stakeholder feedback.

Exception 1
Exception 2
Exception 3
Exception 4
Exception 5
  • Presentation Day 1 – During a two-hour session, I presented about 70% of the functionality. The reception to the design was generally stellar and facilitated a deeper conversation among stakeholders, leading to the identification of several new requirements.
  • Presentation Day 2 – After addressing the new requirements raised in the previous day's meeting, all stakeholders were satisfied with the MVP and the design was cleared for development.
  • In addition to providing a very straightforward and intuitive interface, I provided trainers with a number of helpful materials to get users up to speed. Because this is boring stuff, I made a special effort to make the format aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.



Sprint planning

With the team focused on other reissuance functionality, I had two sprint cycles to design the AIM functionality epic.

I broke the main design into developer-sized bites, each purpose built to fit comfortably into a two-week sprint and avoid blockers. Similar functionality was identified and assigned to the same developer in order to maximize code reuse and prevent duplication of efforts.




The project was a success on all fronts:

  • Successful launch — MVP functionality was developed over six two-week sprints and released into production.
  • Happy clients — The product owner commented that we made "something that was extremely complicated seem a little less daunting for me, our regions, and our permittees."
  • Clean water — Since its launch in March 2020, AIM is actively strengthening protections for communities near chemical production facilities.
  • Thumbs up — EPA has received several commendations from environmental advocacy groups praising their dedication to environmental justice and health.
  • A path forward — EPA's successful implementation of AIM has served as a proof of concept, inspiring state-issued programs to follow suit and incorporate more effective, AIM-inspired content into the 2021 versions of their storm water permits.