Permit Search

Permit Search gives the public visibility into environmental permitting for several EPA programs.
How might we give the public visibility into environmental permitting in a way that could be scaled up to support an indefinite number of applications?
1 months, presented November 2020
1 UX designer (me)
1 project manager
1 developer
My Role
UX Design
Usability Testing
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.



Public visibility into permits issued by my team's suite of applications was provided through a search widget on an EPA dashboard that was scheduled to sunset at year's end. At its core, the dashboard was ingenious—capable of providing a customizable feed of environmental information from any number of EPA data streams. It was envisioned as a one-stop shop for local environmental data. For example, if you wanted to know what permits were obtained for the gas station up the road or the chlorine handling at your local pool, this dashboard could be used to get answers for the general public. However, three years out, only a handful of EPA programs opted to develop widgets for the dashboard and its cost efficiency had fallen into question.

With less than a month until the drop-dead date, the client asked if I could be pulled onto the project after prior teams had failed to reach consensus on a design.

My Contribution
  • 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 happened to the old public visibility solution?

Problem Definition

Aside from the existential threat our portal was facing, we also hoped to address some known pain points:

User problem:
The current portal was difficult for users to find. It sat behind a login screen, requiring users to "continue as a guest" in order to see it.
Business problem:
EPA's many data streams could not be searched from one centralized location. An ambitious dashboard aiming to consolidate permit data was deemed too expensive to justify.

With access to resources from the NPDES team as well as the team in charge of the dashboard, we started with the data, learning:

  • Active use – At the time of its sunsetting, the NPDES permit search widget was averaging 3k searches monthly, about 70% of the dashboard's total traffic.
  • Learning from the past – At the heart of the dashboard was a very smart concept—to have various EPA programs supply data via a simple API, then design beautiful widgets to display that data as part of a modern front end.
  • Where it went south – The dashboard widgets were time consuming to design, create, and maintain, leading to limited adoption and ultimately an unsuccessful product.



Reigning in the scope

Gain confidence

After brainstorming with the client and technical team members, I found out why this project was gridlocked. The client was after something extremely ambitious, and supporting contractors were struggling to reign in the scope to something that could be delivered in one month's time.

Could this aggressive timeline actually prove to be an advantage in satisfying the client's vision? High engineering costs had been the nail in the coffin for so many former attempts. Knowing this, and given our time crunch, we decided to go for something extremely lightweight and focused specifically on permit lookup:

  • We would make this site beautiful, compliant, and easy to maintain by using the USWDS component library.
  • We would structure the search criteria in a way that could easily be iterated upon, providing an attractive and inexpensive option for EPA programs looking to satisfy their public visibility requirements.
  • The client agreed that a simple and scalable interface would give the platform its best shot at widespread adoption. The project was unstuck and we were off to the races.



Getting technical

Front-end Development

In order to take advantage of the USWDS component library, our front-end would be built in Angular. With a shortage of Angular developers, I took the opportunity to become familiar with the platform.

After successfully setting up my local environment, I stepped up to assist with front-end development, largely modifying CSS to more closely match my prototype and ensure mobile responsiveness.

The final live version of permit search.




The project was a success on all fronts:

  • Successful launch – Permit Search was deployed prior to the cut-off resulting in no lapse of permit visibility.
  • Improved accessibility – Unlike previous iterations, Permit Search prioritized mobile responsiveness.
  • Lowered engineering costs – Built using shared components, Permit Search does not cost much to maintain.
  • A path forward – Following the initial deployment supporting the NPDES program, several additional EPA programs have expressed interest in migrating their public-facing component to Permit Search.