I was the sole content designer on the Alpha.CA.gov team. We were tasked with reimagining a user-friendly CA.gov in three months. In the end, we convinced the State to move to Beta and hire for positions totally new to the government, including user researchers and content designers.

Discount phone service

The problem: Low-income Californians needed easier access to a discount phone service. On the existing California Lifeline page, it was difficult to understand the whole process. Applicants needed to check their eligibility, then start an application through a phone company, and finally apply online. (GitHub issue)

The team: User researcher, developers, product designer, product owner.


  1. We reviewed the existing pages to map out a user journey for the whole application process.
  2. Then, in collaboration with Public Digital, we prototyped on whiteboards and big paper pads.
A paper prototype surrounded by yellow post-it notes.

3. I synthesized three different prototypes to include them in the larger experience.

4. I biked to a California Lifeline pop-up tent to gather more materials and empathize with the user journey.

Bright tent cover
A hand grips an application form.

5. Along with our front-end developer and designer, I created a prototype that walked applicants through the overall process from a bird’s eye view.

Taking inspiration from our mentors who made the original GOV.UK, we created steps that expanded with more details. That way, you could have as much or as little information as you needed.

Collapsed view of a step by step to apply for a discounted phone service.
Expanded view of step by step with details in each step.

6. We tested our prototype with users. Here are some of the reactions that we got:

  • “I like that it explains what a household is.”
  • “It is all easy to read but not intuitive to go to step #2.”

This last comment reinforced that we needed to simply the user journey. Before testing, our apply online page looked like this (apologies for the blurry screengrab, it’s all that we have left!):

Apply online webpage prototype before testing.

Through testing, we learned that users were confused by the “Before you start” section. They needed that information sooner, and it needed to be streamlined. Some of these details could be moved to the overall step-by-step page so that users wouldn’t have to worry about that information at this stage.

So I iterated, and we arrived at a clearer solution:

Simpler apply online prototype.

Unemployment insurance

The problem: The information to apply for unemployment insurance was scattered throughout State websites. There was no central location to walk you through the entirety of the process. And much of the content was not written in plain language.

In addition, it was difficult to find out if you made enough money to qualify for unemployment insurance.

The team: User researcher, developers, product designer, product owner.


  1. First, we looked at Google Analytics to see what language people were using to search for unemployment insurance.
  2. Designers and I whiteboarded sketches of what a “guide” content type would look like. The early sketches had the idea of a navigation element that would keep you oriented to the beginning, middle and end of the process.
  3. I scoured through existing State websites to compile and research all of the information on the application process.
  4. Our user researcher found that people wanted more information on what to expect after they applied, so we added more of those details into the final product.

The result: We used plain language and navigation to keep people oriented throughout the entire journey, no matter what page they were on. We used “Apply” instead of “File” because more people were searching for the word “Apply.”

The “Calculate payments” button enabled people to find out easily whether they qualified for unemployment insurance.

Minimum wage

The problem: It took a long time for people to find the current minimum wage in California. And there was no way of finding your local minimum wage from the State’s websites. (GitHub issue)

This is the original State website we hoped to improve.

The team: User researcher, developers, product designer, product owner.


  1. We researched what people were searching for related to the minimum age.
  2. I developed a simple mockup in Google Docs.
  3. The designers and developers made a few prototypes based on that mockup.
  4. The whole team tested two prototypes with people by interviewing passersby and folks in cafes:
A very simple webpage saying "Find your minimum wage"

5. We gathered our findings.

People were generally pleased with how quick and easy it was to find the minimum wage. When we tested the time, it took someone 33 seconds to find the minimum wage on the original page, and only 13 seconds on our prototype.

My favorite user quote: “It’s simple, bang bang!”

However, people wanted more context. On the simpler prototype, they wanted to know the State minimum wage — not just the minimum wage in their city. I also noticed an interesting user behavior: People entered multiple cities just to compare the minimum wages there.

A collection of post-it notes on a wall.

6. We iterated.

This final prototype enabled users to find the minimum wage in their city quickly by keeping that at the top. But then we answered users’ deeper questions, in case they still wanted to know more.

In order of the average users’ curiosity, we gave the minimum wage for:

  • Your city
  • The State
  • Every city in the California

Based on user feedback, this prototype also includes explainer text to share that minimum wage depends on the city where you work.

Find the minimum wage in your city webpage.